The chef-owner of tiny Oxheart in Houston, Justin Yu, was named Best Chef: Southwest at the 2016 James Beard Awards gala in Chicago on Monday. In his acceptance speech, he thanked the city of Houston for supporting a great dining scene. He had been nominated for the Southwest honor last year and was a finalist for the Rising Star Chef of the Year awards two years ago.
Yu founded Oxheart in the spring of 2012, and his innovative, extremely precise, vegetable-forward food immediately came to the attention of food enthusiasts and restaurant critics. We wrote about it in May 2012 and included it on our list of the best new restaurants in Texas in 2013.
The young chef was up against three other chefs from Texas (Bryce Gilmore of Barley Swine in Austin, Hugo Ortega of Caracol and Hugo’s in Houston, and Steve McHugh of Cured in San Antonio) as well as one from Denver (Alex Seidel of Fruition).
Austin chef Grae Nonas of Olamaie was nominated for but did not win the Rising Star Chef of the Year award. Additionally, Austin restaurant Launderette was nominated for Best New Restaurant, but came up short.