LOUISVILLE, Ky. — The James Beard Awards recognize the top talent and progress in the hospitality industry. Two Louisville chefs are nominated as semi-finalists for the prestigious honor this year. 

What You Need To Know

  • Dallas McGarity is the owner of The Fat Lamb in Louisville. 

  • He is nominated as a semifinalist for James Beard Award 'Best Chef: Southeast'

  • The chef says he's working to create a healthier culture in the resturaunt industry

  • McGarity joins fellow Louisville chef Lawrence weeks on this year's list of James Beard Award nominees

For Louisville chef Dallas McGarity, the 2024 James Beard Award nominations caught him off guard.

“A friend of mine told me, ‘Hey, congrats.’ And I’m like, ‘Whoa, what is this?’ You know, it’s it was a shocker,” McGarity recounts.

But then again, McGarity’s career is also a bit of a surprise to him. At 15, he washed dishes at a South Carolina country club. He enjoyed working in a professional kitchen but had dreams of one day stepping away from dirty utensils. 

Though he went to culinary school and worked as a professional chef, owning a restaurant was not on McGarity’s radar. 

“And then, I don’t know, about 10 years ago, something like that, something clicked. And I’m like, I’m doing this for other folks.”

Now, the owner of The Fat Lamb in Louisville is working to provide a healthy working environment for his employees, which, he says can be hard to find.

“For most of the people that work in the industry, it’s long hours, hard work, all that stuff, you know, but they don’t get treated fairly. So I wanted to open a restaurant and kind of do it my way and make sure we take care of the employees as well,” McGarity says.

He believes his commitment to workplace culture is one of the reasons he is nominated as a semifinalist for the James Beard Award ‘Best Chef: Southeast’. Along with talent, the foundation recognizes chefs and restaurants cultivating equity, community and sustainability. 

“We emphasize community, but we’re also a part of the bigger picture in the food scene in Louisville.”

On April 3, McGarity, who won the food competition TV show “Chopped,” will learn if he is one of the five finalists. 

But no matter the result, McGarity is surprised he is even in the running. 

“I never thought in my entire career that that would even be something that I would I would even be a part of.”

Chef Lawrence Weeks of North of Bourbon and Enso joins McGarity as a local nominee for the award.