Fort Worth's restaurant scene received a couple of nice surprises via the James Beard Awards, which just released its list of semifinalists for 2020. Considered to be the Oscars of the food world, the awards are presented annually to chefs, bartenders, restaurateurs, authors, and more.
Two Fort Worth chefs earned nods, one of them an exciting newbie.
- Bria Downey, chef at Clay Pigeon Food & Drink, was nominated for Rising Star Chef of the Year — a national award.
- Molly McCook, chef-owner of Ellerbe Fine Foods, was nominated for Best Chef in Texas.
Two other DFW-area chefs were nominated for the first time, both for national awards:
- Clyde Greenhouse, of Kessler Baking Studio, was nominated for Outstanding Baker
- Salaryman, a small ramen restaurant in Dallas' Oak Cliff, was nominated for Best New Restaurant
Other Dallas-area nominees include Maggie Huff (Homewood in Dallas) and Ricardo "Ricchi" Sanchez (Bullion in Dallas), both semifinalists in the category of Best Pastry Chef.
And four Dallas chefs were nominated for the regional contest of Best Chef in Texas: Misti Norris (Petra and the Beast), Regino Rojas (Revolver Taco Lounge), Teiichi Sakurai (Tei-An), and Donny Sirisavath (Khao Noodle Shop).
Overall, Texas bars and restaurants earned nominations in a number of national categories, including Larry McGuire of Austin's McGuire Moorman Hospitality for Outstanding Restaurateur, and Kim McPherson (McPherson Cellars in Lubbock) for Outstanding Wine, Beer or Spirits Producer.
The state already has one Beard Award winner. Last week, the Foundation recognized Vera’s Backyard Bar-B-Que in Brownsville as one of six “America’s Classics.” The category recognizes establishments, typically family-owned, that are “cherished for their quality food, local character, and lasting appeal.” Previous Texas winners include Louie Mueller Barbecue (Taylor), The Original Sonny Bryan’s (Dallas), and Irma’s (Houston).
This year will be the first time under the James Beard Foundation’s new rules that increased its chef awards from 10 regions to 12. Those changes included making Texas its own region for the best chef awards; previously, the Lone Star State had been lumped into the Southwest with Arizona, Colorado, New Mexico, Oklahoma, and Utah.
These changes ensure that at least one Texas chef will win a James Beard Award every year going forward. Last year, no one from Texas won an award. Since 2010, six Texas chefs won the Southwest category, split evenly between Houston and Austin.
Semifinalists are selected by the Foundation’s restaurant and chef awards committee made up of food writers from across the country, including Los Angeles Times critic Bill Addison, Bloomberg food editor Kate Krader, and Houston Chronicle restaurant critic Allison Cook. The finalists for each category will be announced in Philadelphia on March 25.
The Foundation will announce its media award winners in New York on April 24. The chef and restaurant awards will be presented in Chicago on May 4.