2012 Restaurant & Chef Awards Semifinalists
The James Beard Foundation 2012 Restaurant and Chef Awards • The James Beard Foundation announced the semifinalists in the 2012 Restaurant and Chef Awards and several outstanding North Carolina Chefs and Restaurants figure prominently.
Magnolia Grill • Durham, NC
This is Magnolia Grill after 25 years. In 1986 we set out to create a neighborhood restaurant in an unassuming converted grocery store on the corner of Ninth and Knox Streets in Durham, NC. Our concept was straight-forward; punchy, market-driven, seasonal cooking; layers of flavor with a Southern sensibility and an international influence; congenial, cordial and informed service; diverse and intriguing wines and lastly, a lively, relaxed yet still sophisticated atmosphere. Our philosophy has always been based on a foundation of the best available ingredients, carefully prepared and served without pretension. Working with a network of farmers, livestock producers and seafood suppliers, we’ve tried to maintain a worldly view of cooking that emphasizes direct flavors and still respects our North Carolina fundamentals. We believe sharing a table with co-workers, fellow professionals, family, friends or partners incorporates one of life’s greatest opportunities for communion: good food, good wine, good company. • Karen & Ben Barker, Chef-Owners
Outstanding Wine & Spirits Professional
Eric Solomon, European Cellars • Charlotte, NC
Place Over Process. As an importer, we wish all our wines to speak distinctly of “a place” – that their expression is one of that particular locale, unobscured by winemaking interventions (but sometimes enhanced by them?). We respect the historical – both what preceded and what will inevitably follow – embracing and championing indigenous varieties and the land upon which they are grown and nurtured.
In the past few years, North Carolina’s beer selection has flourished with beers around the world: Belgian dubbels, tripels, and quads; English bitters and barleywine, German lagers. Amazing craft beer from US breweries establishing regional traditions and styles: the West Coast IPA phenomenon. Hearty Wisconsin lagers. Experimental beers from the Northeast. But we have yet to develop a Southern craft beer identity. Fullsteam’s mission is to craft this identity. To create a distinctly Southern beer style that celebrates the culinary and agricultural heritage of the South.
Rising Star Chef of the Year
In 2007, Katie Button, Cornell University graduate with a master’s degree from L’Ecole Centrale in Paris, France, was about to start a prestigious PhD program in Neuroscience between the NIH in Bethesda, MD, and the Karolinska Institute in Stockholm, Sweden. Instead she decided to drop out of the PhD program in pursuit of passion, life, and happiness. Food had always been an important part of her childhood. Her mother, Elizabeth Button, developed and ran her own catering business. So, Katie was well-acquainted with the restaurant industry. In order to support herself and pay the rent on her apartment in Washington DC, she sought out a job at a restaurant called Cafe Atlantico/Minibar in Washington DC one of José Andrés’ amazing restaurants. Katie describes it as fate that brought her to the doorstep of a José Andrés restaurant. It was there that she fell in love with restaurants, food, cooking, and Félix Meana, a service manager from elBulli, Ferran Adrià´s famous restaurant in Spain. Félix introduced Katie to Spain, elBulli, and applications for liquid nitrogen outside of the lab. Katie initially spent 3 months working as the first American server in the history of elBulli. It was there that she made the decision that she really wanted to be on the other side, with her hands in the dishes, creating, so she set out to prove herself. After some time working with Johnny Luzzini at Jean Georges in New York and then at the Bazaar by José Andrés in Los Angeles, she finally made it. With only a couple of years professional cooking experience, Katie entered a 7 month stage at the best restaurant in the world. That experience changed her life. In January 2010, immediately after finishing her internship at elBulli, she moved to Asheville, North Carolina, to focus all of her attention on opening her own restaurant with Félix, her mother Elizabeth Button, and her father Ted Button. They have since developed the parent company Heirloom Hospitality Group and opened their first restaurant, Cúrate bar de tapas (www.curatetapasbar.com) Katie is currently the Executive Chef/co-owner of this traditional tapas bar that opened March 2011.
Best Chef: Southeast
In its latest incarnation Poole‘s has returned to its diner roots under the ownership of Chef Ashley Christensen. Marrying a clean aesthetic with retro-chic charm, Christensen restored and highlighted the "bones" of the original restaurant, including the double horseshoe bar and red leather banquettes, pairing it with modern elements like Lucite chairs, and oversized blackboard menus that change daily based on season and availability.
