Why FIG’s Nomination is a Boon For Local Chefs

FIG-interiorFor the second year in a row, Charleston doesn’t have a shot at claiming the James Beard Foundation’s Best Chef Southeast award (the last local nominee was Cypress’ Craig Deihl, who competed for the honor in 2012.) But as FIG’s beverage director David McCarus points out, his restaurant’s nomination in the Outstanding Wine Program category is a testament to the city’s thriving kitchen culture.

“This is awesome for Charleston,” McCarus says. “The possibility for Charleston to be seen as an entire entity, that’s awesome.”

Although the Beard nomination process isn’t an exact science, McCarus suspects judges were swayed by the service at FIG. “The wine list is like step A,” he says, comparing an impressive list in a poorly-staffed dining room to a gorgeous plate of food sloshed on its way to the table by an inept server.

McCarus says FIG’s wine program, now entering its eleventh year, remains an extension of owners Adam Nemirow and Mike Lata’s founding philosophy.

“Our wine program is about working with farmers,” he says. “You’re excited because this person put their blood, sweat and tears in the bottle.”

Three of this year’s five nominees for outstanding wine program are located outside of wine-growing regions, including The Little Nell in Aspen; Blackberry Farm in Walland, Tenn. and FIG.

“Maybe you’re more inspired by the food,” McCarus ventures, adding he has no real clue how to account for the geographic distribution of the nominees. And in the wake of the announcement, he’s not especially interested in theorizing: “I just want to make sure you’re excited,” he says.

More municipal excitement is potentially in store for May 5, when the awards ceremony will be held in New York.

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