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Two Louisville chefs named James Beard Award semi-finalists

Chef Dallas McGarity left and Chef Lawrence Weeks right.
The Fat Lamb (McGarity); Jon Cherry (Weeks)
Chefs Dallas McGarity and Lawrence Weeks are James Beard Award semi-finalists.

Two Louisville chefs are semi-finalists for the James Beard Awards. Winners will be announced in June.

Chefs Lawrence Weeks of North of Bourbon and Dallas McGarity of The Fat Lamb are semi-finalists in the James Beard Award’s Best Emerging Chef and Best Chef, Southeast region, respectively.

“The funny thing is, this award is a very prestigious award, and it's one of the things a lot of chefs never ever get to participate in,” McGarity said. “I'm very humbled and very lucky to be a part of what James Beard is doing.”

The James Beard Awards, presented by the foundation of the same name, are some of the culinary world’s more prestigious recognitions. The organization aims to highlight and uplift the work of American food culture.

While McGarity and Weeks are this year’s only semi-finalists from Kentucky, past Kentucky chefs up for awards include Edward Lee and Ouita Michel.

McGarity found out about his nomination through a friend congratulating him on Facebook.

“It was overwhelming because it's one of those things I didn't even know I was in the running or anything,” McGarity said.

He said the outpouring of support both he and Weeks have received since the announcement demonstrates the closeness of Louisville’s food community.

“[In] a lot of other markets it's a little more cutthroat between the chefs and the restaurants,” McGaity said. “In this market, everyone wants to help everyone and for me, and that's the way it's been since I moved here in 2004.”

He said that is what kept him wanting to be part of the continuing growth and cultivation of the city’s culinary scene.

Chef Weeks sees his semi-finalist placement as a way to add more credibility to the work he’s doing to educate customers about the ins and outs of the food industry.

He said in other markets people can have a better understanding of food prices because they can go to farmers' markets and see chefs buying food.

“You know, why we're charging some of the prices that we're charging,” Weeks said. “I think that we need to do a better job of educating the diners of not only how hard we work, to put it on the plate, but how hard the farmers work and how special some of these purveyors are.”

Weeks said the James Beard Awards are not the end of the journey, but the start.

“We're not here to just make good food anymore. We're advocates,” Weeks said. “Food is community-centered. So the work of a chef is expanding, and we're becoming so many more things than just restaurant workers.”

Weeks said educating people with interest in the food industry is key to continuing to grow it in a positive way.

Weeks aims to use his and North of Bourbon's growing platform to address issues like food insecurity.

“My retirement plan was never to be a chef for the rest of my life. It was taking food as a vehicle to make social change,” Weeks said.

The James Beard Award finalists will be announced April 3, and winners will be declared June 10.

Breya Jones is the Arts & Culture Reporter for LPM. Email Breya at bjones@lpm.org.

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