Three Austin chefs make finals for best southwest chef


AUSTIN (KXAN) — Texas is a notoriously proud state. One of the things Texans are most proud of, protective and passionate about, is their food. So it comes as no surprise that the coveted James Beard Awards placed four Texans in the finals for the category of best southwest chef.

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.

This year Texas made a strong showing in the James Beard semi-finals, with 28 restaurants and chefs making the list for a number of awards. Unfortunately, that number was cut down to only four making it through to the finals.

Four Texas chefs made their way into the finals for best southwest chef, and three of them are from Austin.

Kevin Fink of Emmer & Rye, Bryce Gilmore of Barley Swine and Michael Fojtasek of Olamaie all hail from Austin. While Steve McHugh of Cured comes from San Antonio. The final nominee is Charleen Badman of FnB in Arizona.

Despite Texas’ slump in the finals, the state’s standing as a gastronomy powerhouse is nothing to laugh at. The announcement for this year’s finalists was held in Houston at Hugo’s. Hugo Ortega, the restaurant’s executive chef, won the James Beard Award for best southwest chef back in 2017. Let’s hope another Texan can join him on the growing list of culinary greats!

The full list of the James Beard Award finalists can be found on the James Beard Foundation website here.

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