4 Asheville-area chefs are James Beard Award semifinalists

Mackensy Lunsford
The Citizen-Times
Leah Wong Ashburn, left, and Oscar Wong stand inside the bottling area at Highland Brewing as the brewery's new Devil's Britches IPA prepared to ship in the final days of 2014. Ashburn took over from her father and Highland founder Wong the following year. This year, she has secured her first James Beard nomination.

ASHEVILLE - The James Beard Foundation has released its 2018 Restaurant and Chef Award semifinalists, and Asheville-area chefs are on the list:

Katie Button, of Nightbell and Cúrate, and Meherwan Irani, of Chai Pani, have both been nominated for Best Chef Southeast.

Leah Wong Ashburn, of Highland Brewing Co., has been nominated in the Outstanding Wine, Beer, or Spirits Professional category.

David Bauer, of Farm & Sparrow, has been nominated for Outstanding Baker. 

This is the first nomination for Highland's President and CEO Ashburn, whose father, Oscar Wong, founded the company in 1994.

“To be in the company of Asheville neighbors at Chai Pani, Nightbell, and Farm & Sparrow, and incredible brewers across the country, is a great honor," said Ashburn in a statement. "I admire all of them and I am humbled to be nominated.” 

James Beard Awards are like the Oscars of the culinary world. The foundation will announce the final nominees for award categories, as well as the nominees for the Media and Restaurant Design Awards, March 14 at 9:30 a.m. 

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