The Golden Globes and Grammys are wrapped up for 2015, but there's still one more award to look forward to this year and it's not the Oscars. It's the James Beard Awards, a.k.a. the Academy Awards of food, a.k.a. the most highly coveted service industry recognition outside of a Michelin star. The semi-finalists for 2015's awards were announced this morning, and Houston snagged several important nominations.
Hugo's, Houston's flagship Mexican restaurant, was notably nominated for two awards: chef/owner Hugo Ortega for Best Chef Southwest and the restaurant itself for Outstanding Wine Program. "It's fun to be recognized and great for us and Houston," said Hugo's beverage director Sean Beck, downplaying the honor ever so slightly. "It's been a fun, albeit intense, ride."
While it's the wine program's first nomination, this marks the fourth nomination for Ortega himself, who made it to the finalist round in 2012, 2013, and 2014. Fellow Houstonian chef Chris Shepherd took home last year's Best Chef Southwest honors at the annual awards ceremony in New York City, breaking a dry spell for the Bayou City, whose last Best Chef recognition had previously been handed out in 1992 to Robert Del Grande.
This also marks a repeat nomination for chef/owner Justin Yu of Oxheart, who was nominated as a Rising Star Chef in 2013 and Best Chef Southwest in 2014. He's joined by fellow young turks and tasting menu purveyors Seth Siegel-Gardner and Terrence Gallivan, nominated as a duo for their work at The Pass & Provision. This marks Gardner and Gallivan's first nomination, but not their first brush with the Beards; the two recently cooked a collaborative dinner at the James Beard House in New York.
Meanwhile, Anvil Bar & Refuge continues to rack up the nominations: this year's semi-finalist nod for Outstanding Bar Program makes four since 2012. Notably, while both Bobby Heugel's Clumsy Butcher group and Hugo Ortega opened highly-acclaimed new concepts in the last year—Julep and Caracol, respectively—it's their work at their two ground-breaking originals that continue to be recognized year after year.
Finalists for the 2015 James Beard Awards will be announced on March 24 along with nominations for the yearly Book, Journalism, Broadcast Media, and Restaurant Design Awards. This year, the awards ceremonies will be split up, with the media and design awards presented on April 24 in New York City and the big Beard awards presented on May 4 in Chicago. Is this Houston's year for a repeat win? Hey—the Rockets aren't bringing home any more titles, so all eyes are on you, chefs.