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Houston Has Another Big Batch of James Beard Semifinalists

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Last year, chef Chris Shepherd of Underbelly brought home the first James Beard: Best Chef Southwest award for the first time since Robert del Grande did it in 1992.

Is it possible that a Houston chef will win two years in a row? Who knows, but we have an excellent shot at it. The semifinalists were announced today, and there are four chefs for three restaurants on it, as well as a bar and a wine program. Things will become clearer when the finalists are announced, but here are the chefs who have made it to the semifinals:

• Terrence Gallivan and Seth Siegel-Gardner, The Pass • Hugo Ortega, Hugo's • Justin Yu, Oxheart

If Ortega and Yu make it to the finalists round for Best Chef: Southwest, it won't be the first time for either. Both were nominated last year and this is actually Ortega's fourth nod.

Yu has made it to the semifinals three times himself, once for Rising Star and last year for Best Chef: Southwest.

Interestingly, Gallivan and Siegel-Gardner seem to be nominated specifically for The Pass, the fine-dining side of The Pass & Provisions.

It's fair to say that you'd better make your reservations now for these restaurants, since they're likely to be busy for a while.

This marks the third time Anvil Bar & Refuge has made it to the semifinals. Is the third time a charm? It seems like a long overdue bit of recognition.

Additionally, Hugo's has been nominated for Outstanding Wine Program. It's indirectly the first nod for Hugo's longtime beverage director Sean Beck, who also oversees the wine programs at Backstreet Café and Caracol. Beck started out as a server at Backstreet and quickly rose through the ranks to the beverage director position.

Ortega had this to say: "I am proud to be a semifinalist alongside some of Houston's best chefs. I am especially happy that Sean's wine program at Hugo's also made the cut! Hoping we will all have the opportunity to meet up in Chicago."

The finalists, as well as finalists in the journalism and book awards categories, will be announced on March 24.

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