“A Chef’s Life,” the PBS show starring Kinston chef Vivian Howard, is up for three James Beard Foundation broadcast media awards.
On Tuesday, the James Beard Foundation announced the nominees for its annual awards, which are given to chefs, restaurants, cookbook authors, journalists and other food professionals. The foundation’s awards are often referred to as the Oscars of the food world.
Howard, who grew up in Kinston and returned years later to open a fine dining restaurant, is up for Outstanding Personality or Host, competing against Ina Garten for “Barefoot Contessa: Back to Basics” on the Food Network and Pete Evans for “Moveable Feast with Fine Cooking” on PBS.
“That is so wild,” Howard said Tuesday about being a finalist for outstanding television personality. “I’m very excited.”
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Despite a strong showing on the semifinalist list released in February, only one North Carolina chef made the finalist list for Best Chef Southeast: John Fleer of Rhubarb in Asheville. He is competing against Edward Lee of 610 Magnolia in Louisville, Ky.; Steven Satterfield of Miller Union in Atlanta; Jason Stanhope of FIG in Charleston, S.C.; Andrew Ticer and Michael Hudman of Andrew Michael Italian Kitchen in Memphis; and Tandy Wilson of City House in Nashville.
The North Carolina chefs who were among the semifinalists for Best Chef Southeast were Howard of Chef & the Farmer in Kinston; Scott Howell of Nana’s in Durham; Matt Kelly of Vin Rouge and Mateo Tapas in Durham; Aaron Vandemark of Panciuto in Hillsborough; and Katie Button of Curate and Meherwan Irani of Chai Pani, both in Asheville.
North Carolina bakers who were semifinalists for Outstanding Baker were Phoebe Lawless of Scratch Bakery in Durham and Lionel Vatinet of La Farm Bakery in Cary. That is a new category created to distinguish restaurant pastry chefs from bakers or pastry chefs who own their own businesses.
Howard said it can be hard to explain the James Beard awards to her parents, Scarlett and John Howard. However, Howard said, when she told her mom that she was up against Ina Garten for this award, “that made her understand.”
“A Chef’s Life” is also a finalist for Television Program, On Location, competing against Anthony Bourdain’s “The Mind of a Chef,” and Andrew Zimmern’s “Bizarre Foods.” (This is the second year “A Chef’s Life” was nominated for Television Program on Location; it lost to “The Mind of a Chef” last year.) The show is also one of three finalists in the Visual and Technical Excellence category.
Howard’s show celebrates Eastern North Carolina food traditions, such as Tom Thumb sausage and collard kraut. The show also shares the struggles of Howard and her husband, Ben Knight, running a fine dining restaurant, Chef & the Farmer, and a casual eatery, Boiler Room Oyster Bar, in a rural town, as well as raising a family. The third season is expected to begin airing in September.