Mar 29, 2023 - Food and Drink

Counter- chef Sam Hart named a James Beard Award finalist


Don't let the small portion fool you, I left this meal feeling very full. Photo: Laura Barrero/Axios

“Chicago here we come!” Counter- chef Sam Hart posted on Instagram Wednesday.

What’s happening: Hart, who is nominated for best chef in the Southeast, is the second Charlotte chef to reach the final round of the James Beard Awards.

State of play: The James Beard Awards are the food and drink equivalent of the Grammy Awards, and Charlotte is still searching for its first win.

What they’re saying: Being nominated for a James Beard Award brings a lot of attention to the chefs behind them. Hart’s taking advantage of that to send a message:

  • “Pay your people a livable wage,” he posted on his Instagram stories. “Pay benefits. Bonus for them when you do well they do too. Paid time off. Establish a home for their creativity. Don’t be afraid to say you “love” your people. Give back to your community. Hire people who come from different backgrounds than yourself.”

Why it matters: Winning an award would further cement Charlotte as a great food city.

Context: Counter-, Hart’s popular Wesley Heights tasting menu restaurant, moved to a new location last year and expanded with Biblio.

Of note: Charlotte had three semifinalists: Hart, chef Greg Collier was nominated for outstanding chef (the most prestigious category for chefs across the country and his fourth consecutive nomination) and NoDa favorite Salud Cerveceria was named an outstanding bar semifinalist.

“It’s an honor to have been mentioned amongst the best chefs in the country,” Collier said in a statement. “While I wanted to make it to the finals, I’m proud of the work [my wife and business partner] Subrina and I have done and will continue to do. Awards are great but they have never been our why.”

Flashback: Last year, Collier became the first Charlotte chef to advance past the James Beard Awards semifinalist round.

What’s next: James Beard Restaurant and Chef Awards will be announced in Chicago at the Lyric Opera of Chicago on June 5.

Chef Sam Hart Photo: John Mullen/courtesy of the Sprouthouse

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