The 2022 James Beard Restaurant and Chef Awards semifinalists list is here and four of its candidates call Austin home.
One of five recognition programs awarding restaurateurs, leaders and media professionals, the James Beard Foundation Media Awards have been running since 1991. Austin already boasts four James Beard Award winners: Aaron Franklin of Franklin Barbecue, who won in 2015; Paul Qui of East Side King, who won in 2012; Tyson Cole of Uchi, who won in 2011; and Diana Kennedy, an Austin-based cookbook author, in 1986.
For the first time, the James Beard Foundation will award the Best Texas Chef, a category that was announced in 2020 but had to be postponed after the 2021 awards were canceled due to accusations of bias. Previously, Texan chefs were listed in the best chefs of the Southwest category.
Austin may have nabbed four nominations but fellow big Texas cities got away with even more—Houston claimed nine nominations, while Dallas and San Antonio each made out with seven nominations.
Emerging chef nominees:
- Edgar Rico, chef and co-owner of Mexican eatery Nixta Taqueria.
- Amanda Turner, chef de cuisine of Southern restaurant Olamaie, which had seen three finalist nominations in the past.
Best New Texas Chef nominees:
- Damien Brockway, pitmaster and barbecue truck Distant Relatives owner.
- Iliana de la Vega, executive chef and co-owner of Oaxacan restaurant El Naranjo. This will be her third semifinalist nomination.
Finalists will be announced on March 16 before commemorating the winners during a June 13 ceremony at the Lyric Opera of Chicago.
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Stephanie Ashworth lived in a neighborhood north of Tarrytown, near W. 35th St. and Balcones Drive the summer of 2013. One of her neighbors wanted to move to a different school district and decided to rent out their home on Airbnb upon leaving.
“We’re like—’ok’—we didn’t know any better,” Ashworth said. “And it was awful.”
Ashworth said guests played loud music, used the pool naked and would return from trips at the lake stumbling drunk out of party buses.
“It ruins your peace of mind where you should be able to have it. Where you should be able to feel safe, where the kids should be able to go out front,” Ashworth said. “And we shouldn't find used condoms, empty beer bottles, the trash, the parking, it's so disturbing.”
Ashworth is now head of the Austin chapter of the Texas Neighborhood Coalition, a statewide group that assists people looking to restrict and regulate short-term rentals in their residential neighborhoods. She talked to Austonia following Airbnb’s announcement this week that it will deploy new anti-party technology in the US and Canada.
The initiative aims to prevent potentially high-risk reservations by being a more robust version of the “under 25” system, which reviews guests under the age of 25 without positive reviews who are booking locally. A similar variation of this system has been piloted in Australia since October 2021 and has resulted in a 35% drop in incidents of unauthorized parties in pilot areas.
Airbnb is hoping for similar success in other regions but noted that there could still be some hiccups once the system is in effect.
“While we are optimistic that this technology will have a positive impact for the safety of our community and our goal to reduce unauthorized parties—we want to be clear that no system is perfect,” Airbnb wrote in a statement announcing the new tech. “We work hard to deter bad actors from using our platform, but ultimately Airbnb is an online platform that facilitates real world connections.”
For Ashworth, this system falls short of what she’d like to see from the company and she’d like for them to be clearer about what constitutes a party in the company’s eyes.
“So I have no doubt that this technology they're touting for the party houses is nonsense,” Ashworth said. “They are not a company that's run with integrity, they're not a good corporate citizen.”
But people will continue to flock to Airbnb as Austin continues to be a major tourist destination with festivals like Austin City Limits and South by Southwest drawing in thousands. Even on a regular weekend pandemic recovery has been in full swing with downtown entertainment districts seeing visits close to 2019 levels.
Ultimately, Ashworth sees room to accommodate tourists while ensuring neighborhoods remain homey for Austinites.
“My personal opinion is the home team comes first,” Ashworth said. “The whole city doesn't need to be turned over to the tourist industry and areas that are zoned residentially should remain for residents. I do understand that we are a tourist destination. But you can have a short-term rental pretty much anywhere in the city except in residential zones.”
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