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11 Houston Chefs and Restaurants Are 2019 James Beard Award Semifinalists

The finalists for the ‘Oscars of food’ will be announced in Houston in March

Chris Shepherd in an apron.
Georgia James chef Chris Shepherd is up for Outstanding Chef
Julie Soefer
Amy McCarthy is a reporter at, focusing on pop culture, policy and labor, and only the weirdest online trends.

Today, the James Beard Foundation dropped its annual long-list of James Beard Award semi-finalists, and as always, Houston chefs, bars, and restaurants have a prominent place among this year’s nominees.

11 Houston chefs and establishments are up for James Beard Awards in 2019, including chef Chris Shepherd, who is nominated in the national Outstanding Chef category five years after winning Best Chef - Southwest in 2014. Up for the equally-prestigious Outstanding Restaurant award is Houston Tex-Mex institution Ninfa’s on Navigation, and perennial James Beard Award nominee Anvil Bar & Refuge is up once again for Outstanding Bar Program. Eater Houston’s 2018 Chef of the Year Jonny Rhodes is also nominated for Rising Star Chef of the Year.

Continuing the streak of Houston excellence, H-Town Restaurant Group’s Tracy Vaught is nominated once again in the Outstanding Restaurateur category, while Hugo’s will face off against Tony’s for an Outstanding Service win, and Pappas Bros. Steakhouse could take home the medal for Outstanding Wine Program.

In the regional Best Chef - Southwest category, Houston also made a strong showing. Excitingly, Himalaya’s Kaiser Lashkari scored his first nomination, and Crawfish and Noodles chef Trong Nguyen was nominated for the second year in a row. Pearland restaurant magnate Ronnie Killen is also nominated in the category, along with more chefs from Texas, Arizona, Utah, and Colorado.

This list of semi-finalists will be whittled down to the finalists on March 27 at a press conference held at Houston’s own Hugo’s in Montrose. The James Beard Awards are set for May 6 in Chicago.

Houston’s James Beard Award Nominees

  • Anvil Bar & Refuge — Outstanding Bar Program
  • Chris Shepherd — Outstanding Chef
  • The Original Ninfa’s on Navigation — Outstanding Restaurant
  • Tracy Vaught, H-Town Restaurant Group — Outstanding Restaurateur
  • Hugo’s — Outstanding Service
  • Tony’s — Outstanding Service
  • Pappas Bros. Steakhouse at the Galleria — Outstanding Wine Program
  • Jonny Rhodes — Rising Star Chef of the Year
  • Kaiser Lashkari, Himalaya — Best Chef - Southwest
  • Ronnie Killen, Killen’s — Best Chef - Southwest
  • Trong Nguyen, Crawfish & Noodles — Best Chef, Southwest

Disclosure: Some Vox Media staff members are part of the voting body for the James Beard Foundation Awards.