Giorgios Bakatsias was caught off-guard when a longtime employee called to congratulate him for being a James Beard award nominee.
"It's a great honor and I didn't expect it at all," says Bakatsias, who learned from Vin Rouge General Manager Michael Maller that the James Beard Foundation had nominated him in a national category as Outstanding Restaurateur. "I take the moment to be truly overjoyed and grateful," Bakatsias adds. "At the same time, the credit goes to the people around me. We have a great team."
Giorgios Hospitality Group owns several popular and critically lauded restaurants in the Triangle. The group includes Bin 54, City Kitchen, Kipos and Village Burgers in Chapel Hill; Café at the Nasher Museum of Art, Local 22, Parizäde and Vin Rouge in Durham; Georges Brasserie in Charlotte; and Gatehouse Tavern and Girasole Trattoria in Wake Forest.
Bakatsias hints that more may be in the works. "I don't sleep early so I'm always working on something," he says with a laugh. "Maybe in a couple of weeks there might be something to talk about."
Like Bakatsias, Phoebe Lawless was nominated in a national category, Best Pastry Chef, for Scratch Baking in Durham. It is her second consecutive nomination.
In an omission that recalls past Academy Award conundrums, The Fearrington House Restaurant in Pittsboro was nominated in the national category of Outstanding Restaurant, but Chef Colin Bedford is not listed among the nation's Outstanding Chefs. He is, however, among the semi-finalists named to the Best Chef Southeast category.
Last year's Best Chef Southeast finalist list included just one name from North Carolina, Ashley Christensen of Raleigh's Poole's Diner. She is a semi-finalist again this year, along with Bedford and six colleagues:
- Scott Crawford, Herons at the Umstead Hotel, Cary
- Vivian Howard, Chef & the Farmer, Kinston
- Scott Howell, Nana's, Durham
- Meherwan Irani, Chai Pani, Asheville
- Matt Kelly, Mateo's, Durham
- Aaron Vandemark, Panciuto, Hillsborough
While North Carolina was shut out of several major categories, including Best New Restaurant and Outstanding Wine, Spirits or Beer Professional, Katie Button of Cúrate in Asheville is one of 25 people nominated as Rising Star Chef of the Year.
Finalists in the restaurant and chef categories—as well as nominations for book, journalism, broadcast and restaurant design awards—will be announced March 19. The 2014 James Beard Awards will be presented in New York City on May 2 and 5.