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Local James Beard winner is staying busy a month after award

(El Naranjo/Austin)

Now a month out from her James Beard Foundation win, chef Iliana De La Vega is back on her usual grind as she works to keep up with increased demand.


De La Vega of El Naranjo, 2717 S. Lamar Blvd., represented Austin when she won the title of Best Chef Texas alongside chef Edgar Rico of Nixta Taqueria, 2512 E. 12th St., who took home Best Emerging Chef in June.

“People are very excited when they come to the restaurant because a lot of people have been reading about it,” De La Vega told Austonia. “Everybody's very excited about it—we're crazy, crazy busy.”

Other than busier days, increased reservations and more mouths to feed, De La Vega said it’s been business as usual as she and her husband, Ernesto Torrealba, carry on the business they’ve been running since they opened in Oaxaca, Mexico, in 1997.

The pair moved to the U.S. after the economy collapsed, moving from New Mexico to San Antonio to Austin, where they restarted their brick-and-mortar restaurant in 2012.

“We keep doing what we have been doing for so many years, just trying to keep up with demand,” De La Vega said.

If you come in to visit, De La Vega recommends starting with the ceviche of the week, an order of guacamole and an order of either Chuletas De Cordero or Mole Negro de Oaxaca.

“Even for the first timers or the people that have been coming to us before, they just keep on supporting us,” De La Vega said. “We're very grateful to the city and the customers.”

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