No television reality competition has suspense like this. Cured chef Steve McHugh has had to wait an excruciating month to find out it he made it to the next round of the annual James Beard Awards. On March 27, it turns out he did just that during JBF's official announcement, held at Hugo’s in Houston.
As the only Alamo City semifinalist, McHugh was the sole area chef to be named a finalist in the Best Chef: Southwest category. This was his fourth time to advance in a row for his showpiece Pearl restaurant.
The Southwest short list was dominated by chefs from Austin, with Kevin Fink of Emmer & Rye, Michael Fojtasek of Olamaie, and Bryce Gilmore of Barley Swine all making the cut. Charleen Badman of Scottsdale. Arizona’s FnB, also a perpetual semifinalist nominee, was the only non-Texan included.
McHugh is one of a select group of San Antonians to have received recognition from the James Beard Foundation. Bruce Auden of Biga on the Banks had a five-year winning streak from 2001 to 2005 as a Best Chef: Southwest finalist, followed by one more nod in 2011. Andrew Weissman had his own string of finalist nominations in the same category for much-missed La Reve from 2006 to 2008.
McHugh will have to wait yet another month before finding out if he finally takes the award home. The winners will be announced at a star-studded gala held at the Lyric Opera of Chicago on May 6. The full list of finalists can be seen here.