Houston Restaurants, Chefs Snubbed From James Beard Award Finalists

The Best Chef Southwest category was dominated by Austin-based chefs.

The ceremony was held at Hugo's, a Mexican restaurant in Montrose by Chef Hugo Ortega, who won a James Beard Award for "Best Chef: Southwest" in 2017.

Despite hosting the announcement ceremony Wednesday for the 2019 James Beard Foundation Award nominees, Houston restaurants and chefs were snubbed from the finalist list.

The awards are often referred to as the "Oscars of the food world," covering categories such as Best New Restaurant and Outstanding Chef.

Eleven Houston-area restaurants had been selected as semifinalists, including The Original Ninfa's on Navigation, which was up against 19 national restaurants for Outstanding Restaurant.

Mitchell Davis, chief strategy officer with the James Beard Foundation, said this says nothing about the quality of the chefs and restaurants in the Bayou City. "Clearly the word is out that there's something exciting here," he said. "And I think the awards will continue to come."

Three Houston-based chefs – Kaiser Lashkari of Himalaya, Trong Nguyen of Crawfish & Noodles, and Ronnie Killen of Killen's Steakhouse — had also been selected as semifinalists for Best Chef Southwest, a category that four Houstonians have previously won. This year, however, the finalist list was dominated by three Austin-based chefs. A San Antonio chef also received a nomination.

The live ceremony was held at Hugo's, the restaurant by 2017 James Beard Award winner for Best Chef Southwest Hugo Ortega. The winners will be announced in Chicago on May 6.

2019 Best Chef Southwest nominees:

Charleen Badman
Scottsdale, AZ

Kevin Fink
Emmer & Rye

Michael Fojtasek

Bryce Gilmore
Barley Swine

Steve McHugh
San Antonio

The full list of nominees can be viewed, here.