It was a tough year for Dallasites on the list of James Beard Award semifinalists. The Grammys of food names restaurants, restaurateurs and chefs for new and continued excellence every year, and this year, some Texas restaurants got nods -- and just one Dallas chef.
It always stings a little bit for anyone who lives and loves food in this city.
That one Dallas chef was Regino Rojas, who was nominated for Best Chef: Southwest alongside 11 other Texas chefs, each from the Austin, Houston or San Antonio areas.
[Update on March 14, 2018: Revolver Taco's Regino Rojas was not included in the most recent list of whittled-down chefs up for a James Beard Award.]
Rojas' award is well earned. He owns Revolver Taco Lounge, the Deep Ellum shop that serves tacos in the front and a special, somewhat secret Mexican feast in the back (with recipes from Rojas' mother, Juanita Rojas). Our former restaurant critic called Revolver's food "some of the best tacos in town, largely thanks to those perfect, tender tortillas."
Notably, among those 12 Texas chefs nominated for Best Chef: Southwest, one is the darling Norma Frances "Tootsie" Tomanetz, one of Texas' best pitmasters, who works at Snow's BBQ in a city outside of Austin called Lexington.
[Update on March 14, 2018: Norma Frances "Tootsie" Tomanetz was also not included in the most recent list of whittled-down chefs up for a James Beard Award.]
That a pitmaster was even considered for his award is an incredible honor, given that Aaron Franklin of Franklin Barbecue in Austin was the first barbecue guy to ever win a "best chef" James Beard Award, in 2015. Even rarer, this year's semifinalist pitmaster is a woman.
(When Texas Monthly Barbecue Editor Daniel Vaughn told Ms. Tootsie the news, she reportedly said, "Well that's great," pretty matter-of-factly.)
Of the James Beard semifinalists for the coveted Best New Restaurant category, two come from Texas: Kemuri Tatsu-ya in Austin and Xochi in Houston. Xochi is the work of chef Hugo Ortega, of Hugo's, a Houston restaurant nominated for Outstanding Service.
Texas saw zero entries in Outstanding Baker, Outstanding Chef or Outstanding Restaurant. Yeesh.
Here's the list of restaurateurs nominated for Best Chef: Southwest, a.k.a., the nearby places you'll want to visit:
- Charleen Badman, FnB, Scottsdale, AZ
- Kevin Binkley, Binkley's Restaurant, Phoenix
- Jen Castle and Blake Spalding, Hell's Backbone Grill, Boulder, UT
- Ross Coleman and James Haywood, Kitchen 713, Houston
- Silvana Salcido Esparza, Barrio Café Gran Reserva, Phoenix
- Kevin Fink, Emmer & Rye, Austin
- Michael Fojtasek, Olamaie, Austin
- Diego Galicia and Rico Torres, Mixtli, San Antonio
- Bryce Gilmore, Barley Swine, Austin
- Caroline Glover, Annette, Aurora, CO
- Anita Jaisinghani, Pondicheri, Houston
- Ronnie Killen, Killen's Steakhouse, Pearland, TX
- Steve McHugh, Cured, San Antonio
- Trong Nguyen, Crawfish & Noodles, Houston
- Ryan Pera, Coltivare, Houston
- Martín Rios, Restaurant Martín, Santa Fe
- Dana Rodriguez, Work & Class, Denver
- Regino Rojas, Revolver Taco Lounge, Dallas
- Alex Seidel, Mercantile Dining & Provision, Denver
- Norma Frances "Tootsie" Tomanetz, Snow's BBQ, Lexington, TX