We love a good list over here at Houstonia, and no lists are as delectable as those put out by the James Beard Foundation. Fortunately, “the foundation,” as we like to call it, gifted us an early Valentine’s Day present today when it put out its list of semifinalists for the 2023 James Beard Foundation Awards. Houston, unsurprisingly, makes a pretty strong showing with 10 chefs and restaurants.
Included in the nominations are chefs Christine Ha and Tony J. Ngyuen of Xin Chào, for Outstanding Chef, both of whom were nominees last year for Best Chef: Texas. In the Best Chef: Texas category, Greg Gatlin of Gatlin’s BBQ has been nominated, as has Ai Le of Nam Giao, Benchawan Jabthong Painter of Street to Kitchen, and Kiran Verma of Kiran’s.
In the Emerging Chef category, Victoria Elizondo of Cochinita & Co. has been nominated. Elizondo, who runs her popular Mexican eatery from inside Kickin’ Kombucha’s headquarters in the East End, recently released her debut cookbook. This is also the first year that two Houston chefs based in Houston’s historic East End neighborhood have been nominated at the same time, as chef Benchawan Jabthong Painter’s Thai staple, Street to Kitchen, is also located in the burgeoning neighborhood. Joining other East End nominees this year is Nancy’s Hustle for Outstanding Wine and Other Beverages Program. The restaurant’s chef, Jason Vaughan, was notably a semifinalist in 2020 for Best Chef: Texas.
Additional award nominees include Tatemó in the Best New Restaurant category, as well as Theodore Rex for Outstanding Hospitality, and Chris Williams of Lucille’s Hospitality Group for Outstanding Restaurateur.
This year’s semifinalists announcement comes on the heels of lauded cocktail bar Julep’s win last year for Outstanding Cocktail Program, the first time Houston has landed one of the James Beard Awards’ national categories.
Often referred to as the “Oscars of food,” the James Beard Awards will take place in Chicago from June 3 through June 5.