Three NC chefs nominated for James Beard honors

Raleigh chef and restaurateur Ashley Christensen jokes with N.C. State professor Dr.Cat Warren on Tuesday

RALEIGH — Three N.C. chefs are still in the running for the nation’s top culinary awards this year. The James Beard Foundation announced the nominees for its annual awards recently and familiar chefs from the Old North State are among the best of the best. Raleigh restaurateur Ashley Christensen is up for the top chef honor as she is nominated under the banner of her flagship restaurant Poole’s Diner. All three regions in N.C. will be represented in the awards competition as mountain region chef Katie Button is nominated for Best Chef: Southeast and Kinston celebrity chef Vivian Howard will represent eastern N.C. in two food journalism categories.

In the Outstanding Chef category, Christensen will face Gabrielle Hamilton of Prune in New York City, David Kinch of Manresa in Los Gatos, C.A., Christopher Kostow of The Restaurant at Meadowood in St. Helena, C.A. and Donald Link of Herbsaint in New Orleans. The Outstanding Chef category celebrates a working chef in America whose career has set national industry standards and who has served as an inspiration to other food professionals. Eligible candidates must have been working as a chef for the past five years.

Chef Katie Button is nominated in the Best Chef in the Southeast region which also includes Georgia, Kentucky, South Carolina, Tennessee and West Virginia. Button is nominated for her Asheville restaurant Nightbell. Button is nominated along with Mashama Bailey of The Grey in Savannah, Ga., Cassidee Dabney of The Barn at Blackberry Farm in Walland, Tenn., Rodney Scott of Rodney Scott’s BBQ in Charleston, S.C. and Andrew Ticer and Michael Hudman of Andrew Michael Italian Kitchen in Memphis, Tenn.

Button is the only N.C. nominee. However, Vivian Howard of Chef & The Farmer, Kinston, N.C., Meherwan Irani of Chai Pani, Asheville, N.C., Sam Jones of Sam Jones BBQ, Winterville, N.C., Joe Kindred of Kindred, Davidson, N.C., and Cheetie Kumar of Garland, Raleigh, N.C. were semifinalists for the award.

In the Broadcast Media Awards, N.C. chef Vivian Howard of Kinston is nominated for both Outstanding Personality or Host and Best Video Webcast in a fixed location. Howard’s nominations arise from her starring role on the PBS show “A Chef’s Life” and her video “Panna Cooking: Black Bean-Glazed Salmon with Ginger Cabbage.” Howard faces Pati Jinish from “Pati’s Mexican Table,” on American Public Television and Ina Garten from “Barefoot Contessa: Cook Like a Pro” on Food Network. In the video webcast category, “Howard faces Andrew in the Kitchen” by Andrew Zimmerman on Travel Channel and “The Breath of a Wok” by Grace Young on YouTube.