Houston Completely Shut Out of 2019 James Beard Award Finals

David Mincberg, chair of Houston First welcomed a crowd of media and Houston-based James Beard Award semifinalists who awaited their fate at a press conference. The locale was Hugo’s, a nominee in the Outstanding Service category. Its owner, Tracy Vaught, was also in the running for Outstanding Restaurateur. (Vaught also runs Xochi, Caracol and Backstreet Café in Houston, alongside husband and 2016 James Beard Best Chef Southwest, Hugo Ortega.)

Would they and their fellow semifinalists be moved on to the finals? Would buying plane tickets for Chicago be in the next logical step?

The answer is a big, fat “no.” 

James Beard award announcements in Houston
The 2018 James Beard Award finalist announcements in Houston. Photo by Phaedra Cook.

There were 11 Houston-area semifinalists and this year’s shut-out was even worse than last year’s finalist results. In 2018, out of 14, only one, Anvil Bar & Refuge, made it to the finals in the Outstanding Bar category.

Included in the shut-out were three promising semifinalists for Best Chef Southwest. They were Ronnie Killen of Killen’s Steakhouse, Kaiser Lashkari of Himalaya Restaurant and Trong Nguyen of Crawfish & Noodles.

The chef, restaurant and bar category winners are being announced at the 2019 James Beard Awards on Monday, May 6, 2019, at the Lyric Opera of Chicago. Tickets can be purchased online (not that there’s much reason for Houstonians to attend this year). As is traditional, the James Beard Media Awards are a few days earlier, specifically on April 26 in New York City at Pier 60.

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