Crook's Corner of Chapel Hill will be honored this May with an America's Classics award from the James Beard Foundation. The award is given to "restaurants with timeless appeal, beloved for quality food that reflects the character of their community," according a press release. They will receive the award at the James Beard gala on May 9 in New York City. Here's what else they had to say about Crook's Corner:
Hubcaps decorate the flanks of the corner building on the fringe of this college town. A pink fiberglass pig stands atop the roof. The dining room does double duty as an art gallery. From the bar, you may order a cracker plate, piled with house-made pimento cheese, and a block of cream cheese smeared with pepper jelly.
Since 1982, when restaurateur Gene Hamer and chef Bill Neal opened the doors, Crook's Corner has carried the torch of regional foodways, employing and inspiring a generation of young culinary talent-- including two James Beard Award-winning chefs.
Bill Neal was one of the first American chefs to explore the cultural import of the regional food he worked to revive. He brought academic rigor and provincial pride to the professional restaurant kitchens of the region.
Since Neal's untimely death in 1991, Gene Hamer has served as the restaurant's steward, while Bill Smith has overseen the kitchen, cooking iconic Crook's dishes like shrimp and grits, hoppin' John, jalapeno hushpuppies, and persimmon pudding. In more recent years, Smith has added his own flourishes, including house-corned ham and honeysuckle sorbet.
- Christiane Lauterbach (Atlanta Magazine)
Congratulations Gene Hamer, chef Bill Smith and the entire Crook's crew.
The James Beard Foundation gives out the equivalent of the "Oscars" of the food world to chefs, restaurants, food writers and cookbook authors. James Beard was a cooking instructor and cookbook author who championed regional American cuisine.