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4 Austin semifinalists named in James Beard Awards

El Naranjo's executive chef Iliana de la Vega was named a semifinalist for best new Texas Chefs. (El Naranjo/Instagram)

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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