The James Beard award for Best Chef Southwest has quite a bit of Austin flavor this year. The prestigious culinary institution announced its semifinalists today and Austin took home four nominations, with chefs Michael Fojtasek (Olamaie), Kevin Fink (Emmer & Rye) and Bryce Gilmore (Barley Swine) all earning nods for Best Chef Southwest and Laura Sawicki (Launderette) earning a semifinalist nod for Best Pastry Chef in America, her third consecutive nomination and fifth total. Kemuri Tatsu-Ya, the izakaya-smokehouse from Takuya Matsumoto and Tatsu Aikawa was named a semifinalist for the honor of best new restaurant in America. In addition to the kitchen awards, Jester King Brewery’s Jeffrey Stuffing’s earned a semifinal nod for best wine, beer or spirits or professional.
Gilmore was Austin’s only semifinalist last year, and the chef went on to earn his fifth consecutive finalist nod, but the city has done well in recent years. Aaron Franklin won the award in 2015, and former Austin winners include Paul Qui (2012) and Tyson Cole of Uchi (2011), Austin’s first-ever winner.
The other Texas chefs earning semifinalist nods for best chef southwest are Ross Coleman and James Haywood (Kitchen 713, Houston), Diego Galicia and Rico Torres (Mixtli, San Antonio), Anita Jaisinghani (Pondicheri, Houston), Ronnie Killen (Killen’s Steakhouse, Pearland), Steve McHugh (Cured, San Antonio), Trong Nguyen (Crawfish & Noodles, Houston), Ryan Pera (Coltivare, Houston), Regino Rojas (Revolver Taco Lounge, Dallas) and Norma Frances “Tootsie” Tomanetz (Snow’s BBQ, Lexington). For the complete list of all nominees, go to jamesbeard.org.
The finalists will be announced on March 14 and the awards will be handed out on May 7 in Chicago, with the ceremony streaming live online.