It's that time of year again to award the best of the best when it comes to great dining. The James Beard Foundation has announced its 2024 semifinalists. And several of them are in North Carolina. I always love to check out the list because it always gives me a wide range of restaurants to choose from when I want really good food. And that's what makes it extra special because the list of restaurants below is considered the 'creme de la creme.' They made the James Beard list. And in case you didn't know, to receive any recognition from The James Beard Foundation is an honor within itself. According to its website, the James Beard Award honors those who create exceptional food, food media content, and better food systems while demonstrating a commitment to racial and gender equity, community, sustainability, and a culture where all can thrive. Who Is James Beard? As a foodie, I've always heard of the distinguished James Beard Award in the culinary industry. But, I never really knew who he was. I've since learned Beard was a pioneer foodie. And was one of the first to host a food program on television back in the 1940's. Beard was from Portland, Oregon and appeared to have a passion for food honestly. He and his family would often spend summers at the beach fishing and cooking meals with what they caught. He studied for a short time at the local college in Portland, but was expelled. Beard believed it was because he was a homosexual. He went on to try to get into the theater and movie business, but realized his real passion was food and cooking. Beard would go on to leave his imprint in the cooking industry, writing the first major cookbook of its kind devoted exclusively to cocktail food, Hors d’Oeuvre & Canapés. Beard died in 1985 at the age of 81. But, he left a legacy of culinary excellence to generations of home cooks and professional chefs. See some of those restaurants, bars and bakeries are listed below.