San Antonio's top culinary talent is among this year’s semifinalists for the James Beard Awards. The prestigious culinary awards, considered to be the Oscars of the food world, are awarded annually to chefs, bartenders, restaurateurs, authors, and more in a wide variety of categories.
In all, San Antonio received three nominations during the announcement on Wednesday, February 26.
In the Best Chef: Texas category, the local nominees include chefs Steve McHugh (Cured), Alex Paredes (Carnitas Lonja), and Esaul Ramos (2M Smokehouse).
Elsewhere in Texas, Houston led Texas with 14 nominations, Dallas earned nine, and Austin racked up six. Marfa, El Paso, Talpa, Lexington, Lubbock, and Fort Worth also received nods.
The state already has one Beard Award winner. Last week, the Foundation recognized Vera’s Backyard Bar-B-Que in Brownsville as one of six “America’s Classics.” The category recognizes establishments, typically family-owned, that are “cherished for their quality food, local character, and lasting appeal.” Previous Texas winners include Louie Mueller Barbecue (Taylor), The Original Sonny Bryan’s (Dallas), and Irma’s (Houston).
This year will be the first time under the James Beard Foundation’s new rules that increased its chef awards from 10 regions to 12. Those changes included making Texas its own region for the best chef awards; previously, the Lone Star State had been included in the Southwest with Arizona, Colorado, New Mexico, Oklahoma, and Utah.
These changes ensure that at least one Texas chef will win a James Beard Award every year going forward. Last year, no one from Texas won an award. Since 2010, six Texas chefs won the Southwest category, split evenly between Houston and Austin.
The foundation has made other changes in the past few years. In 2018, it asked voters to consider behavior and integrity inside and outside of the kitchen, a response to the #MeToo era that exposed behavior by chefs such as Mario Batali. Last year, the foundation sought to broaden gender, race, and ethnic representation by diversifying the people who choose the nominees.
Semifinalists are selected by the Foundation’s restaurant and chef awards committee that’s made up of food writers from across the country, including Los Angeles Times critic Bill Addison, Bloomberg food editor Kate Krader, and Houston Chronicle restaurant critic Allison Cook. The finalists for each category will be announced in Philadelphia on March 25.
The Foundation will announce its media award winners in New York on April 24. The chef and restaurant awards will be presented in Chicago on May 4.