A Houston Chef’s Cookbook is Up for a 2023 James Beard Media Award
The James Beard Foundation has announced its 2023 Media Award nominees, and among them is chef and owner Anita Jaisinghani of Pondicheri, her Indian restaurant located at 2800 Kirby in West Ave. Her book, “Masala: Recipes from India, the Land of Spices”, is a contender in the International category. (Click here to read our review of Masala.)
“I am SO thrilled to be selected for this award!” Jaisinghani said via email. “I was so nervous about my writing but I did follow one mantra — I wanted to enjoy reading my own writing so I wrote about the things that mattered to me (and usually to most) in a manner that I enjoyed reading. I also wanted to share a little more about the history of India, the effects of colonialism and how nuanced, seasonal and really ‘current’ the ancestral ideas about food and Ayurveda in India are. The sages in India were thinking about not harming the planet when few others were.”
Jaisinghani has long been a prominent figure in Houston’s culinary scene, including for her prior restaurant, Indika, and her longstanding current one, Pondicheri. For a time, she operated a second location of Pondicheri in New York City. It received a positive review from New York Times critic Pete Wells before she closed it in 2020.
Masala’s competition in the International category is Mezcla: Recipes to Excite by Ixta Belfrage, a regular collaborator of author and chef Yotam Ottolenghi, and “Mi Cocina: Recipes and Rapture from My Kitchen in Mexico” by Rick Martínez, who grew up in Austin and currently resides in Matalazan.
Speaking of other parts of Texas: in the Journalism Awards, Texas Monthly “Taco Editor” José R. Ralat is up for his second James Beard Foundation Award in the Columns and Newsletters category (he won the same category last year for his Tex-Mexplainer column). The submitted works were “Tetelas Are the Tasty Triangles You Need to Try Right Now”; “Birria Is the Greatest Threat to Taco Culture—and Its Savior” and “Trompo Tacos Are So Much More Than Tacos al Pastor”.
Also nominated for a Texas Monthly piece is B.E. Mintz for “Who is Allowed to Make Sotol?” an article about contention between Mexican and Texas sotol producers that also contemplates the historic and cultural implications.
The James Beard Foundation Media Awards will be held at Columbia College Chicago on Saturday, June 3, just two days before the Restaurant & Chef Awards, in which there are three Houston nominees.
Phaedra Cook has written about Houston’s restaurant and bar scene since 2010. She was a regular contributor to My Table magazine (now closed) and was the lead restaurant critic for the Houston Press for two years, eventually being promoted to food editor. Cook founded Houston Food Finder in November 2016 and has been its editor and publisher ever since.