Beard Award Winners revealed

Acclaimed Houston bar scores city's first-ever national James Beard Award

Acclaimed Houston bar scores city's first national James Beard Award

Alba Huerta Julep
Julep owner Alba Huerta, winner of Outstanding Bar Program. Photo by Julie Soefer
Iliana De La Vega of El Naranjo
Iliana de la Vaga winner of the first Best Chef: Texas award for Austin's El Naranjo. Photo by Keith Uyeda
Edgar Rico
Edgar Rico won Emerging Chef for his work at Nixta Taqueria. Courtesy of Nixta
Jesse Griffiths Dai Due James Beard Award
Jesse Griffiths won for his book about cooking wild hog. Dai Due/Facebook
Alba Huerta Julep
Iliana De La Vega of El Naranjo
Edgar Rico
Jesse Griffiths Dai Due James Beard Award

A select group of Texas chefs, a bartender, and a food writer are sporting shiny new medals this evening. They are the winners of this year’s James Beard Awards.

Between a media awards ceremony held on Saturday, June 11 and the restaurant and chef awards ceremony on Monday, June 13, five Texans won awards. They are:

  • Austin chef Edgar Rico (Nixta Taqueria) for Emerging Chef
  • Houston cocktail bar Julep for Outstanding Bar Program
  • Austin chef Iliana de la Vega (El Naranjo) for Best Chef: Texas
  • Austin chef Jesse Griffiths (Dai Due) for his cookbook, The Hog Book: A Chef’s Guide to Hunting, Butchering and Cooking Wild Pigs
  • Texas Monthly Taco Editor Jose Ralat for his Tex-Mexplainer columns

Outstanding Chef went to Mashama Bailey of The Grey in Savannah, Georgia. Phoenix-based chef Chris Bianco won Outstanding Restaurateur.

Julep’s victory is particularly meaningful for Houston. It’s the first time a Bayou City establishment has won a Beard Award in one of the national categories. The Southern bar is riding a high: Julep just landed at No. 46 on a new list of the 50 best bars in North America.

In her acceptance speech, Julep owner Alba Huerta thanked the city of Houston for “loving immigrants like me, like my family, welcoming us, and giving us the path to opening our own businesses.”

Her fellow Texans showed similar levels of gratitude for their victories. Rico dedicated his award to “all the taqueros out there in the world.” De La Vega thanked her husband, her daughters, and “my country of Mexico for teaching me and having the opportunity to teach all I know.”

Considered the Oscars of the food world, the James Beard Award recognize chefs and other culinary professionals in a wide range of categories that include Outstanding Restaurant, Best New Restaurant, Outstanding Pastry Chef, and more. Overall, Texans received nominations in six national categories in the Restaurant and Chef Awards, and six chefs from five restaurants competed for Best Chef: Texas.

Texas became its own region following the 2019 awards; this year is the first time it has awarded a winner in this category.

Media awards, held during a separate ceremony, recognize authors, journalists, and broadcasters for everything from food criticism to podcasts.

The Beard Foundation did not give out awards in 2020 or 2021. This year’s awards reflect new eligibility guidelines for nominees and a new panel of voters. The results produced a more diverse group of nominees and winners (Full disclosure: this author participated in that process and voted on some of the categories in the awards).