Even though he’s been a James Beard Award semi-finalist for three years in a row, Chef Aaron Vandemark of Hillsborough’s Panciuto was caught off guard last month when he learned that his name was on the list yet again. He was checking his email and received a congratulatory note, at first not realizing what it was for. But that’s not too different from last year, Vandemark says. In 2012, he was alone in his kitchen cutting up lamb parts when he received a phone call from a writer in Raleigh who gave him the news. “I’m always surprised by how informal it is,” he admits, referring to the fact that The James Beard Foundation does not notify its semi-finalists directly.