Jan 24, 2024 - Food and Drink

Charlotte chefs nab city's only James Beard semifinalist nod

Hand pouring hot sauce over chicken sandwich

Uncle Gene's Fish Sandwich from Jimmy Pearls. Photo: Peter Taylor

Daryl Cooper and Oscar Johnson of Jimmy Pearls in Uptown received semifinalist nominations for Best Chef: Southeast by the James Beard Foundation.

Why it matters: The James Beard Awards are some of the most prestigious awards in the culinary industry.

  • Although Charlotte chefs and business owners have been nominated several times, the city has yet to snag a win.
two men side by side
Left: Daryl Cooper II. Right: Oscar Johnson. Photo: Peter Taylor

Flashback: Last year, Charlotte chefs and business owners received three semifinalist nominations — the most our city had received since 2009.

  • Chef Sam Hart of Counter- was the only finalist out of the three and was ultimately beat for Best Chef: Southeast by Terry Koval of The Deer and the Dove in Decatur, GA.

Zoom in: Jimmy Pearls, a beloved spot with a menu inspired by family traditions, is located inside the Market on 7th Street.

  • It's open Wednesday-Saturday 12–8pm, Sundays 4-8pm and closed Monday and Tuesday.

Zoom out: Cooper and Johnson will compete against other North Carolina chefs for the Best Chef: Southeast title, including those from The Hackney in Washington, NC; Plant in Asheville; Dalaya Thai Cuisine in Sylva and Cheeni Indian Food Emporium in Raleigh.

Of note: Kimball Brienza and Stephen Palmer of O-Ku Sushi in Charleston are nominated for Outstanding Restaurateur. O-Ku also has a location in South End.

Other North Carolina nominees include:

  • Dean Neff of Seabird in Wilmington for Outstanding Chef.
  • The Market Place in Asheville and The Restaurant at Gideon Ridge Inn in Blowing Rock for Outstanding Restaurant.
  • Ajja in Raleigh for Best New Restaurant.
  • Bobby Boy Bakeshop in Winston-Salem for Outstanding Bakery.
  • Crawford and Son in Raleigh for Outstanding Hospitality.
  • Bittersweet in Raleigh for Outstanding Bar.

What's next: Finalists will be announced April 3, and winners will be revealed in Chicago on June 10.

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