Lone Star Category

James Beard Awards Gives Texas Its Own Region

No more will Houston chefs have to vie with Colorado and the like.

By Timothy Malcolm September 17, 2019

Can we get you back in 2020?

Y'all remember the scene back in March: The James Beard Foundation came to Houston, held a huge event at Hugo's to announce finalists for its 2019 awards—and then nobody from Houston won a dang thing. Considering Houston has had a great success rate in recent years, with Best Chef wins for Hugo Ortega, Chris Shepherd, and Justin Yu, it was surprising.

Today, the Beard Foundation made some changes to its awards structure that should help Houston avoid getting shut out of the proceedings in the future. Specifically, Texas is no longer a part of the Best Chef: Southwest category (which had also included Arizona, New Mexico, Utah, Colorado, and Oklahoma). Now, we have Best Chef: Texas, and it goes into effect with the next awards program in 2020. Rejoice.

Of course, we still have to compete with our friends over in Austin, San Antonio, and yes, even Dallas (which apparently Bon Appetit thinks had the best food year of any city in America—it must've been a down year). Plus, the rest of the state is pretty great, too, so the competition remains fierce. 

That wasn't all the Beard Foundation did to change its awards; it also added Best Chef: California, which seems like a good idea. But then it got rid of Best Chef: New York City and just made it Best Chef: New York State. That's weird, but it isn't a huge shift.

"Not everyone will ever be happy," Mitchell Davis, chief strategy officer of the Beard Foundation, told Houstonia in August. He said then that "changes will be afoot" in September, and today, his team made good on that promise, recognizing that American food culture has evolved considerably in the past decade.

"In only the few years that I've been involved with the awards, one of the biggest things I've learned is regarding the complexity of the awards, because of the dynamism of the food world," he added. "I'm someone who prides myself on what's going on, but nobody can keep up anymore."

The Beard Foundation is showing that it's trying to keep up. Texas's food scene is scorching hot, and now we'll have a bigger platform to prove it to the world.

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