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Editor's Note: This story is unlocked for everyone to read courtesy of the CRVA, our partner in nourishing culinary exploration for residents and visitors of the Queen City.

January 24, 2024

James Beard Foundation honors Charlotte chefs

Here are our semifinalists in the Best Chef: Southeast category

by Kristen Wile

Oscar Johnson and Daryl Cooper of Jimmy Pearls at the UPPY Awards. Daniel Coston/UP

The James Beard Foundation announced the semifinalists in its 2024 Restaurant and Chef Awards, with two Charlotte chefs on the list. In the Best Chef: Southeast category, Daryl Cooper and Oscar Johnson, of Jimmy Pearls, are honored.

“This is just unexpected,” Johnson says. “We just work hard, we just try to put out our best food and our story with integrity behind the food. We don’t look for accolades, but when they come we definitely celebrate.”

Jimmy Pearls is wrapping up its tenure at The Market at 7th Street this month, before seeking a brick and mortar space.

Semifinalists for this category are “a restaurateur who uses their establishment(s) as a vehicle for building community, demonstrates creativity in entrepreneurship and integrity in restaurant operations, and is making efforts to create a sustainable work culture, while contributing positively to their broader community.”

Past Charlotte semifinalists in the category include chefs Joe Kindred of Kindred Restaurant, Greg Collier of Leah & Louise, Sam Hart of Counter-, and Paul Verica of now-closed The Stanley. (Verica no longer lives in Charlotte.) Collier and Hart have both advanced to the Finalist round, but Charlotte has not yet had a James Beard Award winner. Salud in NoDa was recognized last year as a semifinalist in the Outstanding Bar category. The Stanley has been nominated as a semifinalist in the Best New Restaurant category in the past; Collier’s past nominations include a semifinalist recognition in the Outstanding Chef category.

Elsewhere in the state, semifinalists include Jamie Davis of The Hackney in Washington, Kanlaya “Gun” Supachana of Dalaya Thai Cuisine in Sylva, and Preeti Waas of Cheeni Indian Food Emporium in Raleigh for the Best Chef: Southeast category.

Crawford and Son (Outstanding Hospitality) and Bittersweet (Outstanding Bar) in Raleigh, and The Restaurant at Gideon Ridge Inn (Outstanding Restaurant) are some of the other North Carolina semifinalists. Former Haymaker William Dissen’s Asheville restaurant, The Market Place, was also recognized in the Outstanding Restaurant Category. See the full list of nominations here.

The James Beard Awards honored its first class in 1990. It has shifted from a focus on fine dining and, in recent years, expectations of winners have grown to a more holistic view of chefs’ impacts beyond their food.

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