We figured it’s been a pretty surreal day for Short Grain’s Shuai Wang. This morning he not only got his first James Beard award semifinalist nod, but he got it for Rising Star Chef no less. Suffice it say, he’s still in shock, but he took a moment to describe what this nomination means to him.

“I got a text from a fellow nominated chef Irene Li (also a fellow Eater Young Gun) right before today’s lunch service started. Irene wrote “YESSSSSSS SHUAIIIIIIIII” with a James Beard link attached, before I even clicked on it I kind of knew what it was about…” Wang says in an email. “After I saw it, I was so excited I almost threw up.”

Wang used to volunteer at the Beard House in culinary school at the Art Institute in New York City and he says that’s how he got his first job by meeting a chef. But he never thought he’d go from James Beard volunteer to James Beard longlist member.

“Never did I think I would be on the other end and cooking at the Beard House as a guest chef, let alone being nominated for a award,” he says. ‘This is literally what you would call a ‘life goal.'” But Wang acknowledges that he didn’t get to this point alone.

“Of course you know behind every James Beard nominated chef there’s a very patient, loving woman who put up with all our F&B quirkiness (and by quirkiness I mean bullshit), there wouldn’t be a Short Grain and all of its acknowledgments with Corrie,” he says of his wife and Short Grain business partner.

“And of course of course my mother and grandmother,” Wang adds. “Without them making me a chubby kid and feeding me some of the best meals I’ve ever had (even to this day), I would’ve never found my passion in cooking.”

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