Charleston lands 11 James Beard Award semifinalists

Bacon, Keeler, Jason Stanhope, Mitterer, Kolender and more

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Leon's and Saint Alban Executive Chef Ari Kolender (right) has been nominated as a semifinalist for James Beard's Rising Star of the Year award - JONATHAN BONCEK
  • Jonathan Boncek
  • Leon's and Saint Alban Executive Chef Ari Kolender (right) has been nominated as a semifinalist for James Beard's Rising Star of the Year award
The James Beard Foundation has just announced the 2015 semifinalists for its Restaurant and Chef Award categories, and Charleston earned a solid 11 nominations — the most the Holy City has garnered in the past four years.

And the nominees are:

Best New Restaurant: Edmund's Oast

Outstanding Baker: Lauren Mitterer, WildFlour Pastry

Outstanding Chef: Sean Brock, Husk

Outstanding Restaurant: Hominy Grill

Outstanding Service: Charleston Grill

Outstanding Wine Program: McCrady's and FIG

Rising Star of the Year: Ari Kolender, Leon's Oyster Shop

Best Chef: Southeast: Jeremiah Bacon, The Macintosh; Josh Keeler, Two Boroughs Larder; and Jason Stanhope, FIG

This is Bacon's fourth Best Chef: Southeast semifinalist nomination and Keeler's third. Brock has been nominated for Outstanding Chef the past four years and won Best Chef: Southeast in 2010. This is Stanhope's first time on the list.

"It feels great," Stanhope says. "It's all the cliche stuff. It's so so humbling to see your name next to people you've looked up to, and to see we're back on for our wine program."

Stanhope admits he was nervous in advance of the announcement. "I was checking my phone like a crackhead," he says. "At 12:01 I checked my phone, then at 12:02 Lata called, so I figured it must be good news." Suffice it to say, you might see Stanhope at Big John's tonight. 

As far as other nominees, the big surprise was Ari Kolender for Rising Star of the Year. Kolender has been doing double duty at Leon's and Saint Alban since the cafe's January opening — one morning we saw him there at 8 a.m. when we were grabbing coffee and caught him that evening still hustling. We suggested building a cot in the back room. Perhaps all that hard work will pay off with a win. But we won't know until March.

On Tuesday, March 24, the Restaurant and Chef finalists will be announced. Then, on Fri. April 24 the winners of the Book, Broadcast & Journalism Awards will get their turn when awards are announced at a dinner at Pier Sixty in New York City — we've got money on Brock's Heritage cookbook making the cut. Finally, on Mon. May 4, the big winners of the Chef and Restaurant awards will be announced. This year the gala will take place at the Lyric Opera of Chicago, but you can follow along online on a livestream on the Beard Foundation's website. 

To view the entire list, click here

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