James Beard Awards announce 2023 food semifinalists. Here are Triangle & NC nominees.

The James Beard Foundation announced its 2023 Restaurant and Chef Awards Semifinalists Wednesday, honoring a Raleigh chef with a new Indian eatery and a Durham cocktail bar.

There were 11 total semifinalist nominations in North Carolina.

Preeti Waas is nominated for Best Chef in the Southeast. She opened Cheeni Indian Food Emporium in Raleigh in April 2022. She doesn’t call it a restaurant, but rather an emporium, an all-day space showcasing an ever-changing view into Indian cuisine.

“I have what I would consider a tight menu, it’s not all over the place,” Waas told The N&O last spring. “I don’t need to be everything to everybody. The idea of coming to Cheeni is as if you were coming to my home.”

Kingfisher, a cocktail bar in Durham, has been nominated for Outstanding Bar.

Kingfisher bills itself as a farm-to-cocktail bar, with drinks swapped out seasonally and coolers and shelves stocked with jars of preserved and fermented ingredients, from peaches to boiled peanuts.

North Carolina chefs and restaurateurs compete in the Southeast region, also including Georgia, Kentucky, South Carolina, Tennessee and West Virginia.

Multiple James Beard Awards have found their way to the Triangle over the years, starting with Ben and Karen Barker of Magnolia Grill in Durham, who won Best Chef: Southeast and Outstanding Pastry Chef. Andrea Reusing of Lantern and Ashley Christensen of Poole’s Diner have also won Best Chef: Southeast, and in 2019 Christensen took home the award for Outstanding Chef in the country.

Notably, Durham seafood whisperer Ricky Moore of Saltbox won the Best Chef in the Southeast James Beard Award last year, throwing up Bull City horns and shouting out his seafood shack’s city from the Chicago stage.

This year’s finalist nominees will be announced March 29, and the winners will be honored at the James Beard Restaurant and Chef Awards Ceremony on June 5 in Chicago.

Here are North Carolina’s semifinalists:

Outstanding Chef

  • Greg Collier of Leah & Louise in Charlotte

Best New Restaurant

  • Heff’s Burger Club in Winston-Salem

  • Neng Jr.’s in Asheville

Outstanding Bar

  • Kingfisher in Durham

  • Salud Cerveceria in Charlotte

Best Chef: Southeast

  • Sam Hart, of Counter- in Charlotte

  • Josiah McGaughey of Vivian in Asheville

  • Dean Neff of Seabird in Wilmington

  • Keith Rhodes of Catch in Wilmington

  • Stephanie Tyson of Sweet Potatoes in Winston-Salem

  • Preeti Waas of Cheeni Indian Food Emporium in Raleigh

It’s not a restaurant, it’s an Indian food emporium. Check out new Raleigh spot Cheeni.

We picked the 20 best new Triangle restaurants of 2022

A guide to Triangle nightlife: Bars, breweries, arcades, live music and more