Chef John Fleer can be considered a "local" to some degree, having been born and raised on the “right side” of the Blue Ridge in North Carolina. Following a notable fourteen year career as executive chef at Blackberry Farm in Walland, Tennessee, John is excited to continue to share his culinary experience at Canyon Kitchen located inside Jennings Barn. For the 2011 season, dining will be available to members and the public by reservation. As John recounts through an old Irish proverb, “the laughter is brightest where the food is best,” which aptly describes the food and the atmosphere you can expect to enjoy at Canyon Kitchen. John’s creations strike an informal, nostalgic and often playful chord through the history of Southern Appalachia and the broader South. Fresh produce and organic selections from our own community gardens and the surrounding area are served with pride and delight. The laughter around the table just seems to follow, naturally.
Born in Deep Run, NC, to tobacco and hog farming parents, Vivian Howard learned early on to appreciate the ebb and flow of eating with the seasons. Still, it took 23 years and a start in the advertising business to convince her a career in food was feasible. After college, Vivian moved to New York for work, but found the City’s food and restaurant scene far more intriguing. A server position at Greenwich Village’s, Voyage, made it possible for her to begin trailing under the restaurant’s Chef, Scott Barton. She later went on to learn from creative, cutting edge Chef’s, Wylie Dufresne and Sam Mason at WD-50 and later, was a member of the opening team at Jean Georges Vongericten’s, Spice Market. In 2005, Vivian, and her now husband, Ben Knight decided to return to Vivian’s roots to open a farm to fork restaurant in the small town of Kinston, NC. They opened Chef & the Farmer in the summer of 2006 serving local, seasonal, creative cuisine. Over the past four years, Chef Howard has developed strong relationships with local farmers making it possible to source over 70% of the restaurant’s foodstuffs from within 60 miles . Chef and the Farmer has become beloved by locals and a destination for diners all over the state.
Scott Howell, Chef-Owner of Nana’s, can walk into a restaurant and read it in an instant, instinctively knowing what’s right or wrong in the room. It is this eye for detail that characterizes everything he does: from constructing an award winning wine list, to working with local farmers to get the best produce available, to cooking alongside his staff each night and perfecting every dish that leaves his kitchen. With the opening of Nana’s in 1992, Chef Howell was determined to “start making food happen” in North Carolina. A native of Asheville with a deep, family based love of food, Howell’s dishes are sublime yet simple. Trained at the Culinary Institute of America, he brought his curiosity, energy and his genteel manners to the New York culinary world. Upon graduation from the CIA he did his internship at such notable restaurants as Jam’s and Arcadia.The quest for culinary perfection led Howell to Italy where he worked for a year at the prestigious San Domenico. In 1990, he followed his heart back to his native North Carolina where he was the sous chef for a year and a half under acclaimed chef Ben Barker at Magnolia Grill. In 1992 the dream of owning his own restaurant came to fruition with the opening of Nana’s.
Aaron Vandemark, chef and owner of Panciuto, grew up in the Triangle. His path into this business began in the summer of 1998, hauling ice and serving beers on a restaurant patio. After graduating from Emory University he made the decision to pursue a career in the restaurant business working jobs from North Carolina to Atlanta and back again. In 2006, Aaron opened Panciuto in Historic Downtown Hillsborough. The restaurant focuses on cooking with products raised in our area by great farmers that keep the land and their animals healthy and happy. Aaron and his wife Aimee live in Hillsborough with their son, Henry.
The James Beard Foundation
There’s something delicious happening every day at the James Beard Foundation. Our diverse programs include workshops, classes, conferences, readings, and other educational experiences that help people learn about and engage with food. We offer scholarships to culinary students who need financial support to pursue careers in the food and beverage industry. We invite chefs to participate in events at the James Beard House in New York City and at events abroad to allow people to experience America’s dynamic cuisine first hand. We also administer the annual James Beard Foundation Awards, which recognize and honor excellence among chefs, cookbook authors, food journalists, restaurant designers, and others working in the food and beverage industry.
JBF Awards • Covering all aspects of the industry—from chefs and restaurateurs to cookbook authors and food journalists to restaurant designers and architects and more—the Beard Awards are the highest honor for food and beverage professionals working in North America. The awards are presented each spring at Avery Fisher Hall at Lincoln Center. Nominees and winners are fêted at a weekend of events in New York City that has become the social and gastronomic highlight of the year.
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