Austin chefs Edgar Rico of Nixta Taqueria, and Iliana de la Vega of Oaxacan restaurant El Naranjo won medals at the James Beard Awards 2022, often called the Oscars of the food world. The ceremony for the restaurant and chef awards was held tonight.
Rico won in the Emerging Chef category, his first nomination. His fellow nominees included Angel Barreto of Anju in Washington, D.C.; Calvin Eng of Bonnie’s in New York City; Cleophus Hethington of Benne on Eagle in Asheville, NC; Serigne Mbaye of Dakar Nola in New Orleans and Crystal Wahpepah of Wahpepah’s Kitchen in Oakland, CA.
Rico opened Nixta Taqueria in Chestnut with his partner Sara Mardanbigi in October 2019. It has racked up the accolades since, including the Eater Austin award for best restaurant of the past two years, and garnered fans of its duck carnitas taco and beet tartare tostada.
“This is huge for la raza, this is huge for my people. For all the taqueros, anything is possible.”—Edgar Rico of Nixta Taqueria, 2022 #jbfa Emerging Chef winner, sponsored by @SanPellegrino. pic.twitter.com/9K831GqM0T— James Beard Foundation (@beardfoundation) June 13, 2022
De la Vega won in the first-ever Best Chef, Texas category (Texas was previously folded into the Southwest category). This was her second nomination, edging out Tiffany Derry of Roots Southern Table (who also has Roots Chicken Shak in Austin); Christine Ha and Tony J. Nguyen of Xin Chào in Houston; Quy Hoang of Blood Bros. BBQ in Bellaire; and Steven McHugh of Cured in San Antonio (who lost out on his fifth nomination). De la Vega opened El Naranjo on Rainey Street in 2012, but relocated to South Lamar in 2019, and is known for her expertise in moles.
For Best Chef, Texas: Iliana de la Vega, @elnaranjoaustin in Austin #jbfa— James Beard Foundation (@beardfoundation) June 14, 2022
Earlier this weekend, Jesse Griffiths of Austin restaurant Dai Due won the single subject award for his book The Hog Book: A Chef’s Guide to Hunting, Butchering and Cooking Wild Pigs. The book covers the importance of eating wild hogs, an invasive species in Texas. Griffiths self-published the book in August 2021 and it’s available for purchase online.
Austin semifinalists this year included Amanda Turner, the chef de cuisine of Southern restaurant Olamaie, for the Emerging Chef category; and Damien Brockway, the pitmaster and owner of barbecue truck Distant Relatives, for the Best Chef, Texas category.
Previous Austin James Beard Award winners are Aaron Franklin in 2015, Paul Qui in 2012, and Tyson Cole in 2011, which was a tie with Saipin Chutima of Lotus of Siam in Las Vegas.
Disclosure: Some Vox Media staff members are part of the voting body for the James Beard Foundation Awards.