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Twice as nice: Two high-profile Houston chefs named James Beard Award finalists

chris shepherd underbelly
Chris Shepherd of Underbelly has also been nominated in the category.  Photo by © Julie Soefer
Backstreet Cafe, Hugo Ortega
Hugo Ortega of Hugo's was nominated in the Best Chef: Southwest category for the second year running.  Backstreet Cafe/Facebook
Triniti, restaurant, diners, crowd, November 2012
MC2 Architects has been nominated in the Outstanding Restaurant Design category for its work on Triniti.  Triniti Restaurant/Facebook
chris shepherd underbelly
Backstreet Cafe, Hugo Ortega
Triniti, restaurant, diners, crowd, November 2012

Houston's powerhouse food scene is getting some deserved recognition, with two local chefs earning James Beard Award finalist honors.

Among five finalists in the category of Best Chef: Southwest were Chris Shepherd of Underbelly (a James Beard first-timer) and Hugo's namesake Hugo Ortega (a finalist for the second year running). The finalists were just announced, cutting down the prior list of semifinalists.

Houston Chronicle food critic Alison Cook has been named a finalist for the Craig Claiborne Distinguished Restaurant Review Award, and MC2 Architects is up for Outstanding Restaurant Design category for its work at Triniti

Although new restaurant Oxheart and its chef/owner Justin Yu made it to the semifinals for the Best New Restaurant and Rising Star Chef of the Year, neither advanced. 

Neither Underbelly, also a semifinalist in the Best New Restaurant category, nor Tyson Cole, executive chef and owner of Uchi in Austin and Houston and finalist in the Outstanding Chef category, made it farther either. 

Anvil Bar & Refuge — the Montrose institution known for mastering the art of the cocktail — made it to the semifinals in the Outstanding Bar Program category for the third year in a row, and Levi Goode was a semifinalist in the Outstanding Restaurateur category for his Goode Company Restaurant empire. 

The 2013 James Beard Awards will be held on May 3 and May 6 in New York City. 

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