As the “Oscars of food,” the James Beard Foundation’s annual awards are hugely important to chefs and restaurateurs. Last month, a number of Houston restaurant professionals and chefs were announced as semi-finalists for the 2017 James Beard Awards. Today, two Houston chefs advanced more step toward winning one of those coveted medals.
Announced at a ceremony in Los Angeles today, Hugo Ortega and Jianyun Ye have both been named finalists in the James Beard Awards’ Best Chef - Southwest category. This nod marks Ortega’s fifth consecutive year as a finalist, which perhaps means that this is finally his year.
Ye’s first nomination just over a year after the opening of a second outpost of his beloved Chinatown staple Mala Sichuan Bistro in Montrose. If you’ve ever dined at either outpost, you know that it’s a well-placed bit of recognition for the chef, who has developed a cult following for his take on Sichuan fare.
Considering that Houston has won the Best Chef - Southwest category two out of the last three years — Chris Shepherd in 2014, Justin Yu in 2016 — there’s a strong chance that Clutch City could bring yet another medal home when the winners are announced at the James Beard Awards Gala in Chicago on May 1.