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. Continue reading

Restaurant Week Patrons Apt to Veer From Promotional Menus

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The prix-fixe price tag on Charleston Restaurant Week meals is undeniably a draw for eaters who want to cap their dinner spending at $30 or $40 a person (assuming they’re not drinking.) But local chefs say diners don’t always stick to the program once they’re seated for their three-course meal.

Restaurant Week patrons use the promotional-priced event to “check off restaurants (they) haven’t been to,” says Jeremiah Bacon, executive chef at The Macintosh and Oak Steakhouse. And given the opportunity to explore a menu they’ve never before experienced, they’re apt to stray from the melon salad and shrimp-and-grits on the preset Restaurant Week menu and choose dishes from the standard line-up.

According to Bacon, such behavior doesn’t occur as often in very ritzy restaurants: He estimates 80 to 85 percent of Restaurant Week guests at Oak follow through with their plans to order the $40 steak dinner.  At The Macintosh, though, “it’s fifty-fifty.”

Bacon says The Macintosh’s price point helps explain the discrepancy. The restaurant also deliberately exposes guests to its regular menu by bolding the Restaurant Week-eligible items instead of printing a separate Restaurant Week sheet.

“I think it works,” Bacon says.

Still, even when presented with a wide range of choices, Bacon says certain guests can’t find what they want. That’s because the announced event menu is subject to change if produce or proteins suddenly become unavailable. For Restaurant Weekers who like to plan out every order in advance, seasonality – taken to an extreme by the dozen or so restaurants which refuse to commit to a bill of fare before the week begins – is an aggravation.

“Once in a while, we’ll hear someone say ‘this isn’t the menu I saw online’,” Bacon says. “But we print the menu every day.”