CHARLESTON, W.Va. — A West Virginia chef’s hometown will now be cheering him on as he shoots for the title of Best Chef in one of the most prestigious honors in the world of culinary arts.
For the first time in West Virginia history, a West Virginia culinary artist, Chef Paul Smith is vying for the title of Best Chef: Southeast at the James Beard Awards in Chicago.
Smith was on 580 Live Friday morning to talk about the effort.
“To be nominated for this, it has never been a goal, because I never thought it would actually come through, but it’s the pinnacle of any chef’s career,” Smith said.
The James Beard awards winners will be announced in Chicago and the event will be streamed live during a watch party at Capitol Market on June 5, where Smith currently serves as chef emeritus at Capitol Market.
Smith is also co-owner at 1010 Bridge, Ellen’s Ice Cream and The Pitch of WV.
Capitol Market and 1010 Bridge are coming together to livestream and host the watch party and will feature music from DJEJ, heavy hors d’oeuvres from Tastefully Dun Catering, and a curated selection of wine and beer from the Wine & Cheese Shop at the Capitol Market.
The Capitol Market team says Smith is an integral part of the market as he is host to the Let’s Get Cooking events with AARP, serves on the board, and cooks for many major events.
Smith said that after taking his career to Naples, Florida, New York City, and other cities around the East Coast, there’s no other place like home.
“To do it back here in West Virginia, I mean there’s no other feeling like it, the pride I’ve felt about my home, to come home and have this,” Smith said.
“I just came home to make a difference in our field and to cook and to create an experience for people, and to make our guests smile,” he added.
Smith will be joined at the event gala in Chicago by four other competing East Coast chefs, including: Sam Fore from Tuk Tuk Sri Lankan Bites in Lexington, KY, Josh Habiger from Bastion in Nashville, TN, Sam Hart from Counter, Charlotte, NC, and Terry Koval from the Deer and the Dove in Decatur, GA.
Smith said the Mountain State is now competing with culinary big leagues.
“Charleston, West Virginia is on this national stage right now with these major metropolitan food markets, and I mean, we have a real food scene now, and it wasn’t just me, Laurys was nominated, as well, and Raymond,” he said.
The James Beard Best Chef award is given only to the chefs with the highest standards in culinary arts, along with having the leadership skills to match, and the ability to create a sustainable work culture in their communities and regions. Smith said with the help of other locally-acclaimed chefs in the region, that’s exactly what has been accomplished.
“I think when you come to West Virginia from out-of-state, you do have that preconceived notion of what you’re going to get, and once you get here you’re like, ‘this is West Virginia? This is awesome.”
The James Beard Awards themselves in in honor of the late Chef James Beard, who was commonly considered on of the ‘Fathers of American cuisine.’
The awards will not be televised, so people must purchase a ticket for the Capitol Market watch party if they want to watch it. Smith said there are only about 100 tickets left.
The watch party will be held from 6 p.m. to 9 p.m. Monday.
Proceeds will benefit the American Red Cross and Capitol Market