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JBF Award Winners: Southeast

James Beard Foundation · Charleston Top 10 Guide · created about 3 years ago

Since 1991 the James Beard Foundation has been honoring the best chefs and restaurants in the country with the prestigious James Beard Foundation Awards. For this guide we asked past JBF Award winners from our regional Best Chef in America categories about the food at their own restaurants. They told us, in their own words, what their favorites dishes are and which foods best represent their culinary style.

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    steak tartare at FIG in Charleston, SC

    Mike Lata won the Best Chef: Southeast award in 2009 for seasonal, straightforward delicious food that pays homage to the bounty of the Low Country region. The menu changes almost daily, but steak tartare nearly always makes an appearance. The cut of beef may change, Lata tells us, but “It is a classic FIG dish and everyone always loves it.”

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    Local Seafood at FIG in Charleston, SC

    “We put our heart and soul into our seafood program,” Lata explains of FIG. “We make sure our customers are getting absolutely the best fish and shellfish our coast has to offer.” This means you are guaranteed a great plate of fish and it might even be something you’ve never heard of before like Jolthead Porgy, Banded Rudderfish, or Almaco Jack.

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    Swordfish Belly with Fennel and Crispy Parsnip, Prepared by You at McCrady's in Charleston, SC

    Sean Brock’s dishes at McCrady’s elegantly combine the simplicity of farm-fresh products with the innovation of modern cuisine. Brock, who won the 2010 award for Best Chef: Southeast encourages diners to try his tasting menu. “These are the dishes that excite us the most and a lot of them are interactive,” he says. To wit: the swordfish belly. “We present diners with a salt block heated to 400° along with little dishes filled with the ingredients for the dish. They are issued tweezers and the server explains how to prepare each component and plate it.”

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    Chicken Country Captain at Hominy Grill in Charleston, SC

    2008 Best Chef: Southeast Robert Stehling’s Hominy Grill serves classic Southern specialties that are steeped in the culinary history of the Low Country. Take for example chicken country captain, a sautéed chicken breast served in a tomato curry sauce with currants, toasted almonds, and jasmine rice. “Rice-based dishes hold an important place in Charleston’s culinary history,” explains Stehling, “and the curry is a nod to the city’s history as a port city that saw travelers and traders from throughout the world.”

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