James Beard Semifinalists revealed

Houston chefs, bars, and restaurants nab 11 James Beard semifinalist nominations in 2019

Houston chefs, bars, and restaurants nab 11 Beard semifinalist noms

Backstreet Cafe Hugo Ortega cooking video October 2013 Tracy Vaught
Tracy Vaught has been nominated for Outstanding Restaurateur.  Photo by Joel Luks
Jonny Rhodes Restaurant Indigo
Jonny Rhodes is nominated for Rising Star Chef. Photo by Christopher Anderson
Tony's restaurant interior
Tony's has been nominated for Outstanding Service. © Julie Soefer/Greater Houston Convention and Visitors Bureau
Kaiser Lashkari Himalaya
Kaiser Lashkari is a first-time Beard semifinalist.  Photo by Eric Sandler
Chris Shepherd crop
Chris Shepherd could become a two-time winner. Photo by Julie Soefer
Backstreet Cafe Hugo Ortega cooking video October 2013 Tracy Vaught
Jonny Rhodes Restaurant Indigo
Tony's restaurant interior
Kaiser Lashkari Himalaya
Chris Shepherd crop

The James Beard Foundation will be in Houston next month to announce the finalists for its annual awards, which are considered the Oscars of the culinary world; they recognize achievements by chefs, bartenders, restaurant owners, media members, and more. When it does, several of the city's chefs will be eagerly awaiting the news.

The foundation announced the semifinalists for its chef awards, and once again, Houston is well-represented in the category of Best Chef: Southwest. This year's local nominees are: Ronnie Killen (Killen's Steakhouse), Trong Nguyen of Crawfish & Noodles — both of whom were nominated last year — and, for the first time, Kaiser Lashkari of Himalaya. 

Other intriguing Texas nominees include: Austin chefs Kevin Fink (Emmer & Rye), Bryce Gilmore (Barley Swine), and Michael Fojtasek (Olamaie); Dallas chefs Bruno Davaillon (Bullion) and David Uygur (Lucia); perennial nominee Steve McHugh (Cured in San Antonio), and others.  

Jonny Rhodes, chef-owner of Indigo, earns a nomination for Rising Star Chef of the Year, a national award for the most-promising talent under the age of 30. Despite being a 13-seat, tasting menu restaurant, Indigo has attracted major buzz in recent weeks, including being among Texas Monthly food editor Pat Sharpe's list of the state's best new restaurants for 2018. 

Houstonians earned nominations in a number of the prestigious national categories, too. For the first time, The Original Ninfa's on Navigation is nominated for Outstanding Restaurant. Chris Shepherd, already a Best Chef: Southwest winner, is nominated for Outstanding Chef in America. Tracy Vaught, chef Hugo Ortega's wife and business partner in the H-Town Restaurant Group (Hugo's, Caracol, etc), receives another nomination for Outstanding Restaurateur. Anvil Bar & Refuge has once again been nominated for Outstanding Bar Program; Pappas Bros. Steakhouse is up for Outstanding Wine Program. Both Tony's and Hugo's have been nominated for Outstanding Service. 

Overall, Texans earned 27 entries in the various categories, which Texas Monthly notes is the most ever and is up from 20 last year. How many will become finalists remains to be seen, of course, but surely the Beard Foundation wouldn't come to Houston just to shut the city out — right?

The awards will be presented in Chicago on Monday, May 6.

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