cooking up acclaim
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.
Austin restaurants and bars are represented among both the national and regional awards. Overall, the city earned two national nominations and two nominations for Best Chef: Texas.
- Emerging Chef: Edgar Rico, Nixta Taqueria
- Emerging Chef: Amanda Turner, Olamaie
Best Chef: Texas nominees:
- Damien Brockway, Distant Relatives
- Iliana de la Vega, El Naranjo
Elsewhere in Texas, Houston earned five national nominations and seven nominations for Best Chef: Texas. Dallas-Fort Worth garnered five national and five Best Chef: Texas nominations. San Antonio earned four national and four Best Chef: Texas nominations.
Barbecue pitmasters faired well in the Texas category. In addition to Quy Hoang (Blood Bros. BBQ in Houston), 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 were 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 James 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.