A Philadelphia pastry chef with deep Asheville roots claimed one of the top honors this year in a competition that’s widely considered to be the Oscars of the food world — the James Beard Awards. Camille Cogswell, who started on her career path in Asheville High School’s culinary arts classes and did an internship as a teenager at the West End Bakery, was named the 2018 Rising Star Chef of the Year at the May 7 Chicago awards gala.
Cogswell, 27, is the pastry chef at Philadelphia Israeli restaurant Zahav. She was also nominated in 2017 for Rising Star Chef award, which the James Beard Foundation says recognizes “a chef age 30 or younger who displays an impressive talent and who is likely to make a significant impact on the industry in years to come.” Zahav was nominated in the 2018 Outstanding Service category, and its chef and co-owner, Michael Solomonov, claimed the Outstanding Chef award last year.
Cogswell moved to Asheville from Fayetteville, N.C., with her family when she was 11. She later followed an early interest in baking into Asheville High School’s culinary arts program, where she spent three years studying under instructor Joe Lilly, Cogswell’s father, Daniel Cogswell, told Xpress for a 2017 story.
During her senior year at Asheville High, the future pastry chef did an internship at landmark West Asheville café the West End Bakery. Cathy Cleary, founder and former co-owner of West End Bakery, remembers a teenaged Cogswell as “supertalented and driven.”
Cleary specifically recalls Cogswell learning how to to make pate au choux dough as a 17-year-old intern. “It’s not an easy dough to master — there are several steps and lots of ways to mess it up — but she was determined to make perfect éclairs, and after two or three tries, her éclairs were some of the best,” she says.
Cogswell began studies at UNC, but soon enrolled at the Culinary Institute of America in New York, where she later won the school’s Katherine Angell Academic Achievement Award. She went on to intern with Blue Hill chef and The Third Plate author Dan Barber, then worked at restaurants including The NoMad in New York before joining Zahav.
Also representing Asheville at the awards this year was Cúrate and Nightbell chef and co-owner Katie Button, who was nominated for Best Chef: Southeast. Rodney Scott of Rodney Scott’s BBQ in Charleston, S.C., ultimately took home the prize in that category, where Asheville chef Meherwan Irani of Chai Pani had also been a semifinalist.
Other nominees for this year’s Rising Star Chef of the Year Award were Clare de Boer of King in New York City, Sarah Rinkavage of Marisol in Chicago, Miles Thompson of Michael’s in Santa Monica, Calif., and Kevin Tien of Himitsu in Washington, D.C. The full list of 2018 award winners and details about the James Beard Foundation can be found at jamesbeard.org.