The 2019 James Beard Finalists Are Being Announced in Houston After an All-Star Dinner Event

chef hugo james beard

If anyone had any doubts about Houston’s rise as a culinary capital, a surprise announcement this morning from the James Beard Foundation should put those to rest. On Wednesday, March 27 at 9 a.m., the 2019 James Beard Award nominees are being announced at a press conference and breakfast at Hugo’s, located at 1600 Westheimer. Houston mayor Sylvester Turner and Clare Reichenback, CEO of the James Beard Foundation, are hosting the press conference and the event is being live-streamed. The finalists are selected annually from a list of semifinalists, and those are being announced on Wednesday, February 27.

“We’re thrilled to showcase the city of Houston and bring our 2019 James Beard Awards nominees announcement to this diverse and vibrant culinary and dining scene,” said Reichenbach via press release. “The city of Houston’s dedication to cultivating and embracing its local restaurants and culinary talent make it the perfect community for such an occasion.”

Tracy Vaught and Hugo Ortega
Married team Tracy Vaught and Hugo Ortega (pictured here at the 2015 James Beard Foundation Awards) have more to nominations to be proud of. Photo by Chuck Cook Photography

Don’t look for Houston to host the chef and restaurant awards anytime soon, though. In 2015, the gala moved out of New York to Chicago. While the move was initially intended to last for three years, at the end of 2018 the James Beard Foundation decided to commit to continuing the awards in Chicago through 2027. As is tradition, the James Beard Media Awards continue to be hosted in New York. This year, that event is on Friday, April 26 at Pier Sixty at Chelsea Piers.

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

On the night preceding the awards announcement, a dinner benefiting the James Beard Foundation is taking place on Tuesday, March 26 at Caracol. It is a night featuring not only all of Houston’s James Beard Award-winning chefs — Robert Del Grande of Café Annie, Hugo Ortega of H Town Restaurant Group, Chris Shepherd of Underbelly Hospitality and Justin Yu of Theodore Rex (formerly Oxheart) — but past semifinalists as well. Those are Terrence Gallivan & Seth Siegel-Gardner of The Pass & Provisions, Bobby Heugel of Anvil Bar & Refuge (and other Houston bars), and Anita Jaisinghani of Pondicheri. The dinner features dishes from each chef paired with wine and specialty cocktails. H Town restaurant group also owns Caracol and owner Tracy Vaught is also a previous James Beard Award semifinalist.

The Justins
Justin Yu after winning the 2016 James Beard Best Chef Southwest Award (right) with perpetual business partner and sommelier, Justin Vann (left). Photo by Chuck Cook Photography.

Tickets are available online and are understandably fairly pricey for what is likely a once-in-a-lifetime event featuring these collaborators. The cost after tax and included 20-percent gratuity is $256.50.

“The City of Houston is honored to host the James Beard Foundation as it announces the 2019 James Beard Award nominees,” said Turner via press release. “The Foundation has come to the ideal place. With one in every four Houstonians being foreign-born, Houston takes pride in the rich culinary scene that comes with being one of most diverse cities in the nation.”

As has been the case since the awards moved to Chicago, the James Beard Awards Gala takes place on Monday, May 6 at the Lyric Opera of Chicago. A gala reception immediately follows. Tickets are available online and the cost is $500 for general admission.

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