His fellow finalists also have connections to Music City. Ashley Christensen from Raleigh, N.C., is a frequent visitor to Nashville, where she has cooked multiple times as part of benefit dinners, including spearheading the very successful Stir the Pot series that benefits the Southern Foodways Alliance's documentary film series. Ed Lee from 610 Magnolia in Louisville cooked here last year at the Hermitage Hotel as part of the annual Share Our Strength dinner and will be returning later this year as a guest chef at the Savor Nashville event. Fellow finalist Steven Satterfield from Miller Union in Atlanta also cooked with Lee at the Share Our Strength dinner last year. While the final finalist, Joseph Lenn of Blackberry Farm in Walland, Tenn., hasn't cooked at any benefits here locally, he did work here with Sean Brock and Tyler Brown at the Capitol Grille for two years back in the early 2000s.
These five chefs are all very active members of the SFA and great friends who I know will be very supportive of each other no matter who wins. Don't expect any controversial "I beat Meryl" moments on the stage in New York this May. And it's pretty cool to know that all five of this year's nominees have visited and cooked here.
Meanwhile, deep in a few other Beard categories are some other Middle Tennessee connections.
In the television category, The CBS Sunday Morning show was nominated for their episode "Eat, Drink and Be Merry." One of the segments in this foodcentric show was a profile of Nashville's own Goo Goo Clusters, which you can watch here in case you missed it. It was a fascinating behind-the-scenes view of the history and production process of America's favorite cluster, and it took some major work on the part of some Nashville foodies to get CBS to showcase a local product to their national audience. Kudos for the recognition of a job well done.
And finally, there's a nominee who most Nashvillians may not recognize or realize that he has a local connection.
Sandor Katz is known as the "King of Fermentation" and his book Wild Fermentation is pretty much considered the bible of this venerable artisan food method — and indispensable to anyone who wants to learn how to bake sourdough bread or make their own sauerkraut. Katz lives kinda off the grid in a very small community near Woodbury where he has done a little consulting with the moonshiners at Short Mountain Distillery. Katz's latest book The Art of Fermentation earned a Beard nod in the literary category of Reference and Scholarship. Between that recognition and the fact that the foreword was written by fellow food activist Michael Pollan, it's clear that Katz is somebody due plenty of attention in the mainstream media.
Congratulations to all the Middle Tennessee nominees and make us proud in the Big Apple!