Justin Kaufmann, WBEZ

“When I was in my early 20s, I had the incredible fortune of working with food reporter Steve Dolinsky on some radio pieces for WBEZ. It was great long-form radio, and we were nominated by the James Beard Foundation for ‘Best Local Radio.’ Being the producer, that made me, like, maybe the lowest guy on the food chain. But I rented a tux from Gingiss and we went to New York and we won. I met Martha Stewart. I partied with Michael Cain. I did lobster bisque shots for the first time and I got dissed by Charlie Trotter’s people. We ended up getting nominated a few years in a row. The next time we won, with my girlfriend in tow and an upgrade from a cummerbund to a vest, I was much more confident and casual in my approach on stage. When Dolinsky gave me the five seconds to say something, which I’m sure he instantly regretted, I told the audience I wanted to dedicate my award to a hot-dog place at Foster and Winchester in Chicago called Al’s Fun in the Bun. ‘With a name like Al’s Fun in the Bun, it deserves one of these,’ I said. Needless to say, I haven’t been back since. But rest assured, ten years later, whenever I have the misfortune of being slighted by a restaurant host I like to mutter under my breath, ‘This is how you treat a two-time James Beard award winner?’ And then I take my table next to the bathrooms.” —As told to Mike Sula