This year, there were more concurrent semifinalists for the annual James Beard Foundation Awards from Houston than ever before, but this year looks a whole lot like last year. Chefs Hugo Ortega of Hugo's and Caracol and Justin Yu of Oxheart are once again finalists. This is the fifth year in a row that Ortega has been a finalist and the third for Yu.
Interestingly, in previous years, Ortega was named for Hugo's, but this year, he was specifically named for his newer coastal Mexican seafood concept, Caracol.
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Shut out this year were fellow Best Chef Southwest semifinalists Manabu Horiuchi of Kata Robata as well as Seth Siegel-Garder and Terrence Gallivan of The Pass & Provisions. Hopefully, their names will continue going into the hat in the future.
The same sentiment applies to all the other Houston semifinalists, including Helen Greek Food & Wine for Best New Restaurant; five-time Outstanding Bar semifinalist Anvil Bar & Refuge and the three Outstanding Restaurateur semifinalists who have Houston restaurants — Tracy Vaught (Backstreet Cafe, Hugo's and Caracol), Sam Fox (True Food Kitchen and North Italia) and Ford Fry (State of Grace).
The James Beard Awards will be held on Monday, May 2 at the Lyric Opera House of Chicago. Chef Carla Hall of ABC's The Chew will host.