Before StarChefs.com came calling, before the James Beard Awards rediscovered Houston restaurants, there were the My Table awards. For 15 years, editor/publisher Teresa Byrne-Dodge has given out the My Table Houston Culinary Awards to local chefs, restaurateurs, sommeliers and more who make Houston dining interesting, exciting and excellent.
The 2011 awards finalists (as chosen by an esteemed panel of local foodies and writers) were announced on Wednesday, and online voting to determine the winners begins Monday. The 25 winners will be announced on Oct. 2 at the Hilton Hotel at the University of Houston. It's the most delicious gala of the year, catered by a crew of nominated chefs.
Among the most prestigious awards are many familiar names and a few surprises. For Restaurateur of the Year, the nominees are names of those who have dominated the Houston scene for years: Claire Smith, Harris & Chris Pappas, Marco Wiles, Mark Cox, Schiller-Del Grande, Tracy Vaught and Elouise Adams Jones.
For Chef of the Year, the honorees are split between those who have shown consistent excellence in their concepts— Mark Cox, Hugo Ortega and David Denis — and a few that wowed Houston with something new relatively recently, like Anita Jaisinghani with Pondicheri, Marco Wiles and Poscól, Randy Evans of Haven and Ryan Pera for his work at Revival Market.
In Up-And-Coming Chef of the Year, only given to those under 35, the field is so crowded that a few faves (like Justin Basye and Adam Dorris) were left off. The contenders? Brandon Fisch (formerly at Yelapa), David Grossman of Branch Water Tavern, Tony's Grant Gordon, Jason Chaney of The Barbed Rose, Jeramie Robison of Restaurant Cinq, Haven's Philippe Gaston and Rolando Soza of Bistro Alex. This much talent in town surely bodes good things for Houston's foodie future.
The Houston Foodie Star Awards also recognize everything from the favorite food truck to the favorite burger and favorite mixologist.
Who do you think got snubbed? (Randy Rucker? Jamie Zelko? Alex Padilla?) Who are your favorite nominees? Do you generally agree or disagree with the finalists?