2020 James Beard finalists in Asheville, NC

Chefs Ashleigh Shanti and Katie Button

The 2020 James Beard Award finalists have been announced, and two of our very own Asheville chefs made the cut. The Restaurant & Chef winners will be announced live on the James Beard Foundation’s Twitter on Sept. 25. Check out a brief history of the foundation + the awards here

Let’s take a moment and recognize the two remarkable women honored by the James Beard Foundation.

Rising Star Chef of the Year

Ashleigh Shanti | Benne on Eagle 

This category honors a chef aged 30 or younger who shows “exceptional talent, character, leadership ability, and who is likely to make a significant impact in years to come.” 

Ashleigh is the Chef de Cuisine at Benne on Eagle, the John Fleer-headed soul + Appalachian eatery in the Foundry Hotel, located in Asheville’s historic Block neighborhood. Ashleigh has been recognized as a national + regional top chef in publications including The New York Times, Time Magazine, Garden & Gun, and Bon Appetit (check out her brunch menu). This is her first James Beard nomination.

DYK: Ashleigh grew up in GA and VA 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 NC to take a position as Culinary Assistant to Vivian Howard, co-owner of Chef & the Farmer in Kinston (about five hours east of Asheville).

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Yesterday was a wild ride over here as we prepped for the opening of La Bodega by Cùrate. And then after all the chaos, it ended on super high note with our hard-working leader earning a @beardfoundation nomination for Best Chef: Southeast❤️🎉🙌 We are so proud of her, the whole KBR team and the Asheville and independent restaurant community. The storm we are weathering is challenging us all, but we are in it together. Thank you to the James Beard Foundation for the recognition, for showing incredible leadership during this time, and for serving as a uniting force for good as we all struggle to stay afloat. Shout out to our other NC women also nominated: @foodordeath_ from Asheville’s @benneoneagle – YES! And good friend @cheetieku from @garlandraleigh 👏🙌 congrats! #ashevillestrong #jbf #chefslead #openforgood #jamesbeardfoundation

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Katie Button | Cúrate

Katie Button is cleaning up with her seventh nomination this year. The founder of Cúrate, Button & Co. Bagels, and the now-closed (but still beloved) Nightbell, 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 + sherries, produce, charcuterie, seafood, and other pantry items.

 Last year she co-founded culinary festival Chow Chow, which has been postponed until 2021 due to Covid-19. She’s currently making waves in the food world through her activism for restaurants and their employees.

DYK: Katie has a MA in biomedical engineering and has worked with Chef José Andrés at his restaurants in the US, and with Chef Ferran Adrià at elBulli, one of the most famous restaurants in the world, which closed in 2011 but reopened as a food lab.