photograph by Anna Routh Barzin

EDITOR’S NOTE: On March 14, the James Beard Awards announced the finalists for its prestigious culinary honors. Of these 12 Tar Heel restaurants, chefs, and brewers, two chefs made it to the final round: Ashley Christensen of Poole’s Diner (Outstanding Chef Award finalist) and Katie Button of Nightbell (Best Chef: Southeast finalist). Congrats to all the honorees!

Rotating menus, progressive palates, and innovative entrees are just a few of the elements we look forward to most when visiting North Carolina’s finest restaurants — and we’re not the only ones to acknowledge the hotbed of culinary talent in our state. After reviewing more than 20,000 submissions from across the country, the James Beard Foundation announced its 2018 Restaurant and Chef Award Semifinalists on February 15. See which 12 of our own made the list:

Best New Restaurant
Brewery Bhavana, Raleigh (pictured above)

Outstanding Baker
David Bauer, Farm & Sparrow, Asheville

Outstanding Chef
Ashley Christensen, Poole’s Diner, Raleigh

Outstanding Wine, Beer, or Spirits Professional
Leah Wong Ashburn, Highland Brewing Co., Asheville
Sean Lilly Wilson, Fullsteam Brewery, Durham

Rising Star Chef of the Year
Gabe Barker, Pizzeria Mercato, Carrboro

Best Chef: Southeast
Katie Button, Nightbell, Asheville
Vivian Howard, Chef & The Farmer, Kinston
Meherwan Irani, Chai Pani, Asheville
Sam Jones, Sam Jones BBQ, Winterville
Joe Kindred, Kindred, Davidson
Cheetie Kumar, Garland, Raleigh

On March 14, the James Beard Foundation will livestream and live tweet the finalists announcement from Philadelphia. For more information about the awards, visit Best of luck to all of our North Carolina nominees!

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Jennifer Zeleski is the digital intern at Our State. She is currently pursuing a bachelor's degree in communications from High Point University, and she loves spending too much time in the kitchen.