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  • Writer's pictureSteven Keith

Will back-to-back nominations lead to a James Beard win?

Will the second time be a culinary charm for Charleston’s own Chef Paul Smith?

The chef and co-owner of 1010 Bridge Restaurant, The Pitch and Ellen’s Ice Cream has once again been selected as a finalist for the James Beard Foundation’s prestigious “Best Chef: Southeast” award, making him one of the top 5 chefs honored in a region that includes Georgia, South Carolina, North Carolina, Tennessee, Kentucky and West Virginia.

For those of you scoring at home, that puts him in the company of top chefs and restaurants from such culinary hotspots as Atlanta, Charlotte, Asheville, Nashville, Memphis, Lexington, Louisville and that other Charleston down south.

It’s Chef Paul’s second-consecutive nomination for James Beard’s top chef honor, and Capitol Market will be hosting its second-consecutive James Beard Watch Party, where guests can eat, drink and be merry while watching a live-stream (on a very big screen!) of the awards ceremony taking place in Chicago this coming Monday, June 10.

Instead of a single caterer, however, this year’s celebration will feature tantalizing small plates prepared by seven locally acclaimed chefs who are contributing their culinary skills that night in honor of Chef Paul’s unique accomplishment.

A few of the tasty nibbles in store are:

  • Hernshaw Farms mushroom arancini with San Marzano tomato sauce and Parmesan foam, plus a smoked salmon crostini with herbed goat cheese, arugula, crispy capers, pickled onions and spicy citrus honey on toasted Charleston Bread baguette from Chase Collier of Ristorante Abruzzi.

  • Smoked beef ribs, pork belly burnt ends with slaw and wood-fired roasted corn from Andrew Ford and Jay Nelson of Bogey’s at Capitol Market.

  • Mini crab cakes with a signature sauce from Jesse Lyons and Chasity Thomas of Coco’s Kitchen + Café.

  • Japanese arancini with panko fried rice, beer cheese, pork belly and kimchi with 9-spice and scallions, plus beet-cured salmon wontons with wasabi-yuzu drizzle and tuna-avocado maki with aji Amarillo and tajin from Evan Wilson of Ichiban.

  • Marinated mozzarella skewers and an elderflower spritzer from Mike Medley of Fernbank Public House.

And still to be announced this week are delicious additions from Paul “PG” Grecco of Sam’s Uptown Café, and Brandon Mouser and Charlie Dodrill from Fife Street Brewing.

Chef Paul at Let's Get Cooking!
Chef Paul at Let's Get Cooking!

Tickets are $100 per person and include heavy hors d’oeuvres, a curated selection of wine and beer from The Wine Shop, assorted coffee drinks from Mea Cuppa, music from DJ EJ and the live-streamed awards ceremony, which begins at 6 p.m. Eastern. Tickets may be purchased at

As much as I’d love to be at this event, I have the great honor to have been invited to once again attend the actual James Beard Awards black-tie ceremony and gala in Chicago that evening, where I’ll be rooting on Chef Paul from my seat at the Lyric Opera House.

So yeah, it’s definitely a “sorry, not sorry” situation, but this right here is what I’ll really miss ...

After he came up short during the 2023 James Beard ceremony, hundreds of his biggest fans at last year’s watch party raised a glass to toast his achievement nonetheless, then joined hand-in-hand for a rousing – and emotional – rendition of “County Roads.”

Win or not, what Chef Paul has accomplished so far has been monumental for the Charleston and West Virginia culinary scene. But here’s hoping that toast will be even MORE celebratory this year!

Dinner down on the farm

The next Farm-to-Table Dinner at Gritt’s Farm in Buffalo this weekend features the return of Coco’s Kitchen + Café Chef/Owner Jesse Lyons, who will prepare an always fabulous four-course meal showcasing fresh ingredients from the fields.

The menu for Saturday evening’s event consists of:

  • Heirloom and golden beet gazpacho with citrus-herb espuma and Charleston Bread French baguette

  • Cucumber-tomato salad with fresh greens, feta, toasted pine nuts and white balsamic vinaigrette

  • Maple-mustard glazed pork chops with whipped Yukon Gold potatoes and grilled asparagus

  • Toasted coconut cheesecake with espresso cocoa crust and dark chocolate ganache

Tickets are $190 for a two-person table or $380 for a four-person table, which includes all four courses and non-alcoholic beverages for each person. Alcoholic beverages will be available for purchase and live entertainment is on tap as well.

The dinner takes place from 6-8 p.m. Saturday and tickets are available for purchase at

Sergio’s Italian opens on West Side

Sergio’s Cucina Italiana & Pizza opened on Charleston’s West Side last week, taking over the large storefront that formerly housed Books and Brews.

The new restaurant will serve a selection of – you guessed it – hearty Italian meals, pastas and pizzas, including salads, steaks, seafood and so much more at 222 West Washington St.

Regular opening hours have not yet been announced.

Lola’s Pizza adding outdoor bar

Remember that outdoor construction I told you about that was happening up at Lola’s on Bridge Road?

Turns out it’s not just an expanded roof to cover more outdoor seating, but one to cover a whole new outdoor bar area.

Extending from the front porch along the right side of the building, the new bar wraps around part of the previous outdoor picnic area, which has been gussied up with a paved foundation, nice woodwork and other finishing touches.

Stay tuned for an opening date for this newest al fresco dining and sipping option in Charleston’s South Hills.

• • •

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 or on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and Pinterest. He can be reached at 304-380-6096 or at

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1 Comment

Jun 05

I really hope so! I watched last year's awards and thought that we didn't get the proper respect. This year I think Chef Paul should run away with it! However, I am biased. Go Chef Paul!!!!

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