The James Beard Foundation, a national non-profit culinary arts organization, has announced the semifinalists for its annual restaurant and chef awards, and Texas had a big showing, with a total of 13 nominees from the Houston area alone.
Among the national categories, Lucille’s executive chef Chris Williams — also the founder of Lucille’s Hospitality group — was nominated for the Outstanding Restaurateur category — making him the only Houston contender. Ruben Ortega, of Downtown’s Oaxaca establishment Xochi, was nominated as the only Houston semifinalist for the Outstanding Pastry Chef award.
For the best chef: Texas category, seven local chefs were nominated, including Alex Au-Yeung of Phat Eatery; Bludorn chef Aaron Bludorn; Sylvia Casares of Sylvia’s Enchilada Kitchen; Christine Ha and Tony J. Nguyen of Vietnamese restaurant Xin Chào; pitmaster Quy Hoang of Bellaire’s Blood Bros. BBQ; Himalaya Restaurant’s head chef Kaiser Lashkari; and Felipe Riccio of Midtown’s reservation-only March.
The Houston area’s other major national nominations include:
- San Leon’s Pier 6 Seafood & Oyster House for Best New Restaurant.
- Montrose’s Mexican restaurant Hugo’s in Houston was nominated for Outstanding Hospitality.
- Cocktail bar Julep, directed by bartender Alba Huerta, was nominated for the Outstanding Bar Program.
Considered the Oscars of the culinary world, the awards return after a two-year hiatus during the pandemic. Finalists will be announced on March 16 in Scottsdale, Arizona, with a ceremony for the winners held on June 13 at the Lyric Opera of Chicago. The James Beard media awards will be released on April 27 in New York.