On Wednesday February 17, 2016 The James Beard Foundation announced its list of Restaurant and Chef Award semifinalists for the 26th annual James Beard Foundation Awards. Selected from more than 20,000 online entries, the prestigious group of semifinalists in 21 categories represents a wide range of culinary talent, from exceptional chefs and dining destinations in ten different regions across the United States, to the nation’s top wine & spirits professionals, best new restaurants, rising star chefs, pastry chefs and bakers.
For the uninitiated, a James Beard Award is the culinary equivalent to an Academy Award, a Grammy, and a Tony all rolled up into one. Its the Superbowl ring for chefs, bartenders, restaurants and cookbooks – the proverbial gold seal of approval.
Carolina Chefs are on the World’s Radar
We are most fortunate across the Carolinas in general, and in the Charlotte area in particular, to have many chefs and restaurants worthy of award-winning consideration – guys and gals who love what they do and it shows. Chefs who turn out top notch fare day in and day out, support local farms and producers with the honor and respect they deserve; and treat clientele as they would friends and family.
I consider myself fortunate to be among those who have the pleasure of telling the story of many of these chefs on a daily basis. Sharing their talent in print, on the radio and on television; all the while posting social media chronicles of nearly each and every delicious bite!
This year, I am incredibly proud to see confirmation that the world is watching, as is evidenced by the fact that so many North and South Carolina chefs and restaurants appear on the list of 2016 James Beard Award nominees.
Among the great reasons for the ever wining and dining crowd from across the country to come to explore the culinary talents of North & South Carolina are Raleigh’s Death & Taxes, nominated in the Best New Restaurant category; the, oh so, talented (and my good friend) Lionel Vatinet of La Farm Bakery in Cary NC nominated in the Outstanding Baker category; Chef Ashley Christensen of Poole’s Downtown Dinner in Raleigh nominated for Outstanding Chef; and these 2016 nominees for Best Chef in the SouthEastern Region (Chefs who have set new or consistent standards of excellence in their respective regions): Nate Allen of Knife and Fork, Spruce Pine, NC; Jeremiah Bacon of The Macintosh, Charleston, SC; Brian Canipelli of Cucina 24, Asheville, NC; Scott Crawford of Standard Foods, Raleigh, NC; Steven Devereaux Greene of Herons in the Umstead Hotel, Cary, NC; Vivian Howard of Chef & the Farmer, Kinston, NC; Kevin Johnson of The Grocery, Charleston, SC; and Matthew Kelly of Mateo, Durham, NC.
I am thrilled to see each of these chefs singled out from the thousands of entries, I am proud to say I know most of these chefs, have eaten in these restaurants and have written about many of them. And, I am particularly proud to also see my friend Joe Kindred of chef and owner of the popular Kindred’s in Davidson NC also among the list of Best Chef nominees.
You may remember an article I wrote for Charlotte Living Magazine shortly after the much anticipated Kindred’s opened for business.
Well, maybe you don’t remember – my article came out the same week (in fact the same day) as Bon Appetit magazine published and named Kindred’s one of 2015 Best New Restaurants. As you can imagine, my article was a bit overshadowed; but that’s okay, it was for good reason and I felt in good literary company.
My feature on Kindred’s is still up online on the Charlotte Living website – I’d be pleased if you would read it by using the link at the end of this post.
Then as he does now, Joe credits his wife Katy and his talented staff as the forces behind all the accolades. He is right – it takes a team; but every team has a leader who sets the pace. the tone and the positive sense of spirit.
Being a chef, a great chef or even a good chef, is hard work – any award or accolade is a fabulous but fleeting moment in the day to day life of a leader who must still inspire the team, honor the farmer, shop the market, write the menus and keep up the rhythm to cook from his heart, and please customers every day with the same hustle he or she had from the start.
Joe Kindred is that guy.
When I visited Kindred’s while the restaurant was still under construction, Joe took me into Kindred’s kitchen, showed me around and introduced me to each and every chef on the line. He shared what their individual specialty and background was and how they came to be a part of his culinary team and how they had and would contribute to the whole.
Its that kind of spirit and willingness to share the spotlight that makes a good chef, a great chef. In a Facebook post after the nominees were announced, Joe shared the limelight once again, saying…
“Thanks for all the shout outs and support yesterday. I (heart) y’all. Although I am beyond grateful for the recognition, let’s tell it like it is. I don’t cook your food, our kitchen team does. Sure I lead them but they’re the ones that are executing day in day out on a high-level, so this is for them. And if it wasn’t for the brilliantly creative and hospitable people like my wife Katy, Blake Pope, Justin Burke-Samson and our crazy good service team you would be being served food, by me, in a poorly lit gray box, listening to my bad music, and believe me it wouldn’t be nearly as magical as it is at Kindred Restaurant. All of us chefs are kidding ourselves if we think for a second we would get any recognition if it wasn’t for the people that set the stage for us. They are the difference makers.”
