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4 Raleigh restaurateurs + eateries are 2024 James Beard Award semifinalists

The 2024 James Beard Award semifinalists were announced with Ajja, Crawford and Son, Preeti Waas, and Bittersweet all earning recognition.

Cheetie Kumar sitting on a bartop with Paul Siler beside her.

Paul Siler and Cheetie Kumar collaborated to create Ajja.

Photo by Baxter Miller

The 2024 James Beard Award semifinalists have been announced, and four Raleigh eateries + restaurateurs made the prestigious list.

  • Ajja: Best New Restaurant
  • Preeti Waas, Cheeni Indian Food Emporium: Best Chef: Southeast
  • Bittersweet: Outstanding Bar
  • Crawford and Son: Outstanding Hospitality

Update as of Wednesday, April 4: Crawford and Son is one of five finalists for the James Beard Award for Outstanding Hospitality presented by American Airlines, and the awards ceremony will take place Monday, June 10 at the Lyric Opera of Chicago.

Fellow Raleigh semifinalists Ajja, Chef Preeti Waas for Cheeni, and Bittersweet were not selected as nominees in their respective categories, but make sure to try them for yourselves and read more about their highly praised restaurants below.

This annual award recognizes chefs, restaurateurs, authors, and journalists that exude exceptional talent and achievement.

Ajja, headed by Chef Cheetie Kumar and partner Paul Siler, is nestled in the Five Points neighborhood and features vibrant foods and uses cooking techniques of the Mediterranean, the Middle East, and beyond.

Kumar has been recognized as a semifinalist five times by the James Beard Foundation, and twice as a finalist for Best Chef: Southeast — this isn’t Chef Scott Crawford’s first rodeo either.


Crawford and Son is Chef Scott Crawford’s flagship location.

Photo by RALtoday

Crawford and Son is led by (you guessed it) Chef Scott Crawford who is a five-time semifinalist for Best Chef: Southeast and goes beyond the menu, offering inventive dishes like before-meal savory aperitivo popsicles.

Chef Preeti Waas, owner of Cheeni Indian Food Emporium, earned her James Beard Award debut last year as a semifinalist for Best Chef: Southeast and also made moves to expand her good eats into Durham.

This is Bittersweet’s first nomination, but we have a feeling it won’t be the last for the elevated cocktail and dessert lounge.

Finalists will be announced on April 3, and winners will be announced at a ceremony on June 10 in Chicago. You better hurry up and make a reservation to dine at these four Raleigh standout restaurants.

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