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Chefs' Accolades Bolster Durham's Image As Culinary Mecca

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DURHAM — A Durham restaurant can boast having two of the best chefs in the nation.

Ben Barker is the owner and chef at Magnolia Grill. He recently won the James Beard Award for Best Chef in the Southeast.

Bon Appetitmagazine named his wife, Karen Barker, the Best Pastry Chef in America.

"It's a wonderful, wonderful thing for the restaurant and everyone who works with us," said Ben Barker. "It's not just for us, it's for the entire staff."

The talented couple opened Magnolia's 14 years ago. They say it is an exciting time to be in the restaurant business in Durham.

"It used to be that there were perhaps a handful of places that I consider really wonderful and doing things top-notch," said Karen Barker.

The Barkers also have excellent track records as teachers -- 15 of their students are now head chefs or owners of their own restaurants.

Scott Howell is one of them. He opened his own restaurant, Nana's in Durham. Nana's will be featured inGourmet magazinethis fall.

"The restaurants here demand a level of sophistication for the level of clients we have," Howell said. "We're feeding people from all over the world."

Nana's is among 13"Uniquely Durham"restaurants, known for regional cuisine created by local chefs.


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