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Heirloom chef Matthew Kern gets state’s sole James Beard nod

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Chef Matthew Kern of Heirloom in Lewes | Photo by Maria DeForrest

LEWES – Matthew Kern of the highly-regarded Heirloom restaurant is Delaware’s only semifinalist for the prestigious James Beard Awards, earning his second-straight nomination as one of the 20 best chefs in the Mid-Atlantic region.

“This is a dream come true and I haven’t even won yet,” Kern said. “I’ve worked very hard over the past 20 years. I have the best team I’ve ever had and the best boss I’ve ever had. She’s the one person in Delaware who believe in me and I’m grateful.”

That boss – owner Meghan Lee – said Kern’s nomination proves that “last year was not a fluke and solidifies that we deserve to be on this list. I think that statistically speaking we have a better chance to win, and this is by far the hardest region to do that in.”

Finalists for the award will be announced March 25 in Philadelphia, and the 30th annual awards presentation will be May 3 in Chicago.

Kern was also a semifinalist last year, earning a nod for the restaurant – a Victorian white house with red shutters at 212 Savannah Road in Lewes – which opened in 2015.

The 20 semifinalists for the Mid-Atlantic Best Chefs category represent restaurants from Delaware, Maryland, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Virginia, and Washington, D.C. Other nominees in the category include Nicholas Elmi from Laurel in Philadelphia; Rich Landau from Vedge in Philadelphia; Cristina Martinez from South Philly Barbacoa in Philadelphia; and Taylor Mason from Luca in Lancaster, Pennsylvania.

Kern said Heirloom saw a significant increase in business after last year’s nomination, particularly from new customers, and said it’s all part of efforts to showcase Delaware and the region and encourage others to move from what he described as a “Sysco-to-table” approach that offers a lot of “processed junk.”

Heirloom Restaurant in Lewes

“The idea is to constantly evolve, changing the menu every few days,” he said. “I’d like to see other restaurants drop their big corporate conglomerate suppliers and go local. I want Delaware to change for the better.”

After last year’s semifinalist selection, Kern said that while “we don’t get the same attention (in Lewes) that these bigger cities do … the idea of fine dining here is catching on and bringing the community together.”


Peter Osborne

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