There’s no way to sugarcoat the news: Texas got exactly one national-level nomination in the second round of the prestigious James Beard Foundation Restaurant and Chef Award competition announced May 4. The nod went to Anvil Bar & Refuge for Outstanding Bar Program (Anvil has been a bridesmaid in this category many times before). The near-shutout was especially disappointing because Texas had captured 39 individual nominations in the semifinalist list that was announced in late February.
On a happier note, Texas now has its own region and thus received five nominations for Best Chef: Texas. The chefs are: Kevin Fink, Emmer & Rye, Austin; Michael Fojtasek, Olamaie, Austin; Anita Jaisinghani, Pondicheri, Houston; Steve McHugh, Cured, San Antonio; and Trong Nguyen, Crawfish & Noodles, Houston. Previously, Texas was part of the Southwest region for best chef and had to duke it out with four other states. This year, Texas joined California and New York as states big and important enough to warrant their own categories, with twenty chefs competing for the title of Best Chef: Texas.
In the Beard Foundation’s cookbook competition, Houston chef Chris Shepherd’s 2019 Cook Like a Local, written with Kaitlyn Goalen, got a nod in the in the American cookbook category. The book is a compilation of international recipes from his establishments, including UB Preserv, and from other Houston restaurants (yes, the book includes his famous Korean braised goat and dumplings). Also nominated was Jubilee, by former Austinite Toni Tipton-Martin.
Announced in February, Vera’s Backyard Bar-B-Que, in Brownsville, is a winner of an America’s Classics award from the Beard Foundation.
The nominees were originally supposed to have been revealed in March, but everything has been pushed back because of the coronavirus pandemic. Instead, the nominee announcement happened May 4, the original date of the glamorous James Beard gala in Chicago, where winners are revealed. Now, the winners will be announced on a future date, following one more round of voting.
In other national restaurant news, GQ restaurant critic Brett Martin has named two Texas restaurants to the magazine’s list of the best new eating establishments in the country. His choices are Austin’s DipDipDip, a Japanese shabu-shabu venue about whose cheek-by-jowl seating arrangement Martin wrote, “compact and ingenious as a Japanese toilet, complete with an induction burner, shelves for various ingredients, an hourglass egg timer, and more.” DipDipDip’s chef is Tatsu Aikawa. GQ’s second Texas nod went to the Jerk Shack, in San Antonio. Martin said, “That’s where Lattoia Nicola Massey, who also goes by the name Nicola Blaque, applies her Culinary Institute of America degree to an ‘artisan Caribbean’ restaurant that evokes an island jerk stand, with its walk-up window flanked by picnic tables.”