After a year-long hiatus, a policies and procedures audit, and an ongoing pandemic, the James Beard Foundation announced the semifinalists for the 2022 James Beard Awards. The organization’s awards are considered the highest honors for restaurants and individuals in the food and hospitality industry. 

This year, the awards appear dedicated to acknowledging diversity in the Texas dining scene. For many years, only a few minority-owned businesses and chefs of color were selected for the long list, but they didn’t make it to the final round. Things seems to be changing—this year’s list hews closer to racial and ethnic equity.

Across national categories, such as Best New Restaurant and Best Pastry Chef, eighteen Texans and Texas establishments were named, among them Emiliano Marentes of Elemi in El Paso (Outstanding Chef), Sofia Tejeda of Mixtli in San Antonio (Outstanding Pastry Chef), and Chris Williams of Lucille’s Hospitality in Houston (Outstanding Restaurateur). Long-listed businesses include mezcaleria Las Almas Rotas in Dallas (Outstanding Bar Program) and Roots Southern Table in Farmers Branch (Best New Restaurant). 

The twenty Best Chef: Texas semifinalists—in 2019, the awards gave Texas its own category—include pitmasters, taqueros, bakers, and chefs, such as Damien Brockway of Distant Relatives in Austin, Iliana de la Vega of El Naranjo in Austin, Christine Ha and Tony J. Nguyen of Xin Chào in Houston, Finn Walter of The Nicolett in Lubbock, and Steven McHugh of Cured in San Antonio.

Below is the list of Texas chefs and establishments named as semifinalists. The full list can be found at the James Beard Foundation website. The awards ceremony will take place in Chicago on June 13.

Outstanding Restaurateur  

Larry and Jessica Delgado, Delgado Collective, McAllen
Chris Williams, Lucille’s Hospitality Group, Houston

Outstanding Chef  

Emiliano Marentes, Elemi, El Paso

Outstanding Restaurant  

Mixtli, San Antonio

Emerging Chef 

Edgar Rico, Nixta Taqueria, Austin
Amanda Turner, Olamaie, Austin 

Best New Restaurant 

Pier 6 Seafood & Oyster House, San Leon
Roots Southern Table, Farmers Branch

Outstanding Pastry Chef 

Ruben Ortega, Xochi, Houston
Sofia Tejeda, Mixtli, San Antonio

Outstanding Baker 

David Cáceres, La Panadería, San Antonio
Maricsa Trejo, La Casita Bakeshop, Richardson

Outstanding Hospitality

Hugo’s, Houston
José, Dallas 

Outstanding Wine Program 

High Street Wine Co., San Antonio
Sachet, Dallas 

Outstanding Bar Program

Julep, Houston
Las Almas Rotas, Dallas 

Best Chef: Texas 

Alex Au-Yeung, Phat Eatery, Katy
Damien Brockway, Distant Relatives, Austin
Aaron Bludorn, Bludorn, Houston
Sylvia Casares, Sylvia’s Enchilada Kitchen, Houston
Tiffany Derry, Roots Southern Table, Farmers Branch
Christine Ha and Tony J. Nguyen, Xin Chào, Houston
Quy Hoang, Blood Bros. BBQ, Bellaire
Kaiser Lashkari, Himalaya Restaurant, Houston
Matt McCallister, Homewood, Dallas
Steven McHugh, Cured, San Antonio
Misti Norris, Petra and the Beast, Dallas
Anastacia Quiñones-Pittman, José, Dallas
Esaul Ramos Jr., 2M Smokehouse, San Antonio
Felipe Riccio, March, Houston
Regino Rojas, Revolver Taco Lounge, Dallas
John Russ, Clementine, San Antonio
Ernest Servantes and David Kirkland, Burnt Bean Co., Seguin
Iliana de la Vega, El Naranjo, Austin
Finn Walter, The Nicolett, Lubbock
Koji Yoshida, Ebesu Robata & Sushi, Plano