Houston, we're going back to the beards!
Two Houston chefs need to start thinking about what to put in their carry-bags, as they'll be expected at the Lyric Opera of Chicago for the James Beard Awards ceremony on May 4. Hugo Ortega of Hugo's and Caracol and Justin Yu of Oxheart are both finalists for Best Chef: Southwest this year.
It's not a complete surprise, since this is Ortega's fourth and Yu's second trip to the finals. 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.
Other finalists in the category are Aaron Franklin of Franklin's Barbecue in Austin, Bryce Gilmore of Barley Swine in Austin, Kevin Binkley of Binkley's Restaurant in Cave Creek, Arizona, and Martin Rios of Restaurant Martin in Santa Fe, New Mexico.
Seth Siegel-Gardner and Terrence Gallivan were semifinalists for The Pass this year. Hugo's (and indirectly its beverage director, Sean Beck) also made it to the semifinals for the first time this year for its wine program. Anvil Bar & Refuge was nominated for the third time for Outstanding Bar Program. There were no Houston-area finalists for the Book, Broadcast & Journalism Awards.
Celebrity chef and television personality Alton Brown will host the ceremonies. Chef co-chairs of the awards gala are Grant Achatz, Rick Bayless and Paul Kahan of Chicago. Tickets will go on sale Wednesday, April 1, through the James Beard Foundation website.