Keeler, Johnson and Bacon Named James Beard Semi-Finalists

Three Charleston chefs are in the running for finalist status in the Southeast division of the James Beard Foundation’s Best Chef awards.

Josh Keeler of Two Boroughs Larder, Kevin Johnson of The Grocery and Jeremiah Bacon of The Macintosh are semi-finalists for the prestigious prize, which will be awarded this May in New York City. Bacon is a semi-finalist for the third year running; Keeler was also a semi-finalist last year.

Other local semi-finalists include McCrady’s for Best Service; Sean Brock for Outstanding Chef, a national award, and FIG for Best Wine Service. “Greatest honor to date,” FIG’s sommelier David McCarus tweeted.

The foundation this morning webcasted live coverage of its semi-finalist announcement from Orlando, a stage of the process that has traditionally been handled via a press release. If you missed it, the complete list is now available here.

Although the foundation kicked off its announcement by reading the Best Chef, South semi-finalists, a nod to its Florida host, the majority of semi-finalists in the national categories such as Best New Restaurant, Outstanding Chef, Outstanding Bar Program and Outstanding Pastry Chef hail from beyond the region.

Southern chefs and restaurants which won distinction in those categories include New Orleans’ Peche and The 404 Kitchen and Pinewood Social, both in Nashville, for Best New Restaurant; Anne Quatrano for Outstanding Chef; Decatur’s Kimball House for Outstanding Bar Program; Phoebe Lawless of Durham’s Scratch and Dolester Miles of Highlands Bar and Grill for Outstanding Pastry Chef. Highlands is also a semi-finalist in the Outstanding Restaurant category.

McCrady’s closest competitors, as measured in miles, are Atlanta’s One Flew South and Bacchanalia. FIG is up against 5 & 10 (Athens, Ga.), The Barn at Blackberry Farm (Walland, Tenn.) and The Grill at Windsor Court Hotel (New Orleans.)

Other semi-finalists for Best Chef, Southeast include Ashley Christensen, Edward Lee and Steven Satterfield, all of whom are headed to Charleston for the Wine + Food Festival, as well as list newcomers Asheville’s Meherwan Irani of Chair Pani and Atlanta’s Todd Ginsberg of The General Muir.

Members of the foundation’s awards committee will now cast their votes; the top five vote-getters in each category will reach the finals. Finalists will be announced on Mar. 19.

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