The list of James Beard Foundation semifinalists came out today and seven local chefs are on the list for Best Chef Southeast:
- Ashley Christensen, Poole's Diner of Raleigh
- Andrea Reusing, Lantern of Chapel Hill
- Chip Smith, Bonne Soiree in Chapel Hill
- Aaron Vandemark, Panciuto in Hillsborough
- Scott Crawford, Herons at Umstead Hotel in Cary
- Scott Howell, Nana's in Durham
- Shane Ingram, Four Square in Durham
"Nice! When it rains, it pours," said Vandemark, a first-time semifinalist who yesterday learned he was in the running for Food & Wine magazine's People's Choice Best New Chef 2011. (To read about that nomination and to vote for Vandemark, click HERE.)
Smith who has been named as a semifinalist several times before said he tries not to get too worked up about it. "We're just honored to be given a nod," he said.
Several of these chefs have been semifinalists before. This is Christensen's second year. Howell has been a semifinalist many times before. And last year Reusing (pictured left) progressed to finalist, as well as Bill Smith of Crook's Corner, but they lost to Sean Brock of McCrady's in Charleston, S.C.
Two other North Carolina chefs are semifinalists: Keith Rhodes of Catch in Wilmington and John Fleer of Canyon Kitchen at Lonesome Valley in Cashiers, N.C. That means North Carolina chefs made up almost half of the Southeast semifinalists.
The only other North Carolina semifinalist is Eric Solomon of European Cellars in Charlotte for Outstanding Wine and Spirits Professional.
These chefs and Solomon will learn on March 21 if they are among the five finalists in their categories. The winners will be announced May 9 at a gala in New York City.
Durham's Magnolia Grill also was nominated in the Outstanding Resturant category. Its chef-owners Ben and Karen Barker are the state's only James Beard award-winning chefs.
James Beard was a cookbook author, a cooking instructor and a champion of regional American cuisine. The Foundation, founded after his death, honors excellence in restaurants, chefs, pastry chefs, wine service professionals, cookbook authors and food journalism. The awards have often been described as the "Oscars of the food world."