As my partner, Lina, likes to say: How can that even be?
How can NO North Carolina person or place be among the final nominees for James Beard awards? That’s just kooky. I guess we did so well in last year’s “Oscars of the culinary world” that we have to take a pass this year.
Still, the earlier and longer list of nominees this year DID include many from our state, and being on that list is a high, high honor. Let’s hear it for them!
Wine and spirit (and, OK, beer) professionals:
Sean Lilly Wilson, Fullsteam Brewery in Durham. Still one of my favorite places in the state. Great beer, wonderful vibe.
Eric Solomon of Eric Solomon Selections European Cellars in Charlotte
Rising Star Chef:
Katie Button of Cúrate in Asheville. Ate there last week. Super food, super-slow service, blamed on “a large party downstairs.” I should have asked for the large-party-downstairs discount.
Best Chef Southeast:
Ashley Christensen of Poole’s in Raleigh. Loud, lively, and delish as ever. I believe Ashley will win some day. Nominated last year too.
John Fleer of Canyon Kitchen at Lonesome Valley in Cashiers. Haven’t been but would love to go. Nominated last year too.
Vivian Howard of Chef & the Farmer in Kinston. Went several years ago and loved it. Owners seem like great people. Hooray for Vivian! They’re still closed after a fire, but (new and very improved) website says they’ll reopen this spring. Hope so!
Scott Howell of Nana’s in Durham. A perennial show-stopper. I haven’t been in years. Pricey for me.
Aaron Vandemark of Panciuto in Hillsborough. Such a great spot, great food, Aaron is humble, and farm-to-table through and through. He was nominated last year too.
To date, only three NC folks have won outstanding chef: Ben and Karen Barker at Magnolia, and Andrea Reusing of Lantern in Chapel Hill. I took friends from Florida to Lantern last week. Amazing as always. They were smitten.
The winners will be announced May 7, and although we won’t have hometown heroes, it’s still exciting to see who wins what.