As are you Joe Kindred, as are you. Thanks for letting all of us come along for the ride! Cheers!
If you haven’t had the opportunity to eat at Kindred’s yet, you must; but first read the piece I wrote just after they opened in the Summer 2015 Charlotte Living issue. Kindred: Crafting Culinary Experiences to Soothe Your Soul While the seasonal featured menus may be different, all the love and attention they put into what they do still applies.
But that’s not all,
In addition to handing out awards, the James Beard Foundation also promotes chefs across the country as they cook at series of dinners promoting their local cuisine. In 2016 two teams of talented Charlotte chefs will participate in two separate James Beard Dinners.
The first, a group of five invited to fly up to New York and cook at the James Beard House. Four tremendously talented chefs and one craft cocktail driven mixologist will represent the Queen City at the Beard House in March. They are: Executive Chef Blake Hartwick – Bonterra Dining & Wine Room
Executive Chef & Owner Paul Verica – Heritage Food & Drink Executive Chef Chris Coleman – The Asbury at the Dunhill Hotel
Pastry Chef Ashley Boyd – 300 East & Heritage Food & Drink and Mixologist Bob Peters – The Punch Room in the Charlotte Ritz Carlton Hotel.
The group is going to hold a Preview Dinner of what they will be cooking in New York at Bonterra Dining & Wine Room on Feb 28. The dinner is already sold out, however you can live vicariously through me that night as I will be in the kitchen taking photos and at the bar sampling each and every dish (as well as the cocktails Bob mixes up with NC own organic TOPO spirits) and posting live on Facebook and Twitter with each and every bite!
But wait, there’s more….
On March 23, 2016 6:30-10 pm The James Beard Celebrity Chef Tour is back for the second year in a row at Bonterra Dining & Wine Room, located at 1829 Cleveland Ave. in Charlotte! Five more of Charlotte’s bright and brilliant chefs will cook their way through a menu of amazing food & wine pairings. Proceeds from the dinner benefit the James Beard Foundation.
Your host this night is chef Blake Hartwick of Bonterra Dining & Wine Room and he will be joined in the kitchen by Chef Joe Kindred of Kindred Restaurant, Davidson, NC; Chef Bryan Skelding (visiting chef from) The Greenbrier, White Sulphur Spring, WV; Chef Paul Verica, Heritage Food & Drink, Waxhaw, NC; Chef Rocco Whalen, Fahrenheit, Charlotte, NC (and of Fahernheit & Rosie and Rocco’s both in Cleveland, Ohio); Charlotte, NC and Pastry Chef Jason Lemon of Bonterra Dining & Wine Room
Tickets for this March 23 dinner are still available, but going fast! I’ll be there dining & wining & tweeting, posting it all – but instead of just reading about it, why don’t you just come and join me?
I’ve posted the menu below to tempt you… use the caption to my logo as the link to make your reservation and order tickets or call the number listed below. Hope to see you there!
2016 Charlotte James Beard Celebrity Chef Dinner
Passed hors d’oeuvres:
Joe Kindred : North Carolina Shrimp Rolls on Milk Bread ( Yes THAT milk bread)
Bryan Skelding: Hudson Valley Foie Gras Torchon “Old Fashioned”, Bourbon Cured, Orange Confit, Luxardo Cherry
Jason Lemon: Ashe County Cheddar Gougeres , Lusty Monk Mustard, Fines Herbs
Blake Hartwick: Cold Water Creek Griddle Cakes, NC Ostera Caviar, Benne Seed Oil Ice Cream, Pickled Ramps
Paul Verica: Green Garlic Panna Cotta, Shaved Veggies, Petite Greens and Flowers
Rocco Whalen: Rare Beef Roll, Greens, Sprouts, Miso, Apple Syrup
Joe Kindred: Flounder Crudo, Sea Urchin, Carrot, Trout Caviar
Bryan Skedling: Smoked Heritage Farms Pork Loin, Ham Hock Fritter, Boudin Noir, Bloody Butcher Grits, Fried Spoonbread, Ramp Aioli, Bacon Jus
Blake Hartwick: Pinot Braised Chicken Thighs, BBQ Cauliflower, Sweet Potato Nage, Foie Gras Stuffed Morel Mushrooms, Fried Chicken Skins
Paul Verica: Brasstown Beef Tenderloin, NC shrimp, Root Veggies, Spinach, Demi
Rocco Whalen: Chilled Thai Cucumber Soup “Raita”, Served with Crispy 27 Vegetable Samosas
Jason Lemon: Marcona Almond Clafoutis, Honey Spelt Crust, Blond Chocolate Cremeux. Bee Pollen, Cacao Nibs
Tickets for the March 23 dinner are $150 per person, all inclusive (includes wine pairings & gratuity)
6:30pm cocktail reception with passed hors d’oeuvres; 7:00 pm dinner
For reservations use the link listed above or please call 704.334.6944 #TellThemHeidiSentYou