CHARLESTON, WV (WOWK) – A local chef is back home after traveling to Chicago for a major award ceremony.

Chef Paul Smith was a regional finalist for the James Beard Awards, the culinary equivalent to the Oscars.

Smith owns 1010 Bridge and Ellen’s Ice Cream in Charleston as well as The Pitch in Dunbar. While he did not win the award, Smith says the trip was a great experience.

“It was absolutely incredible,” Smith said. “I mean, you know, we walked down to the event, walked around the corridor to the Lyric Theatre. And you saw the red carpet, and the paparazzi. It was exactly like the Oscars, except no one asked me what I was wearing.”

Smith says that so-called “foodie tourism” is a real thing, and he hopes this attracts tourists to the West Virginia food scene.

“You think from a million-ish restaurants, and places and cities that have more people in them than our state, I mean, this is the biggest honor,” Smith said. “I would never thought that I’d be on this stage, or that West Virginia would.”