James Beard Foundation Recognizes Texas As Its Own Culinary Region - Houston Food Finder
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James Beard Foundation Recognizes Texas As Its Own Culinary Region

Chef Hugo Ortega at 2017 James Beard Awards


Chef Hugo Ortega on the big screen at the 2017 James Beard Foundation Awards as he accepts his Best Chef Southwest honor. This was the sixth time Ortega had made it to the finals. Photo by Phaedra Cook

Posted: September 17, 2019 at 10:46 am   /   by   /   comments (1)

Big news for a big state: the James Beard Foundation has finally recognized Texas as its own culinary region for their annual regional chef awards.

In previous years, Texas has been part of the Southwest Region, which since 2012 has included Arizona, Colorado, New Mexico, Oklahoma, Texas, and Utah. However, after examining national demographic, culinary and cultural trends, the Foundation has decided to expand the number of regions from 10 to 12. As a result, Texas will join California and New York State as three new statewide regions (previously New York City was its own region but it will now become part of new region that includes the entire state).

Chris Shepherd James Beard

Underbelly’s Chris Shepherd won the James Beard Best Chef Southwest award in 2014, breaking a 12-year drought for Houston in the category. Photo by Chuck Cook

This follows on the heels of Dallas being named Bon Appétit’s best restaurant city of 2019, joining Houston and Austin in receiving much deserved national recognition. It’s another sign that the state’s diverse and evolving restaurant scene, changing demographics and ever-growing population are beginning to receive the recognition we in the Lone Star state know they deserve.

This should also be good news for Houston, which was primarily shut out of this year’s James Beard awards  — despite having many semifinalists — and did not have a finalist for the 2018 Best Chef Southwest award. The Foundation’s new Texas-only focus should provide more opportunities for Houston chefs to shine in the national spotlight.

The Justins

Justin Yu after winning the 2016 James Beard Best Chef Southwest Award (right) with perpetual business partner and sommelier, Justin Vann (left).

Hopefully, in the coming years, we will be seeing more Houston chef’s joining previous Best Chef Southwest winners:

In the meantime, we are happy to see Texas’s food and diversity receive the national attention it deserves.


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  • September 18, 2019 at 7:05 am NorthLoop

    water is wet

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