Charlotte’s bound to have another big year at the James Beard Awards this June, following chef Greg Collier‘s historic run last year.
What’s happening: Charlotte is named three times on this year’s semifinalist list of the best chefs, restaurants and bars in the U.S., the James Beard Foundation announced Wednesday morning.
- Collier is nominated for outstanding chef, the most prestigious category for chefs across the country and his fourth consecutive nomination.
- NoDa favorite Salud Cerveceria is named on the outstanding bar list, a stunning first for the neighborhood spot.
- Counter- chef Sam Hart also made the list of best chefs in the Southeast. His popular Wesley Heights tasting menu restaurant moved to a new location last year and expanded with Biblio.
Why it matters: The James Beard Awards are like the Grammys but for food and drink. Winning an award further cements Charlotte as the great food city we know it is.
- Our city’s food and beverage scene has stayed under the national radar for years. The last time Charlotte got as many nods was in 2009.
Of note: In 2018, The Stanley was nominated for best restaurant, Collier for best chef Southeast at Loft & Cellar and Joe Kindred for best chef Southeast at Kindred in Davidson.
Last year was the first time a Charlotte chef has made it past the semifinalist round. Collier — who’s behind Axios Charlotte’s No. 1 best restaurant Leah & Louise — didn’t win in the end, but his repeat nominations put him on an exciting track for this year’s awards ceremony.
Salud’s Jason Glunt, who owns the NoDa bar and restaurant with his wife, Dairelyn, didn’t know about the nomination until we called him Wednesday.
“Holy sh*t,” he told Axios’ Michael Graff.
We gave him a few minutes and called back. Glunt was still in shock. He says they didn’t apply for it or hire a public relations firm, so he’s not sure how they got nominated.
“I don’t even know how this works,” he said. “We had no clue, man.”
And that’s part of the thrill of Salud’s nomination: They didn’t follow any of the traditional steps to get nominated.
Background: Salud opened as a beer shop with a one-barrel brewery in 2012 and added the spacious upstairs tap room in 2017. Now they brew their beers at Heist.
It’s almost impossible to say in a single sentence what Salud is.
- It now serves breakfast, lunch and dinner.
- It’s a coffee shop and a brewery.
- The pizzas are named for OutKast songs, an original Hornets mural is on the wall.
- Old-school hip-hop plays throughout the day.
- On Wednesdays, Dairelyn hosts a wine-down Wednesday.
- On the third Saturday of each month, they host Latin parties that draw lines around the building until 2am.
[Go deeper: Hispanic heritage is celebrated every day at Salud, a Dominican-owned brewery in NoDa]
“It’s a reflection of us. And when you do that I think it comes across genuine — the type of music we play, the type of atmosphere we have.”
“Everything on the wall downstairs is me,” Jason said. “It’s my old CD covers and baseball cards. It’s like what my room looked like when I was in high school. And upstairs is a reflection of my wife.”
His phone kept buzzing during the call.
“I hate to sound corny,” Jason said, “but I guess if you stick to what you do, and you do what you believe in and what you like, eventually it will come.”
Counter- chef Sam Hart tells us he’s excited to see the range of representation in Charlotte’s nominations. “What’s really cool is the diversity of the awards and the diversity of the people who are running and operating those businesses,” he said.
Hart has told us before that his goal isn’t to collect awards. “We need to spend more time not only supporting diversity, and cultural differences, and all that with food, but we need to financially support them and financially invest (in) people like that,” Hart said.
He also credits his team, both past and present, for Counter-‘s success. “It’s impossible for me to do all this [by myself],” he said.
- Counter-‘s chef de cuisine is Yongwon Hwang: “He’s really the leader of the Counter- team right now,” Hart added.