The James Beard Foundation today announced the semi-finalists for its annual restaurant industry’s highest award. The list continues with the paradigm-shifting nominations and winners of the 2022 award with a diverse group. Texas restaurants and chefs received 41 nominations in a long list. Together, they demonstrate the dynamism of the state’s gastronomic scene, but surprises abound.
Notable absences include San Antonio chef Stephen McHugh, a longtime finalist, and the restaurants he co-owns with his wife, Sylvia McHugh. Cured in the Historic Pearl District, McHugh’s first restaurant, was a finalist six times between 2016 and 2022. Also missing is Mixtli, a San Antonio-based restaurant led by co-owners and chefs Diego Galicia and Rico Torres. The restaurant has received numerous awards for its progressive Mexican cuisine and community service. Torres led the organization and promotion of the Family Meal, a fundraising dinner that brings El Paso-raised chefs home for a star-studded meal. Mixtli was previously a semi-finalist in the Outstanding Restaurant and Best Pastry Chef or Baker categories.
Elemi Restaurant in El Paso, which last year was Texas’s only Outstanding Chef semi-finalist, is represented this year by co-owner and Executive Chef Emiliano Marentes, who is in contention for the Best Chef: Texas award. . Marentes is joined by another chef from far West Texas, Enrique Lozano of El Charlatan in Socorro. Other West Texas nominees include John Walter of Chez Sami in Wolffort and a local in Abilene nominated for outstanding hospitality. The Rio Grande Valley is an impressive show with two new semi-finalists: Ana Liz Tuqueria (Best Chef: Texas) in Mission and Las Ramblas in Brownsville (Outstanding Bar).
Other newcomers include Jerk Shack in San Antonio and Don Artemio in Fort Worth. The latter, a Mexican restaurant co-owned by Adrian Burciaga and Jorge Ramón Cardenas Cantu, is the first US location for the Saltillo, Mexico concept and is nominated for Best New Restaurant. Another listed eatery in Fort Worth Texas MonthlyNo. 1 Goldee’s Barbecue, whose three owners were semi-finalists for Best Chef: Texas. Goldee’s is not alone in being a recognized producer of smoked meats. Other bbq spots that have received recognition include KG BBQ and Distant Relatives in Austin; Curry Boys BBQ in San Antonio; and Burnt Bean Co. in Seguin.
Also on the long list is Tatsu, which is described as the toughest reservation in Dallas. The omakase Japanese restaurant is famous not only for its cuisine, but also for its hospitality. Last year, a small staff learned enough American Sign Language to host a deaf couple. Junior Borges of Meridian, also in Dallas, who was clearly overlooked in 2022, was a semi-finalist in the National Outstanding Chef category.
No wonder the metropolitan distribution of semi-finalists. Houston has amassed ten nominees, followed by Dallas with nine, San Antonio with six (seven if you include Burnt Bean Co.) and Austin with six.
While the list is to be commended for recognizing outlying restaurants and chefs, restaurants like Elemi and bars like Las Ramblas stand a good chance of being finalists or winners. Awards have long favored large cities over geographically distant or rural communities. As someone whose job it is to travel to said places and who enjoys their culinary culture, I hope these places make the shortlist. We’ll have to wait until March 29th when the finalists are announced to see. Winners will be awarded June 5th in Chicago.
The list of semi-finalists from Texas is below. The full list of nominees can be found on the James Beard Foundation website.
La Condesa, Austin
Chris Williams (Lucille’s Hospitality Group, Houston)
Victoria Elizondo (Cochinita & Co., Houston)
Jennifer Hwa Dobbertine (Best Quality Daughter, San Antonio)
Best New Restaurant
Don Artemio, Fort Worth
Beatrice Restaurant, Dallas
Outstanding Pastry Chef or Baker
Mariela Camacho (Comadre Panaderia, Austin)
Ann Ng (Lorraine Bakery, San Antonio)
La Casita Bakery, Richardson
Kuluntu Bakery, Dallas
Outstanding Wine and Beverage Program
Nancy Hustle, Houston
Las Ramblas, Brownsville
Weathered Souls Brewing Company, San Antonio
Theodore Rex, Houston
Christine Ha and Tony J. Nguyen (Hsin Chao, Houston)
Junior Borges (Meridian, Dallas)
Best Chef: Texas
Nicola Black (The Jerk Shack, San Antonio)
Bristol-Joseph Tavel (Kanye, Austin)
Damien Brockway (“Distant Kin”, “Austin”)
Reina Duong (Sandwich Hag, Dallas)
Karim El Gayesh (KG BBQ, Austin)
Greg Gatlin (Gatlin’s BBQ, Houston)
Jalen Hurd, Lane Milne and Johnny White (Goldee’s Barbecue, Fort Worth)
Andrew Ho, Andrew Samia and Sean Wen (Curry Boys BBQ, San Antonio)
Benchawan Jabthong Painter (Street to Kitchen, Houston)
Ai Le (Nam Jao, Houston)
Olivia Lopez and Jonathan Percival (Molino Oloyo, Dallas)
Enrique Lozano (El Charlatan, Socorro)
Emiliano Marentes (Elemi, El Paso)
Ana Liz Pulido (Ana Liz Tuckeria, Misson)
Anastacia Quinones-Pittman (Jose, Dallas)
Regino Rojas.Revolver Taco LoungeDallas)
John Russ (English)ClementineSan Antonio)
Ernest Cervantes and David Kirkland (Burnt Bean Co., Seguin)
Kiran Verma (Kiran’s, Houston)
John Walter (Chaz Sami, Wolffort)