Jan 24, 2024 - Food and Drink

Raleigh has four 2024 James Beard semifinalists

The Ajja team, from left: Paul Siler, Cheetie Kumar, Gaëlle Laforest, Lindsay Ogden and Chris Gamble. Photo: Baxter Miller

Raleigh is getting some serious shine at the start of this year's James Beard Awards season, landing four semifinalist nominations for one of the highest honors in the restaurant business.

Driving the news: The James Beard Foundation revealed the semifinalists for the 2024 awards Wednesday.

  • Cheetie Kumar's Five Points restaurant Ajja — which explores Mediterranean and Middle Eastern cuisines — was nominated for the country's Best New Restaurant.
  • Scott Crawford, one of Raleigh's busiest chefs, saw his restaurant Crawford & Son nominated for Outstanding Hospitality.
  • The downtown Raleigh bar Bittersweet got a nod in the Outstanding Bar category.
  • And Preeti Waas, head of the Indian restaurant Cheeni in Raleigh and Durham, was once again nominated for Best Chef: Southeast.

Why it matters: The awards highlight just how strong the Raleigh food scene has grown in recent years — despite pandemic setbacks.

Of note: Indigo Road Hospitality's Steve Palmer and Kimball Brienza received a nomination for Outstanding Restaurateur for O-Ku Sushi. While technically the nomination is for their Charleston location, O-Ku also has a spot in the Warehouse District in Raleigh.

  • They're the only Carolina-based restaurateurs recognized in that category.

Flashback: The Triangle has had a good run at the James Beard Awards.

  • Ricky Moore, of Durham's Saltbox Seafood Joint, won for "Best Chef: Southeast" in 2022; Raleigh's Ashley Christensen won the award in 2014; Chapel Hill's Andrea Reusing in 2011; and Ben Barker in 2000 for his work at the now-closed Durham restaurant Magnolia Grill.
  • In 2019, Christensen also won the overall "Outstanding Chef."

Zoom out: Twelve restaurants in North Carolina landed nominations, including Dean Neff of Wilmington's Seabird for Outstanding Chef.

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

Go deeper: Our 2023 list of the 30 Best Restaurants in the Triangle, which includes Crawford & Son and Cheeni

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