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Look out, James Beard! Bryan Caswell and the Southern Mafia are back

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Bryan Caswell walks the green carpet at The James Beard Awards in 2010. Courtesy of Daily Blender
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Houston had more names than ever on the list of James Beard award semifinalists, but as the finalists were announced today via Twitter, only one survived the cut.

For the second year in a row, Bryan Caswell is a finalist in the Best Chef: Southwest category. (See all the finalists here.)

"I kinda wondered how I would feel if I got nominated again, if I would feel different, but I'm just as nauseous as I was last year," says Caswell.

Caswell is competing against Las Vegas' Saipin Chutima, and Aspen's Ryan Hardy, who runs Montagna at the Little Nell, as well as two fellow Texans: Tyson Cole of Uchi in Austin (and soon Houston) and Bruce Auden at Biga on the Banks in San Antonio.

Caswell says he is looking forward to the awards dinner in New York and the parties surrounding it. "A lot of my buddies work and live in New York so I'll get to see them. It's a great party. Every year all the nominated chefs from the South get together and throw a big party. We're called the Southern Mafia."

All joking aside, Caswell says that being recognized is "a point of pride." And he's coming to the awards prepared.

"I've still got the same speech I wrote last year," Caswell says. "I'll just change the date."

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