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The James Beard Awards Came to Houston Just to Shut Out All the Houston Nominees

The winners will be announced in Chicago on May 6

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

At an early-morning press conference, the James Beard Foundation announced its list of finalists for the 2019 James Beard Awards.

James Beard Award winner Hugo Ortega’s namesake restaurant in Montrose hosted the announcement, and Houston was completely shut out of the 2019 James Beard Awards, with none of its eleven nominees advancing on to the finals. When the Awards announced that it would head to Houston for this announcement, many considered that to be a sign that this year, the city would make a strong showing at the annual event that’s often described as the “Oscars of food.” That, sadly, did not happen.

It’s especially surprising in the Best Chef - Southwest category, where three Houstonians were semifinalists. Himalaya’s Kaiser Lashkari was recognized as a semifinalist for the first time, along with Ronnie Killen and Trong Nguyen, who have been been on the long list before. Four Texans were finalists in that category — Barley Swine’s Bryce Gilmore, Emmer and Rye’s Kevin Fink, Olamaie chef Michael Fojtasek, and Cured’s Steve McHugh — but they all hail from Austin and San Antonio.

Back in February, a whopping 11 chefs and restaurateurs were announced as semifinalists for the 2019 Awards, including Chris Shepherd and Jonny Rhodes, who scored nods in the national Outstanding Chef and Rising Star Chef of the Year categories, respectively. Rhodes’s Rising Star Chef snub is arguably one of the most disappointing, considering the incredible, socially-aware work he’s doing at Indigo. The Original Ninfa’s on Navigation was up for Outstanding Restaurant, and H Town Restaurant Group’s Tracy Vaught was nominated for Outstanding Restaurateur for the second year in a row. None of these nominees advanced to the short list.

In 2018, Anvil Bar & Refuge was the sole James Beard Award finalist from Houston, and it was a semifinalist in the Outstanding Bar category again in 2019, but did not make the list of finalists this year. In 2017, Hugo Ortega brought home the city’s most recent James Beard Award for Best Chef - Southwest.

The winners of the 2019 James Beard Awards will be announced at a ceremony in Chicago on May 6, and it’s a real bummer that none of these Houstonians will be called up to accept a medal.

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

Best Chef - Southwest

Charlene Batman, F&B Scottsdale

Kevin Fink, Emmer & Rye ATX

Michael F, Olamaie

Bryce Gilmore, Barley Swine

Steve McHugh, San Antonio

Outstanding Bar Program

No Anvil

Outstanding Wine Program

Outstanding Pastry Chef

No Ricchi

Outstanding Service

Rising Star Chef of the Year

no Jonny Rhodes

Outstanding Restaurant

No Ninfa’s

Outstanding Chef