2015 James Beard Award Semifinalists Include Two Arkansas Nominations


Editor’s note: The semifinalists featured in this article occurred in 2015, but you’ll find these are still great restaurants and chefs to visit in Arkansas. Some have been nominated in consecutive years.

The 2015 James Beard Award semifinalists were announced this morning, and two Arkansas nominations are on the list: One Eleven at the Capital for Best New Restaurant and Chef Matt McClure at The Hive at 21c for Best Chef South.

One Eleven at the Capital Hotel in Little Rock has a new dining room designed by David Kleinberg & Associates in New York. It features hardwood plank flooring, original artwork, natural light spilling in from windows trimmed in vivid white. The intent is for it to be an approachable, comfortable space for any dining need, whether a special occasion or any day of the week, according to the restaurant website. The new lobby bar has a seamless piece of zinc running more than 20 feet. The food is orchestrated by Michelin star, James Beard award-winning Chef Joel Antunes.


Chef Matt McClure is executive chef at The Hive in Bentonville. “He was born and raised in Little Rock, Arkansas, where hunting, fishing and his grandmother’s cooking ignited his passion for food,” according to his bio on The Hive website. After studying at the New England Culinary Institute in Vermont, he worked at a number of restaurants in Boston, including Troquet, Harvest and No. 9 Park under the direction of Barbara Lynch.


Eager to get back to his home state to reconnect with the ingredients and foodways of his childhood, he returned to Little Rock where he worked under Lee Richardson at Ashley’s at the Capital Hotel. In 2012, he was selected to open The Hive located at 21c Museum Hotel. McClure’s menu” offers a contemporary take on the ingredients and ways of cooking that are familiar to the region such as pickling and preserving, making jam and sourcing whole animals whenever possible.” He was also a semifinalist for the 2014 James Beard Foundation Best Chef: South award.

The 2015 James Beard Restaurant and Chef Award categories range from Outstanding Restaurant to Rising Star Chef of the Year. More than 35,000 submissions were made this year during an open call, according to a press release from the James Beard Foundation. Finalists will be announced at a ceremony in New York City on March 24. The winners will be revealed at the annual gala on May 4 at the Lyric Opera of Chicago. The James Beard Foundation is celebrating the program’s 25th anniversary and this is the first year the awards gala will be held in the City of Chicago.

A cookbook author and teacher, James Beard was a champion of American cuisine who helped educate and mentor generations of professional chefs and food enthusiasts. Today the Beard Foundation continues in the same spirit by offering a variety of events and programs designed to educate, inspire, entertain, and foster a deeper understanding of our culinary culture, according to the James Beard website. The James Beard Foundation is a national not-for-profit 501(c)(3) organization based in New York City.