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  • Writer's pictureSteven Keith

It was a banner week for West Virginia chefs and restaurants

Plus, Beckley's The Dish makes Yelp's list of the Top 100 restaurants in the U.S. in 2024.


Chef William "Billy" Dissen from The Market Place in Asheville
Chef William "Billy" Dissen from The Market Place in Asheville






The two West Virginia chefs named semi-finalists for the prestigious James Beard Awards as “Best Chef: Southeast” last week weren’t the only home-grown talents to get a little national love.


Lost in the shuffle of that big announcement was the fact that a North Carolina restaurant owned by another hometown boy, Executive Chef William “Billy” Dissen, was nominated for an even bigger James Beard Award as “Best Restaurant.”


And not just best in the Southeast, but in the United States. That’s huge.


The Market Place Restaurant in Asheville, NC
The Market Place Restaurant in Asheville, NC

A graduate of Charleston Catholic High School and West Virginia University, Dissen went on to graduate with honors from the Culinary Institute of America at Hyde Park in New York, then apprenticed at The Greenbrier under the late Certified Master Chef Peter Timmons.


After moving to the “other” Charleston in South Carolina, Dissen met another native West Virginian: Donald Barickman, owner and chef of the beloved Magnolia’s Restaurant there. He honed his skills at Barickman’s fine-dining restaurant, Cypress, then studied restaurant management at the University of South Carolina before planting roots in Asheville.


Dissen now owns and leads the kitchen at Asheville’s The Market Place Restaurant, which was among the top 20 named as semi-finalists for the nation’s best restaurant. A mainstay for nearly 45 years, The Market Place has grown to be one of the top sustainable (and delicious) farm-to-table restaurants in the region.


And now maybe the country.


Although I already knew about Dissen’s West Virginia connection, my inbox filled up the morning of the James Beard announcement with locals wanting me to spread the word.


“My son is married to Chef William Dissen’s sister,” reader Stephen Crislip wrote, “and the good story behind this is that Bill Dissen and Paul Smith (nominated in another category this year) grew up in Charleston, trained together and have remained good friends and colleagues. Two local guys knocking it out in national culinary arts is a good West Virginia story in any category.”


I couldn’t agree more.


And when I reached out to Dissen to congratulate him, he gave me some good news for local fans back home as well. He said he and Chef Paul are planning some fun events in Charleston this summer for the launch of Dissen’s new cookbook: Thoughtful Cooking: Recipes in the New South.


Beckley restaurant makes Yelp’s Top 100


Speaking of big honors, a popular hangout in Beckley was also just named one of Yelp’s “Top 100 U.S. Restaurants for 2024.”


The Dish Café made the honorable list after the online restaurant review site’s food-loving users rated their favorite places to eat from coast to coast, with those results then analyzed by both scores and volume to determine the winners.


Bone-in ribeye from The Dish Cafe
Bone-in ribeye from The Dish Cafe

“For a decade, the local partners behind The Dish Café have poured their passion into an eclectic menu with unique flavor combinations and chef-driven daily specials,” Yelp said in its roundup.


“From the bone-in ribeye with fresh Halpern’s Angus Beef to the falafel salad with house-made tahini sauce and lemon vinaigrette dressing, each dish is prepared with fresh, local ingredients.”


Added Yelper Kathy L: “The salmon was out-of-this-world fresh, with a wonderful glaze. The blackened shrimp, mmm-mmm, 10 stars! The blondie gluten-free dessert is to die for.”


And while The Dish just slid in at #100 on the list, keep in mind there are more than 1 million restaurants estimated to be in operation in America right now. Pretty cool.


Charleston Restaurant Week rolls along


We’re now smack-dab in the middle of Charleston Restaurant Week and yours truly has already dined at two participating restaurants this week, with four more reservations still to go.


What a great time to be alive!


I’ll include a roundup of my favorite dishes and experiences next week, but would love to hear about yours in the meantime. What have you loved so far? Let me know using the contact information below.


• • •


Steven Keith is a food writer and restaurant critic known as “The Food Guy” who writes a weekly column for the Charleston Gazette-Mail and has appeared in several state, regional and national culinary publications. Follow him online at www.wvfoodguy.com or on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and Pinterest. He can be reached at 304-380-6096 or at wvfoodguy@aol.com.

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