When Starchefs magazine rolled into town for a VIP pre-gala and then an awards dinner mega-gala last week, we knew little about what to expect. We did know that the lineup of 28 chefs, artisan bakers, bartenders, and brewers contained an inordinate number of folks from the Southeast that are on the radar of serious food journalism. Most of those people hailed from two capitals of Southern cuisine, Charleston and Asheville.

What we found was an event at the Memminger Auditorium nicely showcasing some of the finest talent in the Southeast. Despite the Starchefs name, these weren’t the media darlings of rising fame. They were understudies who cook all day, and small proprietors who never get the full attention they deserve. All told, Charleston supplied eight winners of Rising Star status and the Asheville area 10, the remainder hailing from other North Carolina towns.

According to Starchefs.com, the winners are chosen by a team of editors who interviewed and conducted multiple tastings of more than 100 chefs and food producers, a much different process (and some would say more critical) than the voter affairs of organizations like the James Beard foundation. Regardless of how they are chosen, the slate was impressive, the juxtaposition of the two cities equally compelling. I came expecting to experience a distinctive recognition of local flavors, but left feeling as if today’s haute cuisine is in many ways the same across the South.

At a place where one might expect to detect a discernible style emanating from one locale or the other, the dishes presented more of a pan-regionalism. Nathan Allen, whose Knife & Fork in Spruce Pine, N.C., I consider the finest pure farm-to-table restaurant in the South, served a sprightly panna cotta laced with winter nasturtiums and sumac. Jason Stanhope of FIG delivered a spaghetti with dandelion greens and a small dollop of fish roe. Travis Grimes of Husk sliced raw slivers of rudderfish, and Vivian Howard from Chef & the Farmer in Kinston, N.C., doused pencil cobb grits with dried mullet roe and a sweet potato mostarda. Matt Dawes of The Bull and Beggar in Asheville rolled out a tender braised octopus swaddled in romesco and salsa verde. The culture of lardcore was evident in Stuart Tracy’s (Butcher & Bee) porchetta sandwich. There was duck breast from Two Boroughs Larder and wood-grilled venison from William Dissen of The Market Place in Asheville.

For four dollars, you can buy the Starchefs magazine that contains the story of these dishes, as well as the recipes, and try to make them at home (warning: they’re complicated endeavors). And for those interested in Southern cuisine, perhaps that would be a useful exercise. There’s no doubt that we’ve seen a resurgence of Southern foodways, but we also often vocalize an adherence to a philosophy of localization, of ingredient sources and culture derived from the place in which we cook.

Perhaps the chief lesson of such a widely geographical gala is that while heirloom and local ingredients are often cited on menus around the Southeast these days, the time-worn culinary techniques true to individual towns and regions rank much lower in the minds of our up-and-coming chefs.