Houston Chef Chris Shepherd Wins James Beard Award

Shepherd is first Houston chef to win the award in 22 years.


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The James Beard awards are the Oscars of the restaurant world.

And Houston has had at least one chef nominated for the past three years. This year, Chris Shepherd of Underbelly beat out four other chefs, including two from Houston, to win best chef of the Southwest region. Hugo Ortega of Hugo’s and Justin Yu of Oxheart were also finalists.

Shepherd, who called from New York where the awards ceremony takes place, says he’s excited for what the win will mean for Houston.

“It’s really good for the city, first time in 22 years. And I built a restaurant based on the city and it really means a lot to me because I feel like Houston won.”

Shepherd says his restaurant, Underbelly, tells the story of Houston food. There are dishes on the menu that reflect Houston’s ethnic diversity and it’s Gulf Coast and southern influences, like Korean Braised Goat, Crispy Fried Bycatch, and Cornmeal Cured Pork Chops.

“Six years ago, you could go down to Chinatown and you wouldn’t know anybody. But now I go down to Chinatown and I see my customers. And so it’s exciting for that to be happening because Houstonians are feeling comfortable with themselves and really branching into having a really cool food scene. So when you get the general public to be a part of it and know it, it’s awesome.”

Shepherd was named Best New Chef last year by Food + Wine Magazine. He opened Underbelly in 2012.

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Laurie Johnson

Laurie Johnson

Executive Producer for News

Laurie Johnson leads daily news coverage for HPM. She helps reporters craft and sharpen their stories on tight deadlines, with the aim of getting the most relevant and current information into local newscasts. Laurie is a native Houstonian who started her career at Houston Public Media in 2002. She is...

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