one hot night

Prestigious James Beard tasting event spotlights star Houston chefs in one of only 5 U.S. stops

James Beard event stars top Houston chefs in one of only 5 U.S. stops

Dawn Burrell Late August
Dawn Burrell. Photo by Jenn Duncan
Rebecca Masson Fluff Bake Bar
Rebecca Masson. Fluff Bake Bar/Facebook
Christine Ha Tony Nguyen Xin Chao
Christine Ha and Tony Nguyen. Photo by John Suh/Xin Chao
Michelle Wallace Gatlin's BBQ
Michelle Wallace. Photo by Darren Lafferty
Kaitlin Steets Theodore Rex Littlefoot
Kaitlin Steets. Courtesy of Littlefoot
Dawn Burrell Late August
Rebecca Masson Fluff Bake Bar
Christine Ha Tony Nguyen Xin Chao
Michelle Wallace Gatlin's BBQ
Kaitlin Steets Theodore Rex Littlefoot

The organization behind America's most prestigious culinary awards will host an event featuring some of Houston's top chefs. The James Beard Foundation's Taste America Culinary Series will kick off in Houston on June 29.

Houston is one of only five cities nationally that will host a tasting event, which is designed to celebrate chefs and independent restaurants with a walk-around tasting format that features participants serving signature dishes from their stations. Local and national sponsors will contribute beverage stations and "other activations," according to the event's website

Participating chefs include three who are among this year's finalists for the James Beard Awards, which will be announced in Chicago on June 13. They are Best Chef: Texas nominees Christine Ha and Tony Nguyen of Xin Chao and Outstanding Pastry Chef nominee Ruben Ortega of H-Town Restaurant Group (Hugo's, Xochi, etc.). They'll be joined by Top Chef finalists Dawn Burrell (Late August) and Evelyn Garcia with her business partner Henry Lu (Kin), as well as CultureMap Tastemaker Awards winners Rebecca Masson (Fluff Bake Bar) and Kaitlin Steets (Theodore Rex). 

“I am so excited to have the James Beard Foundation in Houston,” Masson tells CultureMap. "I'm honored to be participating alongside some of our city's greatest chefs."

Houstonian Michelle Wallace (Gatlin's BBQ) and Phoenix chef Cassie Shortino will participate as representatives of the TasteTwenty, a group of 20 chef teams in 20 cities who are promoting the foundation's Good Food for Good initiative.

“It is an honor to be a member of James Beard Foundation’s TasteTwenty and have the opportunity to represent Houston’s incredible food community,” Wallace said in a statement. “I can’t wait to be together with Chef Cassie and all of the other participating Houston chefs to celebrate and share our food together with guests.”

In addition to enjoying the chefs' food, attendees will have a soundtrack provided by DJ Seek, aka Blood Bros. BBQ co-founder Robin Wong, and Input Output will present its interactive displays that combine light and sound. 

The event is presented in partnership with Houston First and sponsored by Capital One. Tickets, priced at $175 for general admission and $225 for premier access (enter an hour earlier), are on sale now

“We are grateful to our partners at Houston First for hosting the James Beard Foundation’s Taste America kick-off event. We are excited for Houston residents and visitors to experience the incredible culinary talent of our inaugural TasteTwenty chefs," said Siobhan Flaherty Haber, vice president of events at the James Beard Foundation. "By sharing their stories, we hope participants understand the importance of independent restaurants in their communities and are inspired to join our growing community of food lovers around the country, who are dedicated to creating a more sustainable food system for all."