Earlier this year, Andrea Reusing bested five of the nation’s culinary elite to claim the James Beard Foundation’s prestigious Best Chef in the Southeast award—and she did so in high heels. “Not the most practical for climbing to the stage,” she joked as she reached the podium. Her surprise over winning the award wasn’t shared by discerning eaters who’ve savored her salt-and-pepper North Carolina wild shrimp and “tea and spice”–smoked chicken, among other brilliant melds of local Southern ingredients and Asian cooking techniques. Reusing has been exercising her creativity and resourcefulness at Lantern, in Chapel Hill, North Carolina, since 2002, and in April released Cooking in the Moment, in which she gives the South credit for teaching her to appreciate a seasonal diet.
Spirits sage Alexis Soler doesn’t lack for confidence. The thirty-year-old pilots the bar at No. 308, her stylish new Nashville watering hole, which takes its name from the hotel room where Soler—a spunky Miami native—proposed marriage to fellow cocktailian Ben Clemons one month after meeting him in New Orleans. Soler’s inventive use of fresh ingredients has made her bar a local favorite: Her summer drinks list includes a soju-and-cucumber cocktail served by the jar and a gin-and-sugared-pineapple tribute to storied wit Dorothy Parker. But while Ms. Parker made do with a plain old round table at the Algonquin Hotel, ladies and gents who drink at No. 308 are seated amid livelier furnishings—complete with salvaged wood walls, vintage-modern sofas, and sprouting lemon trees.