Inside the 2019 James Beard Awards: See All the Stars, Chefs, and Big Winners!

Called the Oscars of the food world, the prestigious awards were handed out on Monday night in Chicago, and PEOPLE got exclusive, behind-the-scenes access!

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JESSE TYLER FERGUSON

2019 James Beard
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The Modern Family star hosted the ceremony, which took place on Monday, May 6, at the Lyric Opera of Chicago. "It's one of my favorite nights of the year," the star told PEOPLE of the awards, which honor the country's best restaurants and chefs of the year.

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ZOOEY DESCHANEL, JACOB PECHENIK, AND ANDREW ZIMMERN

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The New Girl star and her husband posed on the red carpet with Zimmern, who hosts Travel Channel's Bizarre Foods.

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JOE FLAMM

2019 James Beard
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The winner of Top Chef season 15, who heads up Chicago's famous Spiagga restaurant, was all smiles before the ceremony.

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TOM COLICCHIO & ASHLEY CHRISTENSEN

2019 James Beard
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The Top Chef judge presented the coveted James Beard Award for Outstanding Chef to Christensen, who owns Poole's Diner and several restaurants in Raleigh, N.C.

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ASHLEY CHRISTENSEN

2019 James Beard
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The chef beamed after taking home the night's top honor.

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KWAME ONWUACHI

2019 James Beard
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The chef of Washington, D.C.'s Kith and Kin, who recently published his memoir Notes from a Young Black Chef, took home the award for Rising Star Chef of the Year.

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ANN KIM

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Ben Trivett

The chef and co-owner of Young Joni in Minneapolis received the award for Best Chef Midwest. "My journey has not been easy, it has not been linear, it has not been conventional," Kim said in her acceptance speech on Monday night. "I’m standing here because 10 years ago I said, 'f—k fear!' If my work has made a traditionally narrow path a bit wider, a bit more inclusive, that will be my greatest achievement."

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AYESHA CURRY

2019 James Beard
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The cookbook author and owner of International Smoke restaurants took the stage as a presenter on Monday night. "As a new-ish restaurant owner, I just feel so inspired by the amazing chefs and restaurateurs here tonight," Curry tells PEOPLE. "These are the people I've looked up to for a really long time."

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FABIO VIVIANI & GAIL SIMMONS

2019 James Beard
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It's a Top Chef reunion! Viviani—who was named "fan favorite" on season 5 of the culinary reality show—and the judge share a moment backstage at the awards.

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KELLY FIELDS

2019 James Beard
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Fields, who runs Willa Jean bakery in New Orleans, took home the award for Outstanding Pastry Chef, which was presented by chefs Tonya Holland and Fabio Viviani.

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ASHLEY CHRISTENSEN & JESSE TYLER FERGUSON

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The Oustanding Chef winner raised a glass as Ferguson captured the moment.

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DANIEL BOULUD

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The acclaimed chef was photographed with Kevin Boehm and Rob Katz, who together took home the award for Outstanding Restaurateur for their Boka Restaurant Group. "Is tonight even real?" Katz joked with PEOPLE after accepting their award.

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KEVIN BOEHM & ROB KATZ

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Boehm and Katz, who run Boka Restaurant Group which owns the famed Girl & the Goat in Chicago, celebrated their big win.

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JESSE TYLER FERGUSON & ZOOEY DESCHANEL

2019 James Beard
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The actress congratulates Ferguson on his hosting gig following the ceremony. "It was so fun watching him have fun on stage," Deschanel tells PEOPLE. "He was the perfect person to capture the excitement of the night."

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