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Like a Christmas Eve gift, the 2019 James Beard Foundation Semifinalists have been announced a week before the kickoff of the 14th annual Charleston Wine + Food Festival. Eight Charleston chefs/restaurants/restaurateurs made the list, one less than last year, but who’s counting?

The finalists will be announced on Wed. March 27, and the winners will be announced Mon. May 6.

The List:

Outstanding Pastry Chef: Cynthia Wong, Life Raft Treats
Outstanding Restaurant: FIG
Outstanding Restaurateur: Indigo Road, Steve Palmer
Outstanding Wine Program: Stems & Skins
Outstanding Wine, Spirits, or Beer Producer: High Wire
Rising Star Chef of the Year: Evan Gaudreau, Renzo
Best Chef Southeast: Kevin Johnson (The Grocery) & Jacques Larson (Wild Olive, Obstinate Daughter)

The background:

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This is Wong’s sixth appearance on the long list in the Outstanding Pastry Chef category, FIG’s fifth appearance on the Outstanding Restaurant long list, Kevin Johnson’s fifth appearance on Best Chef Southeast, Steve Palmer’s (at least) second nod for Outstanding Restaurateur, and High Wire’s third showing on the long list for Outstanding Wine, Spirits, or Beer Producer.

First timers include Gaudreau, Larson, and Stems & Skins in Park Circle.

This morning, Stems co-owner Matt Tunstall said, “We are honored and delighted to be recognized by the James Beard Foundation. We strive everyday to share the wines that we are passionate about with our community, and are proud to be a part of such a great food and wine town! Congratulations to everyone, as there are a lot of amazing people on that list that love what they do everyday!”

Check out the full list of semifinalists here.

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