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Delaware chef earns sole 2024 James Beard nod

Katie Tabeling

Chef Matt Kern has earned three regional restaurant nominations, and the latest comes two years after he and his wife bought a restaurant. | PHOTO COURTESY OF MATT KERN

FENWICK ISLAND — Third time’s the charm for One Coastal chef and owner Matt Kern as he was once again nominated for the James Beard Foundation awards.

This is Kern’s third nomination to the prestigious food award program, and he is the only nominee from Delaware. It’s also his first as a restaurant owner, as he and his wife, Karen, bought famous farm-to-table restaurant One Coastal in Fenwick Island in 2022.

“The goal has always been to support responsible local agriculture here on the Delmarva Peninsula and to inspire more mom-and-pop independent restaurants to do the same,” Kern said in a statement on Facebook “We’re just getting started.”

The James Beard Foundation announced semifinalist nominations on Jan. 24, which included 10 nominees from the Philadelphia region out of scores of chefs across the nation. The James Beard foundation is one of the highest honors for American chefs, and Delaware has made the elite list a handful of times over the years. 

In 2022, The House of William & Merry chef Bill Hoffman and Antimo DiMeo, of Bardea were both nominated. Lewes restaurant Heirloom, where Kern previously worked as chef, was nominated in 2019 and 2020.

James Beard finalists will be named on April 4.

When Kern purchased One Coastal, he sought to continue bringing patrons a true farm-to-table experience to coastal Delaware. He bought the 50-seat restaurant in a shopping center off Del. Route 1 from Scott and Carlie Carey, who opened One Coastal as an extension of the couple’s farm in nearby Frankford.

Kern has tapped into local vendors to source fresh ingredients in his dishes, aiming to create a true farm-to-table dining experience. Notable vendors include East View Farms in Frankford, which supplies the mushrooms and Brussel sprouts on the menu, as well as Chesterfield Heirlooms in Pittsville, Md.

One Coastal’s current seasonal menu at One Coastal is filled with local inspirations and farm-to-table produce. Kern serves entree options like crispy-skinned New Jersey rockfish, Green Circle chicken and corn-fried Chesapeake blue catfish alongside locally grown sides.

Sydney Livingston contributed to this story.


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