Houston Matters

How The #MeToo Movement May Have Played A Role In Houston’s James Beard Award Nominations

A record number of chefs and restaurant owners from the Houston area have been named semifinalists for James Beard awards. But some say who didn’t get nominated is just as interesting. Houston Matters takes a closer look.

Desserts from Houston restaurant Aqui.
Desserts from Houston restaurant Aqui, where pastry chef Jill Bartolome was named a semifinalist for a James Beard Award, what many consider to be “the Oscars of food.”

Today, Houston can boast a record number of semifinalists for the 2018 James Beard Foundation awards, characterized by those in the restaurant industry as the "the Oscars of food." A dozen nominations hail from Houston, including several first-time nominees, reinforcing the rise of the region's culinary scene in recent years.

Among them, Xochi was nominated for best new restaurant. BBQ icon Ronnie Killen was nominated for best chef for his steakhouse, along with Anita Jaisinghani of Pondicheri, Ryan Pera of Coltivare, Ross Coleman and James Haywood of Kitchen 713, and Trong Nguyen, Crawfish & Noodles.

But there were some notable omissions from this year's list, and the national Me Too movement might be playing a part.

While one nominee came from the new Houston restaurant Aqui (Jill Bartolome was nominated for outstanding pastry chef), the restaurant’s chef Paul Qui was not nominated. Some speculate that was only because he’s awaiting trial on domestic violence charges.

In the audio above, Houston Matters host Craig Cohen talks with two of the regular contributors to our food segment The Full Menu: Gwendolyn Knapp, associate editor of Houstonia Magazine, and Eric Sandler, food editor for CultureMap Houston.

Houston’s 2018 James Beard Award Nominees:
Anita Jaisinghani, Pondicheri — Best Chef: Southwest
Anvil Bar & Refuge — Outstanding Bar Program
Hugo's — Outstanding Service
Jill Bartolome, Aqui — Outstanding Pastry Chef
Martha de Leon, Pax Americana — Rising Star Chef of the Year
Pappas Bros. Steakhouse — Outstanding Wine Program
Ross Coleman and James Haywood, Kitchen 713 — Best Chef: Southwest
Ronnie Killen, Killen's Steakhouse — Best Chef: Southwest
Ryan Pera, Coltivare — Best Chef: Southwest
Tracy Vaught & H-Town Restaurant Group — Outstanding Restaurateur
Trong Nguyen, Crawfish & Noodles — Best Chef: Southwest
Xochi — Best New Restaurant

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Michael Hagerty

Michael Hagerty

Senior Producer, Houston Matters

Michael Hagerty is the senior producer for Houston Matters. He's spent more than 20 years in public radio and television and dabbled in minor league baseball, spending four seasons as the public address announcer for the Reno Aces, the Triple-A affiliate of the Arizona Diamondbacks.

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