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Two Houston Chefs Are Finalists For The 2016 James Beard Awards

But will they win?

Amy McCarthy is a reporter at, focusing on pop culture, policy and labor, and only the weirdest online trends.

Houston’s culinary scene is heating up across the country, evidenced by the historic showing by the city’s chefs in this year’s James Beard Awards. Five chefs from across Houston, including H-Town Restaurant Group’s Hugo Ortega, Oxheart’s Justin Yu, and restaurants Helen Greek Food & Wine and Anvil Bar & Refuge, stood against the most talented chefs in the country as semifinalists in various categories.

Today, the James Beard Foundation whittled down their list of semi-finalists and announced the final chefs and restaurants that will vie for the awards, and two Houston chefs made the cut.

Hugo Ortega and Justin Yu are finalists in the Best Chef - Southwest category to round out Houston’s only finalists in this year’s awards. For both chefs, this is their second consecutive appearance among the finalists. The two will face off in the ridiculously Texas-heavy category against San Antonio’s Steve McHugh (Cured), and Austin’s Bryce Gilmore of Barley Swine.

The winner of the Best Chef - Southwest category will be announced at the James Beard Awards Gala on May 2 at Chicago's Lyric Opera. Major props to Yu and Ortega, both of whom can claim some credit for keeping Houston’s restaurant scene one of the best in the Southwest.