Not a single Austin chef won a James Beard Award this year, despite the fact that three local chefs were nominated for a medal in the Southwest category last evening at the ceremony in Chicago. Repping the Texas city in the prestigious food world awards were Barley Swine’s Bryce Gilmore, Olamaie’s Michael Fojtasek, and Emmer & Rye’s Kevin Fink.
Winning the Southwest category was chef Charleen Badman of Scottsdale, Arizona restaurant FnB. She had been nominated as a semifinalist since 2014, but this year was the first time she made the finalist round.
Also included in the same category was San Antonio chef Steve McHugh of Cured with his fourth nomination.
The last time an Austin chef won the award was pitmaster Aaron Franklin of Franklin Barbecue in 2015. The last time a Texas chef won the category award was in 2017 with Houston chef Hugo Ortega of Hugo’s.
Gilmore has been nominated for the award for the past seven years. He opened the original trailer version of Odd Duck in 2009 on South Lamar, focusing on seasonal local produce and meats. He followed that with finer dining spot Barley Swine nearby on the same street in 2010. Odd Duck’s trailer transitioned into a proper restaurant in 2013. Then Barley Swine relocated to Burnet Road for a much larger space in 2016. Then he and his team opened fast-casual all-day restaurant Sour Duck Market on Martin Luther King Jr., Boulevard in May 2018.
This was Fojtasek’s second nomination in the chef category. The restaurant itself was a semifinalist under the Best New Restaurant category in 2015. Fojtasek’s former founding co-chef Grae Nonas was also a semifinalist in the Rising Star category that year, and then a finalist in 2016.
Fojtasek opened the Southern restaurant in 2014 in downtown Austin. He’s following that with a new restaurant down in South Austin as part of the Saint Elmo Public Market: neighborhood diner and bakery Mignette, which will open sometime this fall.
First-time finalist Fink opened the New American restaurant in 2015 on Rainey Street. He followed that with fast-casual food hall stall Henbit in 2018 in the downtown area. Next up for him is live-fire-dedicated restaurant Hestia, also opening in downtown Austin sometime later this year.
Disclosure: Some Vox Media staff members are part of the voting body for the James Beard Foundation Awards.