So here’s what’s been happening…

James Beard Award Nominees Announced

All of the finalists for the James Beard Award are already renowned in the food industry, but only some can win the prestigious title. The winners will be announced by host Stanley Tucci on May 6th at Lincoln Center’s Avery Fischer Hall. Many of the finalists in the competition are culinary superstars who call Chicago home, so make sure to pencil in a visit to these fabulous restaurants in the top slot on your to-do list. What better way is there to celebrate the end of finals angst and a cold, stressful quarter while welcoming in the glorious spring quarter?

Finalists for “Rising Star Chef”: Jimmy Banos Jr. (Purple Pig), Thomas McNaughton (Flour + Water), Danny Bowien (Mission Chinese), David Posey (Blackbird) and Blaine Wetzel (Willows Inn).

“Outstanding Bar Program”: The Aviary, Bar Agricole, The NoMad Hotel, Holeman Finch & Public House, Pegu Club and The Violet Hour.

“Outstanding Restaurant”: Blue Hill, Highlands Bar and Grill, August, The Slanted Door and Spiaggia.

Bitter Melon: The Newest Cancer-Fighting Staple

Recent studies show that this lumpy green fruit may actually destroy cancer cells and prevent their future development. Tested on mice, bitter melon has been found to kill pancreatic cancer cells, and scientists at University of Colorado predict it may also be a miraculous weapon in successfully fighting the development of breast cancer cells, as well. Bitter melon is common in Asian cuisine, so look for it in Asian supermarkets or specialty food markets. Eaten fresh, with yogurt, or in juiced form, the fruit is highly beneficial and full of life-changing possibilities.

Remembering Meals Leads to Weight Loss

New studies show that remembering your last meal as satisfying, delicious and filling can reduce the amount of food you consume when you sit down to relish your next meal. Some tips include keeping track of intake with a food diary, drawing pictures for visual memories and saving wrappers and packaging of food items you savored earlier in the day. Previous studies have shown that mindfulness during meal time leads to reduced portion sizes and thus, lower caloric intake over time; new research takes this notion a step further by emphasizing the need for reminders of previous meals, rather than just awareness of your plate’s contents.

Starbucks Invests in Coffee Farm

Starbucks has just purchased its first coffee farm for research and the development of new types of coffee beans that may be incorporated into your generic skinny vanilla latte in the near future. This 600-acre farm was founded with ethical sourcing principles in mind and will encourage Coffee and Farming Equity Practices (C.A.F.E.).

ProtiDiet Bars Recalled Due to Salmonella Warning

ProtiDiet High Protein Chocolate Dream bars have been removed from the market under direction of the U.S. Food and Drug Administration due to a possibility of a salmonella outbreak. Salmonella is one of the most prevalent food-borne illnesses and can lead to nausea, diarrhea, vomiting and abdominal discomfort. Steer clear of these products while the warning is in effect.

Burger King Expands Menu

If you’re getting tired of the standard whopper and side of fries, you’re in luck. This coming spring, Burger King will introduce new burgers, drinks and sides to its menu. Some new burgers will include the Chipotle Whopper and the Bacon and Cheddar Stuffed Burger. The former will feature ground beef, bacon, slices of pepper jack cheese, caramelized onions, lettuce and tomato with chipotle mayo dressing to finish it off. The latter tastes like it sounds, but includes a hefty portion of onion rings on top as a bonus. If you find the Chipotle Whopper appealing but aren’t big on red meat, you can order it in a Chicken Tendercrisp form instead. Plus, Burger King is testing out lighter options to keep up with the health craze by adding a veggie burger (410 calories) and a turkey burger (530 calories). To wash it all down, order a large, cold piña colada from the new menu. Weird…but awesome.

Red Wine Linked To a Healthy Life

Recent studies have confirmed previous beliefs that red wine is beneficial to living a long, healthy and happy life. The key nutrient resveratrol promotes production of proteins known as sirtuins, which have been shown to enhance longevity. With this confirmation in mind, feel free to indulge in a glass a day, or a few times a week (just don’t go overboard!).