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Two Austin Chefs Are James Beard Award Finalists

One in the Texas category and one in the emerging chef category

A woman in a plaid shirt and a yellow apron.
El Naranjo’s Iliana de la Vega, who is a James Beard Award finalist.
Jasmin Porter/El Naranjo/Facebook
Erin Russell is associate editor of Eater Austin, a native Austinite, and a big fan of carbs.

The finalists for the 2022 James Beard Awards was announced today, and two Austin chefs made the shortlist in their categories. The finalists were announced via Twitter and the winners will be announced on June 13 during a ceremony in Chicago.

In the category of Best Chef: Texas, Iliana de la Vega, the chef and co-owner of Oaxacan and Mexican restaurant El Naranjo was a finalist. This is her second finalist nomination. Tiffany Derry, the Top Chef alum from Dallas behind Roots Southern Table, is also a finalist, as well as Steve McHugh behind San Antonio’s Cured.

In the category of Emerging Chef, Edgar Rico of Nixta Taqueria is a finalist. This is his first-ever nomination.

Not progressing on to the finalist list were Amanda Turner, the chef de cuisine of Southern restaurant Olamaie (who had been nominated in the Emerging Chef category) and Damien Brockway, the pitmaster and owner of barbecue truck Distant Relatives, who was nominated in the Best Chef, Texas category.

This is the first year for the Texas category of the best chef award, as Texas was included in the Southwest category in previous years. The last year the awards were actually given, in 2019, Texans made up four of the five finalists, but lost to Charleen Badman of Arizona. The 2020 awards were delayed to 2021 before ultimately being canceled following accusations of a lack of diversity and promoting controversial chefs. To combat this, the James Beard Foundation implemented policy changes and an independent ethics committee to evaluate nominees.

Past James Beard winners in Austin include Aaron Franklin (2015), Paul Qui (2012), and Tyson Cole (with a tie in 2011).

A short woman in a colorful patterned shirt next to a taller man with a beard and a light green shirt with a person on a cow pictured on it in front of a colorful wall.
Nixta Taqueria’s Sara Mardanbigi and James Beard Award finalist Edgar Rico
Nicolai McCrary/Eater Austin

Correction: 5:24 p.m., March 16, 2022: A previous version of this piece mislabeled chef Tiffany Derry’s restaurant Roots Southern Kitchen.

Disclosure: Some Vox Media staff members are part of the voting body for the James Beard Foundation Awards.

Nixta Taqueria

2512 East 12th Street, , TX 78702 (512) 551-3855 Visit Website

El Naranjo [South Lamar]

2717 South Lamar Boulevard, Austin, Texas 78704