Kumar and Moore Named Best Chef Southeast Finalists by James Beard Awards

Join us in congratulating Cheetie Kumar and Ricky Moore for their nominations for Best Chef Southeast by the James Beard Awards Foundation! Kumar is the head chef of Garland in downtown Raleigh, which focuses on seasonal produce crafted into Indian, Asian, and Southern dishes. Moore’s inspiration for Saltbox Seafood Joint originates with the American fish camps and waterside seafood shacks, redefining what seafood is in an urban area.

Ricky Moore (via Facebook)

The James Beard Awards recognize exceptional talent and achievement in the culinary arts, hospitality, media, and broader food system. Established in 1990, the awards are considered the Oscars of the culinary world. 

20 semi-finalists were narrowed down to 5 nominees. The Triangle semifinalists for Best Chef Southeast included: 

  • Oscar Diaz, The Cortez (Raleigh)
  • Cheetie Kumar, Garland (Raleigh)
  • Sunny Gerhart, St. Roch Fine Oysters+Bar (Raleigh)
  • Ricky Moore, SALTBOX Seafood Joint (Durham)

All but Gerhart have been semifinalists in past years. 

Garland (via Facebook)

Many Triangle chefs have taken home this prestigious award in their category, including Ben and Karen Barker of Magnolia Grill in Durham, who won Best Chef: Southeast and Outstanding Pastry Chef. Andrea Reusing of Lantern in Chapel Hill and Ashley Christensen of Poole’s Diner in downtown Raleigh have also won Best Chef: Southeast. In 2019, Christensen took home the award for Outstanding Chef in the country.

The awards were canceled in 2020 and 2021, though not solely due to the pandemic. In August 2020, The New York Times reported that many controversial chefs had been nominated despite public outcry. In some cases, those chefs’ own employees denounced the nomination. 

via James Beard Foundation

In addition, no Black people had won across any of the 23 categories on the ballot in the final round of voting. While other years had seen a very white slate of winners, the James Beard Foundation had recently promised broader representation. Following months of Black Lives Matter protests and a reckoning within the restaurant industry, the 2020 JBF results were considered particularly egregious. 

In resuming the James Beard Awards in 2022, the Foundation says they have conducted an audit of their policies and procedures in order to “continue the work to remove any systemic bias; increase the diversity of the voting body; ensure that communities far and wide know about the Awards and how eligible candidates may apply; increase transparency in how the Awards function; and align the Awards more outwardly with the Foundation’s mission and values.”

The 2022 James Beard Awards will be held June 13th in Chicago. Follow @beardfoundation on Twitter and Instagram and use the hashtag #jbfa to stay up-to-date on all things James Beard-related.