NC chefs are among James Beard finalists for chef, broadcast awards

Posted by Andrea Weigl on March 18, 2014 

Three North Carolina chefs are among the finalists for James Beard Foundation awards announced Tuesday in Chicago.

Chef Ashley Christensen, who owns Poole’s Diner and several other downtown Raleigh restaurants, is one of five nominees for Best Chef Southeast.

Asheville chef Katie Button of Curate is among the finalists for Rising Star Chef, a national award.

Chef Vivian Howard, star of “A Chef’s Life” television series on PBS and co-owner of Chef and the Farmer in Kinston, got a nomination for best television program shot on location in the foundation’s broadcast awards.

The James Beard awards are considered the Oscars of the food world, honoring restaurants, chefs, restaurant designers, writers, journalists and cookbook authors. The foundation is named after James Beard, a television food personality and cookbook author who was an early champion of regional American cuisine.

On Tuesday, Howard said the nomination was gratifying after working so hard to see the show become a reality.

“We’ve been through so much to get to make the series, to get people to air it, and to get people to pay attention to it,” Howard said. She later added: “I am excited for the show to be recognized in this way.”

This is the second year that Christensen has been a finalist for Best Chef Southeast. Her competition includes Kathy Cary of Lilly’s Bistro in Louisville, Ky.; Edward Lee of 610 Magnolia in Louisville, Ky.; Tandy Wilson of City House in Nashville, Tenn.; and Steven Satterfield of Miller Union in Atlanta.

Christensen and Button will learn whether they are winners at a May 5 gala at Lincoln Center in New York City.

Only three North Carolina chefs have won James Beard awards. Ben Barker of the former Magnolia Grill in Durham and Andrea Reusing of Lantern in Chapel Hill both won Best Chef Southeast. Barker’s wife, Karen, won Outstanding Pastry Chef. Lantern is open in Chapel Hill, but Magnolia Grill has closed.

Howard and her producer, Cynthia Hill, a documentary filmmaker who lives in Durham, will learn whether they have won at the foundation’s book, broadcast and journalism awards’ event on May 2 in New York City.

North Carolina chefs and restaurants had a strong showing on the foundation’s semifinalist list, which came out last month. There are typically 20 names in each category on the semifinalist list, which are culled to the five finalists in each category announced Tuesday.

The semifinalists included Phoebe Lawless of Scratch Bakery in Durham for Outstanding Pastry Chef; The Fearrington House Inn in Pittsboro for Outstanding Restaurant; and Giorgios Bakatsias of Durham for Outstanding Restaurateur.

Semifinalists for Best Chef Southeast included: Howard, Colin Bedford of The Fearrington House Inn; Scott Crawford of Herons at the Umstead Hotel and Spa in Cary; Scott Howell of Nana’s in Durham; Matt Kelly of Vin Rouge and Mateo Tapas in Durham; and Aaron Vandemark of Panciuto in Hillsborough.

Note: Andrea Weigl serves as the chair of the James Beard Foundation’s book awards subcommittee.

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