7 from Central Texas make list of semifinalists for the 2020 James Beard Awards


AUSTIN (KXAN) — Texans love their food. It’s a big part of what makes the Lone Star State so special. So it comes as no surprise that six local cuisine artisans have been named as semifinalists in the 2020 James Beard Awards.

The James Beard Foundation has been around for over 30 years promoting the importance of food culture in America. Through scholarships, industry programs and their awards, the foundation aims to create empowerment through food. The James Beard Awards are regarded as one of the highest honors one can achieve in the food industry.

Texas made a strong showing this year with 39 semifinalists coming from the Lone Star State. Houston led the pack among Texas cities with 14 nominations.

Central Texas also made its presence known with seven nominations:

Outstanding Baker

David Norman, the head baker for the well known downtown Austin spot, Easy Tiger Bake Shop & Beer Garden, is nominated for Outstanding Baker. Easy Tiger is known for its bread which is sold in numerous places around Austin.

Outstanding Restaurateur

Larry McGuire of McGuire Moorman Hospitality, the mind behind several popular Austin eateries such as Jeffrey’s, Pool Burger, Perla’s, and Elizabeth Street Café has been nominated for Outstanding Restaurateur.

Outstanding Wine, Spirits, or Beer Producer

Austin loves its craft beer, and the duo of Jeffrey and Michael Stuffings, the one behind the increasingly popular Jester King Brewery, have been nominated for Outstanding Wine, Spirits, or Beer Producer.

Best Chef: Texas

Texas cities are always competing over who has the best food. This year four Central Texas chefs are up for the state’s top award. Two nominees are returning finalists from the 2019 James Beard Awards, Kevin Fink from Emmer and Rye and Michael Fojtasek from the southern food restaurant Olamaie.

Another nominee is Norma Frances “Tootsie” Tomanetz, the 84 year-old pitmaster from Snow BBQ in Lexington, considered by many to be the best barbecue joint in Texas. She was previously nominated as a semifinalist for best Texas chef in the 2018 James Beard Awards.

The last nominee Iliana De La Vega from El Naranjo was a James Beard Semifinalist in 2018. Additionally she was named Hispanic Female Entrepreneur of the Year by the Greater Austin Hispanic Chamber of Commerce in 2014.

The finalists will be announced in Philadelphia on March 25. The full list of semifinalists can be found on the James Beard website here.

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