This morning’s announcement of James Beard Foundation Award semi-finalists came as good news for Neighborhood Dining Group (McCrady’s, Husk), but perhaps not in the way the company anticipated.

After four consecutive years of being nominated for Outstanding Chef, the prestigious competition’s top prize, Sean Brock was not named to this year’s list of potential contenders. But Neighborhood Dining Group’s David Howard is a semi-finalist for the title of Best Restaurateur.

Brock’s fellow former Best Chef Southeast winner Mike Lata (FIG) is long-listed for the Outstanding Chef award. Other Southerners in the semi-finalist pool include Ashley Christensen of Raleigh; Andrea Reusing of Chapel Hill and Donald Link of New Orleans. Link was nominated last year, along with returning semi-finalist Michael Solomonov of Philadelphia, when Suzanne Goin won the title on her eighth nomination.

Kevin Johnson of The Grocery is again a semi-finalist in the Best Chef Southeast category, and FIG makes another appearance in the wine service group. (Although there aren't names associated with the semi-finalists in the Outstanding Wine Program division, FIG's current wine list was assembled by general manager Morgan Calcotte.)

Cynthia Wong of Butcher & Bee, who was previously named to the semi-finalist list for her work in Atlanta and Asheville, is a semi-finalist for the Best Pastry Chef award.

And the list includes two Charleston debuts: Shuai Wang of Short Grain Food Truck is a semi-finalist in the Rising Star category, limited to chefs aged 30 or younger, while Scott Blackwell and Ann Marshall of High Wire Distilling Co. are cited as possible nominees for the Outstanding Wine, Beer, or Spirits Professional prize. Since the award was created in 2012, it has twice been given to beverage producers.

Semi-finalists are not considered James Beard Foundation Award nominees, a designation reserved for those who survive the next round of balloting. Finalists will be announced on Mar. 15; the awards ceremony is scheduled for May 1.

Reach Hanna Raskin at 843-937-5560 and follow her on Twitter @hannaraskin.

Food editor and chief critic

Eating all of the chicken livers just as fast as I can.

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