So much for a Houston three-peat in the James Beard Best Chef: Southwest category. On Wednesday, March 14, the Beard Foundation announced that no Houston chefs advanced as finalists for the award.
In addition, only one of the Houston nominees in the various national categories advanced. For the first time, Anvil Bar & Refuge is a finalist for Outstanding Bar Program.
It's a disappointing follow-up to the semifinalist announcement last month that included a record number of Houston chefs and restaurants, including first time semifinalists nominations for Ronnie Killen, Ryan Pera (Coltivare), Ross Coleman and James Haywood (Kitchen 713), and Trong Nguyen (Crawfish & Noodles). Pondicheri chef-owner Anita Jaisinghani had also been named a semifinalist.
The finalists for Best Chef: Southwest are Michael Fojtasek (Olamaie in Austin), Bryce Gilmore (Barley Swine in Austin), Steve McHugh (Cured in San Antonio), Martín Rios (Restaurant Martín in Santa Fe), and Alex Seidel (Mercantile Dining & Provision in Denver).
After Underbelly chef-owner Chris Shepherd ended the city's 22-year long drought by winning the award in 2014, chefs Justin Yu (Oxheart, Theodore Rex) and Hugo Ortega followed in 2016 and 2017, respectively.
Considered to be the Oscars of the culinary award, the awards recognize chefs, front of house professionals, restaurateurs, and media in a broad array of categories. Voters consist of a volunteer panel of more than 600 judges from across the country, including local critics, culinary educators, and past winners.
The awards will be presented on May 7 in Chicago. The media awards will be presented in New York City on April 27.