Close to home, two remarkable and innovative chefs were honored by the James Beard Foundation as finalists for categories in their 2020 Awards. And the best part is their restaurants sit just minutes outside of the gates of The Cliffs at Walnut Cove.
So, who are the star chefs of Asheville’s foodie scene that made the cut for the food industry’s “Oscars?” Let’s meet them!
Ashleigh Shanti – Benne on Eagle: Rising Star Chef of the Year
This category honors a chef 30 years old (or younger) who shows “exceptional talent, character, leadership ability, and who is likely to make a significant impact in years to come.”
Chef Ashleigh is the Chef de Cuisine at Benne on Eagle, the John Fleer-headed soul and Appalachian eatery in the Foundry Hotel, located in Asheville’s historic Block neighborhood. Ashleigh has been recognized as a national and regional top chef in publications including The New York Times, Time Magazine, Garden & Gun, and Bon Appetit. This is her first James Beard nomination.
Ashleigh grew up in Georgia and Virginia, and was trained at Baltimore International College before taking positions at the Southern Food and Beverage Museum (New Orleans, LA) and Blue Hill at Stone Barns (upstate NY). She moved to North Carolina to take a position as Culinary Assistant to Vivian Howard, co-owner of Chef & the Farmer in Kinston – about a five hour drive east of Asheville.
Katie Button-Curate: Best Chef Southeast (GA, KY, NC, SC, TN, WV)
No doubt Katie Button is a star in the culinary field, not just locally, but nationally, too. She is cleaning up with her seventh nomination in the James Beard Awards. The founder of Cúrate and Button & Co. Bagels, Katie and her team just launched La Bodega by Cúrate, a grocery stocked with semi-prepared dishes from the menu, as well as Spanish wines, ciders and sherries, produce, charcuterie, seafood, and other pantry items.
Last year she co-founded culinary festival Chow Chow (it’s been postponed until 2021 due to COVID-19). Her talents go beyond the kitchen, too. She’s currently making a difference in the food world through her activism for restaurants and their employees.
Cheer on The Restaurant & Chef winners will be announced live on the James Beard Foundation’s Twitter on September 25.