The Food Oscars

Houston chefs score big in the James Beard Awards: The semifinalists for the restaurant Oscars are . . .

Houston chefs score big in the James Beard Awards: Semifinalists are..

Hugo Ortega Caracol chef
Hugo Ortega is a Best Chef Southwest nominee, and Hugo's is nominated for Outstanding Wine Program.  Photo by Jim Gossen/
Dana Cowin editor of Food & Wine with Justin Yu of Oxheart March 2014
Oxheart's Justin Yu is a James Beard Award semifinalist for the second year in a row.  FWScout/Twitter
Seth Siegel-Gardner and Terrence Gallivan of The Pass & Provisions Tastemaker Best Restaurant
Seth Siegel-Gardner, left, and Terrence Gallivan are semifinalist nominees for their work at The Pass.  Photo by Kate Bentsen
Hugo Ortega Caracol chef
Dana Cowin editor of Food & Wine with Justin Yu of Oxheart March 2014
Seth Siegel-Gardner and Terrence Gallivan of The Pass & Provisions Tastemaker Best Restaurant

The James Beard Foundation has revealed the semifinalists for its 2015 Awards — and Houston chefs are once again in the running. The awards are considered the Oscars of the culinary world, recognizing chefs, bartenders, restaurant owners, media members and more.

Last year, Underbelly chef/owner Chris Shepherd broke the city's 22 year long drought when he took home the city's first Best Chef Southwest James Beard award since Robert Del Grande won in 1992.  This year four Houston chefs from three restaurants are competing to be identified as finalists. 

Two of last year's Houston finalists are once again nominated as semifinalists. Oxheart's Justin Yu earns his second semifinalist nomination after being a Rising Star nominee in 2013. Hugo Ortega of Backstreet Cafe, Hugo's and Caracol makes it four years in a row as a semifinalist. Joining them are first time nominees Terrence Gallivan and Seth Siegel-Gardner for their work at The Pass (Provisions is not mentioned).

Ortega's Caracol was not nominated in the Best New Restaurant category, but Hugo's is the only Texas restaurant recognized for Outstanding Wine Program. 

The three Austin nominees consist of Congress's David Bull, Franklin Barbecue's Aaron Franklin and Barley Swine's Bryce Gilmore. Dallas has four nominees: Casa Rubia's Omar Flores, FT33's Matt McAllister, Knife's John Tesar and Lucia's David Uygur. 

The Outstanding Restaurateur category contains a couple items of Bayou City interest. Sam Fox, the owners of Fox Restaurant Concepts which includes True Food Kitchen and the soon to open North Italia, and Ford Fry, the Houston-born, Atlanta-based chef set to open State of Grace in River Oaks later this year, both received nominations. 

Anvil Bar & Refuge also earned its third semifinalist nomination in the  Outstanding Bar Program category. 

The James Beard Foundation will reveal the finalists on March 24. Winners will be revealed on May 4 at a ceremony in Chicago.