AVONDALE — Parachute, the 40-seat Korean-American spot from husband-and-wife chefs Beverly Kim and Johnny Clark, won big at this year’s James Beard Awards, widely considered the “Oscars of the food world.”
Kim and Clark took home the award for Best Chef: Great Lakes category, beating out an all-Chicago-nominee list of Diana Dávila of Mi Tocaya, Jason Hammel of Lula Cafe and Marisol, David Posey and Anna Posey of Elske Restaurant, Noah Sandoval of Oriole and Lee Wolen of BOKA.
The couple had been nominated twice for the Great Lakes award and once for Best New Restaurant. To finally take home the Great Lakes award was “surreal,” Kim said.
“It’s a great feeling to be on the short list, but I was preparing myself just in case I didn’t hear my name called. Like, OK, who should I applaud for? It was a surreal moment, but I’m starting to really soak it in now,” Kim told Block Club.
Parachute’s seasonal, shared-plates menu rotates as often as bi-weekly. Current dishes include mandu with aged beef and perill, namul bi bim bop with burdock root and ganjang and 30-day aged sirloin with black garlic and avocado.
Kim said she and her husband don’t have any grand plans for Parachute, 3500 N. Elston Ave., now that they’re James Beard Award winners. Instead, they’re focused on their original goal of making Parachute the best it can be.
At one point, the couple had the opportunity to expand Parachute, but they ultimately decided against it because they felt the restaurant would’ve lost its charm.
“My goal for Parachute is to be a Chicago classic [like] Blackbird, Avec, Le Bouchon — that neighborhood spot that’s always been there and you know you’re going to expect warm hospitality, really great food, good times, good people and good memories,” Kim said.
But the award does come on the heels of a new exciting project. The couple is gearing up to open a second restaurant on the block, as first reported by Eater last fall. Kim wasn’t ready to divulge details, but said to expect a “sister restaurant” to Parachute, “still in the category of casual fun and exciting food and wine.”
Investing in Avondale is important to the couple, who live across the street from Parachute and send their kids to neighborhood schools.
“I feel very joyful to see every year [Avondale] get nicer, more safe and more approachable and more people are able to open small businesses here,” Kim said.
Kim said “it’s just the beginning” for Avondale’s growing food scene. The neighborhood is already home to gems like Honey Butter Fried Chicken, 3361 N. Elston Ave., Ludlow Liquors, 2959 N. California Ave., and Taqueria Traspasada, 3144 N. California Ave., she said.
“It’s slowly becoming its own neighborhood of food,” Kim said of Avondale.
Parachute will inevitably draw new customers as buzz surrounding the James Beard Award reaches more people. But Kim said she and her husband are focused on staying humble.
“Our goal is to make everyone a repeat customer. … but still stay a humble place to go. That’s one of our values. I think with this award, it really does help with a sense of security, like, oh, there’s going to be work for my employees,” Kim said with a laugh.
Parachute has made a name for itself in the foodie world since opening in 2014, nabbing a Michelin star and landing on Bon Apetit magazine’s 10 best new restaurants list.
Eater has a full list of 2019 James Beard Award winners.