The James Beard Foundation, a national non-profit culinary arts organization, announced the finalists for its annual restaurant and chef awards Wednesday, March 16, during a ceremony in Scottsdale, Arizona, complemented by a live-tweeting session. Texas had an impressive showing, with a total of six finalists from the Houston area alone — four of which were in national categories.
- Montrose’s Mexican restaurant Hugo’s in Houston is a finalist for the Outstanding Hospitality category.
- Cocktail bar Julep, directed by bartender Alba Huerta, is a finalist for the Outstanding Bar Program.
- Ruben Ortega, of Downtown’s Oaxaca establishment Xochi, is the only Houston finalist for the Outstanding Pastry Chef award.
- Lucille’s executive chef Chris Williams — also the founder of Lucille’s Hospitality group — is a finalist for the Outstanding Restaurateur category — making him the only Houston contender.
Out of the seven local chefs that were nominated as semifinalists for the Best Chef: Texas category in February, only Christine Ha and Tony J. Nguyen of Vietnamese restaurant Xin Chào and pitmaster Quy Hoang of Bellaire’s Blood Bros. BBQ made the final cut.
This year’s showing was an improvement compared to what was announced for the James Beard Awards in 2020. Though ultimately canceled due to the pandemic, five Houstonians made it to the finalist round — two in the national categories and three in the Best Chef: Texas category.
Considered the Oscars of the culinary world, the awards return after a two-year hiatus during the pandemic. A ceremony for the winners will be held on June 13 at the Lyric Opera of Chicago. The James Beard media awards will be released on April 27 in New York.
Disclosure: Some Vox Media staff members are part of the voting body for the James Beard Foundation Awards.