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Friday, March 22, 2013

The highs and lows of the Beard Award announcements

Just another awkward Monday

Posted by Stephanie Barna on Fri, Mar 22, 2013 at 2:08 PM

Last Monday morning, Charleston's food world came together to share one of the most awkward moments ever.

As the James Beard Foundation announced the 2013 award nominations live from Lowndes Grove, the crowd cheered wildly for Nathalie Dupree, who received a nomination for her cookbook, and The Ordinary, which received a nod for Best New Restaurant.

And then the Best Chef Southeast category was read and silent confusion rippled through the crowd when nary a single local guy was mentioned.

While most of the chefs nominated were familiar and even friendly to our town, no one dared clap or woo-hoo when Ashley Christensen's name was read or Edward Lee's or Steven Satterfield's or Tandy Wilson's. Everyone was too busy cringing at the thought of being one of the semi-finalists on hand for the announcements. Did you dare cast a glance Craig Deihl's way or did you avoid eye contact the rest of the day?

Craig Deihl, when he still had hope
  • Craig Deihl, when he still had hope
Of course, being the polite Southerners we are, no one said a word (unless you count the texts that were flying through the room. My phone received a "Daaamn" from a nearby table — precisely what I was thinking). Finally, Sean Brock's name, announced for the Outstanding Chef award, released the crowd from its unbearable tension and we all burst into relieved applause. All was right with the world again.

Of course, it still sucked that Jeremiah Bacon (Oak, the Macintosh), Craig Deihl (Cypress), and Josh Keeler (Two Boroughs Larder) didn't make the short list, but it's not like these guys suddenly stopped being awesome or anything. They still cook great food in their respective kitchens and will certainly be deserving of some hardware in the future. And Charleston Grill still has an amazing wine program that certainly deserves our respect.

Now, onto the eating. The event at Lowndes Grove was accompanied by $3,000 worth of Callie's Biscuits. I joke, because those are some damn expensive biscuits ($1.90/each), so I made sure to get my fill. I probably ate $45 worth. After the (excruciatingly long) announcements, the guests dispersed to the food area where The Green Door, Celia's, Glass Onion, and Bowens Island were dishing up some local food. Full on biscuts and anticipating a big meal later that night at the Fort Moultrie Beard dinner, I skipped back to work and promptly snoozed at my desk.

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