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Texas Makes Its Strongest Showing Yet at ‘The Oscars of Food’ — Here Are Our James Beard Award Semifinalists

Houston Reigns Over Dallas in Nominations, But Who Will Come Out On Top?

BY // 02.26.20

The James Beard Foundation just released its list of 2020 James Beard Award Semifinalists, with Texas making a strong showing thanks to its whopping 39 nominations (shattering last year‘s record of 27).

The record-breaking results are predominately due to the Houston and Dallas dining scenes (each received 14 and nine nominations respectively). Though it’s nice to see chef Alexandra Gates gets some shine in a smaller city like Marfa.

Also, it’s important to note that this is first year Texas has its own category for Best Chef. It’s about time. In previous years, Texas has been a part of the Southwest regional category (zero awards were given to Texas chefs last year). Now, it’s guaranteed that one of our state’s culinary talents will be recognized.

Salaryman in Bishop Arts. (Photo by Elliot Munoz)

The trend of Dallas’ more casual, independent restaurants earning national recognition continues. Regino Rojas of Revolver Taco Lounge, one of our favorite taco spots, is nominated for Best Chef, as well as the talents behind two Bon Appétit-recognized spots—Danny Sirisavath of Khao Noodle Shop and Petra and the Beast’s Misti Norris.

As for Houston, Kulture’s Dawn Burrell is James Beard nominated, as well as Kata Robata’s Manabu Horiuchi, Crawfish & Noodles’ Trong Nguyen, Jason Vaughan of Nancy’s Hustle, and Pondicheri‘s Anita Jaisinghani.

Kata Robata chef Manabu “Hori” Horiuchi
Kata Robata chef Manabu “Hori” Horiuchi knows a Japan that most tourists miss.

Even Fort Worth gets some recognition with chef Molly McCook of Ellerbe Fine Foods and Austin boasts three chefs including Kevin Fink of Emmer & Rye, Olamaie’s Michael Fojtasek, and Iliana de la Vega of El Naranjo.

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Houston reigns in number of nominations, but we’ll see who comes out on top when it comes to naming the Best Chef in Texas. The two cities will also compete for Best New Restaurant—Dallas’ new Japanese spot, Salaryman, is in the running as well as Houston’s The Blind Goat and Squable. Let the best city win.

On March 25, the James Beard finalists will be revealed live from Philadelphia, but for now, we’ll keep our focus on the lengthy list of Texas semifinalists:


Best Chef: Texas: Misti Norris of Petra and the Beast

Best Chef: Texas: Regino Rojas, Revolver Taco Lounge

Best Chef: Texas: Teiichi Sakurai, Tei-An, Dallas

Best Chef: Texas: Donny Sirisavath, Khao Noodle Shop, Dallas

Best New Restaurant: Salaryman

Outstanding Baker: Clyde Greenhouse, Kessler Baking Studio

Outstanding Bar Program: Las Almas Rotas

Outstanding Pastry Chef: Maggie Huff, Homewood

Outstanding Pastry Chef: Ricardo “Ricchi” Sanchez, Bullion


Best Chef: Texas: Dawn Burrell, Kulture

Best Chef: Texas: Manabu Horiuchi, Kata Robata

Best Chef: Texas: Anita Jaisinghani, Pondicheri

Best Chef: Texas: Trong Nguyen, Crawfish & Noodles

Best Chef: Texas: Jason Vaughan, Nancy’s Hustle

Best New Restaurant: The Blind Goat

Best New Restaurant: Squable

Outstanding Bar Program- Anvil Bar & Refuge

Outstanding Chef- Justin Yu, Theodore Rex, Houston

Outstanding Hospitality- Hugo’s, Houston

Outstanding Restaurant- The Original Ninfa’s on Navigation, Houston

Outstanding Restauranteur- Tracy Vaught, H Town Restaurant Group, Houston (Hugo’s, Xochi, Caracol, and others)

Outstanding Wine Program- Rosie Cannonball, Houston

Rising Star Chef of the Year – Kaitlin Steets, Theodore Rex, Houston

Fort Worth 

Best Chef: Texas: Molly McCook, Ellerbe Fine Foods

Rising Star Chef of the Year: Bria Downey, Clay Pigeon Food & Drink


Best Chef: Texas: Kevin Fink, Emmer & Rye

Best Chef: Texas: Michael Fojtasek, Olamaie

Best Chef: Texas: Iliana de la Vega, El Naranjo

Outstanding Baker: David Norman, Easy Tiger Bake Shop & Beer Garden

Outstanding Restauranteur: Larry McGuire, McGuire Moorman Hospitality (Jeffrey’s, Perla’s, Pool Burger, and others)

Outstanding Wine, Beer or Spirits Producer: Jeffrey Stuffings and Michael Stuffings, Jester King Brewery

San Antonio

Best Chef: Texas: Steve McHugh, Cured, San Antonio

Best Chef: Texas: Alex Paredes, Carnitas Lonja, San Antonio

Best Chef: Texas:  Esaul Ramos, 2M Smokehouse, San Antonio


Outstanding Wine, Beer or Spirits Producer: Kim McPherson, McPherson Cellars


Best Chef: Alexandra Gates, Cochineal

El Paso

Best Chef: Texas: Aldo Mora, Cafe Central


Best Chef: Texas: Norma Frances “Tootsie” Tomanetz, Snow’s BBQ


Best Chef: Texas: Laurie Williamson, Rancho Loma

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