Austin chefs represent three of the 20 semifinalists nominees for the James Beard award for best chef in Texas and one local restaurant is in elite national company, the Beard Foundation announced Wednesday.
Damien Brockway of barbecue trailer Distant Relatives, which focuses on African-American foodways, earned his second consecutive semifinalist nomination. The former fine dining chef (Counter 357, Qui) operates his trailer from Meanwhile Brewing, and he was joined by fellow brewery trailer operator Kareem El-Ghayesh of KG BBQ, who serves Egyptian-inspired barbecue from his trailer at Oddwood Brewing.
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Completing the trio is celebrated chef Tavel Bristol-Joseph, a co-founder of the Emmer & Rye Hospitality Group and 2020 Food & Wine best new chef, whose Caribbean restaurant Canje has earned local (Top 10 in the 2022 Austin360 Dining Guide) and national (best new restaurant nods from multiple publications) honors since opening in 2021.
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El Naranjo chef-owner Iliana de la Vega won the inaugural Beard award for best chef in Texas in 2022. The Lone Star State was granted its own category in 2019, and semifinalists for the category were named in 2020. But the new award was not handed out in 2020 or 2021 because of the coronavirus pandemic and some shuffling of priorities at the Beard Foundation.
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No Austin restaurant has ever earned the distinction of outstanding restaurant in the country from the Beard Foundation, but one will have a chance this year. La Condesa, the downtown restaurant opened by Delfo Trombetta, Jesse Herman and chef Rene Ortiz in 2009, was named one of the country’s 20 semifinalists, along with Italian restaurant Lucia in Dallas. Executive chef Rick Ortiz helms the beautiful interior Mexican restaurant operated by New Waterloo, which also operates Sway and South Congress Hotel, among others.
Modern Mexican restaurant Suerte, which celebrates agave spirits, was named one of the 20 semifinalists in the outstanding wine and other beverages program, and chef Mariela Camacho, of the pop-up Comadre Panadería, is one of nine semifinalists in the outstanding pastry chef or baker category.
Finalists will be announced on March 29, and winners will be named at the James Beard Restaurant and Chef Awards Ceremony on June 5 at the Lyric Opera of Chicago.
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