james beard semifinalists 2022

Oscars of the food world recognize Houston chefs and restaurants with 12 semifinalist nominations

Houston lands 12 semifinalist nominations for the food world's Oscars

Chef Chris Williams Lucille's
Chris Williams, Lucille's Hospitality Group. Photo by Bear Hands Media
Blood Bros BBQ Terry Wong, Quy Hoang, Robin Wong
Quy Hoang, center, with partners Terry and Robin Wong, Blood Bros. BBQ. Photo by Will Blunt/StarChefs
Aaron Bludorn
Aaron Bludorn. Photo by Julie Soefer
Hugo Ortega Ruben Ortega
Ruben Ortega, right, with brother Hugo Ortega. Photo by Emily Jaschke
Christine Ha Tony Nguyen Xin Chao
Christine Ha and Tony Nguyen, Xin Chao. Photo by John Suh/Xin Chao
Sylvia Casares of Sylvia's Enchilada Kitchen head shot
Sylvia Casares. Sylvia's Enchilada Kitchen/Facebook
Kaiser Lashkari Himalaya
Kaiser Lashkari, Himalaya. Courtesy of Himalaya Restaurant
Phat Eatery Alex Au-Yeung
Alex Au-Yeung, Phat Eatery. Photo by Kimberly Park
March restaurant Felipe Riccio
Felipe Riccio, March. Photo by Julie Soefer
Chef Chris Williams Lucille's
Blood Bros BBQ Terry Wong, Quy Hoang, Robin Wong
Aaron Bludorn
Hugo Ortega Ruben Ortega
Christine Ha Tony Nguyen Xin Chao
Sylvia Casares of Sylvia's Enchilada Kitchen head shot
Kaiser Lashkari Himalaya
Phat Eatery Alex Au-Yeung
March restaurant Felipe Riccio

The James Beard Awards have returned. After a two-year hiatus, the James Beard Foundation revealed its semifinalists for its 2022 Restaurant and Chef Awards.

Considered the Oscars of the food world, the awards recognize outstanding chefs and other culinary professionals in a wide range of categories ranging from Outstanding Chef to Best New Restaurant and a range of media categories. This year will be the first time the foundation has given an award for Best Chef: Texas, which it created after the 2019 awards to recognize the state’s diverse collection of talent. 

Houston restaurants and bars are well represented among both the national and regional awards. Overall, the city earned five national nominations and leads the way with seven nominations for Best Chef: Texas.

They are:

  • Outstanding Restaurateur: Chris Williams, Lucille’s Hospitality Group
  • Best New Restaurant: Pier 6 Seafood & Oyster House
  • Outstanding Pastry Chef: Ruben Ortega, Xochi
  • Outstanding Hospitality: Hugo’s
  • Outstanding Bar Program: Julep

Best Chef: Texas nominees:

  • Alex Au-Yeung, Phat Eatery
  • Aaron Bludorn, Bludorn
  • Sylvia Casares, Sylvia's Enchilada Kitchen
  • Christine Ha and Tony J. Nguyen, Xin Chào
  • Quy Hoang, Blood Bros. BBQ
  • Kaiser Lashkari, Himalaya Restaurant
  • Felipe Riccio, March

Elsewhere in Texas, Dallas-Fort Worth garnered five national five Best Chef: Texas nominations. San Antonio earned four national and four Best Chef: Texas nominations. Austin trailed with two national nods, both for Emerging Chef, and two Best Chef: Texas nominees.

Barbecue pitmasters faired well in the Texas category. In addition to Hoang, Esaul Ramos Jr. (2M Smokehouse in San Antonio), Ernest Servantes and David Kirkland (Burnt Bean Co. in Seguin), and Damien Brockway (Distant Relatives in Austin) all lead barbecue joints that named to Texas Monthly’s recent 50 best list.

Including pitmasters reflects the foundation’s goal to broaden the types of chefs and restaurants that it considers for its awards. After the foundation canceled its 2020 awards, the New York Times reported that none of 2020’s Black nominees won their categories. The organization also faced criticism that it nominated people accused of unethical behavior.

After an audit, the foundation overhauled the awards process. Nominees must now provide an alignment statement that demonstrates their support for at least one of the foundation’s stated values of equity, transparency, respect, integrity, community, and passion. In addition, the foundation changed eligibility requirements for voting. Whether these changes are enough to satisfy critics remains to be seen.

The Beard Foundation will announce the finalists for its restaurant and chef awards as well as the honorees for the Leadership, Lifetime Achievement Award, and Humanitarian of the Year Awards on March 16. Media award finalists will be revealed on April 27. Winners will be awarded in Chicago on June 13.