Back in September, we named Helen Greek Food & Wine Houston's best new restaurant of 2015. It looks like the folks at the James Beard Foundation might agree: Semifinalists for the 2016 James Beard Awards in the restaurant and chef categories were announced this morning, with Helen as the only Texas restaurant represented among 25 potential Best New Restaurant winners.
Owner and sommelier Evan Turner says he found out with a Twitter alert just after getting out of the shower. After telling us a few times that he was "speechless," he gathered himself enough to give credit to his 27-year-old chef. "I couldn't be happier and prouder for William Wright," he said. "It's an utterly, totally justifiable nod for someone who is going to be one of the greatest chefs the country has ever seen. This is all about him and his team."
Other Houston nominees were likely less surprised. Anvil Bar & Refuge was once again nominated for Outstanding Bar Program. Tracy Vaught of Hugo's, Caracol and Backstreet Café was recognized for Outstanding Restaurateur, as was local boy Ford Fry, best known for his Atlanta restaurants, but now also behind Houston's State of Grace. The Pass received two nods, for Outstanding Service and for chefs Seth Siegel-Gardner and Terrence Gallivan in the Best Chef: Southwest categories. Other chefs named among the semi-finalists were Manabu Horiuchi of Kata Robata, Hugo Ortega of Caracol and Justin Yu of Oxheart.
With so many nominees, Houston's chances for taking home a Beard award this year look pretty darn tasty. We'll find out on May 2.