Local restaurateur Sam Jones is a semifinalist for a James Beard Award

Samuel Jones of Ayden is a semifinalist for Best Chef: Southeast in the 2018 James Beard Awards, the Oscars of the culinary world.

Sam, a third-generation pitmaster, has dedicated his life to the art of making traditional eastern North Carolina-style pork barbecue.

Sam and his business partner Michael Letchworth operate Sam Jones BBQ Restaurant at 715 W. Fire Tower Road, Winterville, where whole hogs are wood smoked and chopped on site.

The Jones family also owns The Skylight Inn in Ayden, which Sam's grandfather, the late Pete Jones opened, in 1947.

The Jones family previously was honored by The James Board Foundation when the Skylight Inn received one of four "American Classics" Awards in 2003.

Deep Run's Vivian Howard, who operates Chef & The Farmer in Kinston -- and stars in the acclaimed PBS cooking show "A Chef's Life" that spotlights the foods of eastern North Carolina -- also has been nominated for Best Chef: Southeast.

Some of the other regional semifinalists are: * Katie Button, Nightbell, Asheville, NC * Cassidee Dabney, The Barn at Blackberry Farm, Walland, TN * Meherwan Irani, Chai Pani, Asheville, NC * Kevin Johnson, The Grocery, Charleston, SC * Joe Kindred, Kindred, Davidson, NC * Cheetie Kumar, Garland, Raleigh, NC * Alex Lira, Bar Normandy, Charleston, SC * Rodney Scott, Rodney Scott’s BBQ, Charleston, SC.

Raleigh restaurant Brewery Bhavana is a semifinalist for Best New Restaurant and Ashley Christensen of Raleigh's Poole’s Diner has been recognized as a semifinalist for Outstanding Chef in the country.

For a complete list of all of the 2018 James Beard Award semifinalists, click here.

The finalists will be announced on March 14, and the awards gala will be held May 7 in Chicago.

(Photo from Sam Jones BBQ)

Jane Welborn Hudson, a native of Greenville, wrote The Daily Reflector's Hot Dish restaurant column for 12 years and the Greensboro News & Record's Short Orders restaurant column for 8 years. Email her at