CHARLESTON, W.Va. — A highly-acclaimed Charleston-based chef is now adding one of the most prestigious culinary arts awards in the country to his repertoire and making West Virginia history.

Chef Paul Smith walked away with the title of ‘Best Chef: Southeast’ Monday night, part of the James Beard Foundation Restaurant and Chef Awards that takes place annually in Chicago.

It marks the first year a chef has ever won the award from West Virginia and much less been nominated.

“Two words that have never been mentioned here before–West Virginia,” Chef Paul said as he accepted the prestigious award Monday night.

And there was an uproar from the hundreds of area residents after it was announced that Smith had won. They had gathered for a watch party at Capitol Market in downtown Charleston Monday night to show their support for Smith.

Capitol Market Executive Director Evan Osborn said Chef Paul is a staple in the local culinary arts community and it was only right for him to be taking home the award.

“He has done so much to lift our local food scene, from working with local producers to celebrating other restaurants and local chefs, it’s so heartwarming to see everyone come together in this way,” Osborn said.

Along with being the owner of three local restaurants– 1010 Bridge, Ellen’s Ice Cream and The Pitch– Chef Paul Smith is also Capitol Market’s Culinary Ambassador, which means he’s the face for everything the market does Osborn said.

He said Smith works with local farmers and producers to bring quality-grown food to the restaurant industry as well as helps build up other local restaurants in the area.

Osborn said Smith’s job doesn’t end at his restaurants’ closing time.

“Because I know that he’s leaving to be down here to help do our local cooking classes with AARP or to serve on I don’t know how many countless other board of directors, he really lives and breaths not just Charleston but West Virginia,” Osborn said.

Smith went up against culinary art aficionados from five other states for the southeastern best chef title– chefs and restaurant owners based out of Georgia, Kentucky, North Carolina, South Carolina, and Tennessee.

The James Beard Awards are considered to be the “academy awards for chefs.” It’s categories are comprised of regions from all across the country and the many highly-acclaimed chefs and restaurants that make them up.

Smith specifically accepted the award for 1010 Bridge as it was that particular restaurant of his that had been nominated.

Smith said he was grateful for everyone he helps to lead and serve on a day to day basis.

“Thank you to my community, thank you to my team for allowing me to work next to you and lead you and try to make a difference in your lives everyday, thank you to the thousand people that are at the Capitol Market watching me accept this award,” Smith said.

Among the runner-ups for Best Chef: Southeast included: Jamie Davis from The Hackney out of Washington, NC; Rod Lassiter and Parnass Saavang from Talat Market, Atlanta, GA; James London from Chubby Fish, Charleston, SC; and Robbie Robinson, City Limits Barbeque, West Columbia.

Smith was also nominated for the award last year as well but did not win.

He had previously said win or lose, it’s an honor to serve as one of the faces for the culinary arts scene in his hometown of Charleston and in West Virginia.

Leave a Reply