Jan 26, 2023 - Food and Drink

San Antonio chefs react to James Beard recognition

James Beard awards displayed on a black surface.

Several local names are semifinalists for the 2023 James Beard Awards. Photo: Courtesy of James Vitullo/James Beard Foundation

San Antonio names account for six spots in the semifinalist list for the prestigious James Beard awards, considered the Oscars of the restaurant industry.

Why it matters: The city's growing food scene is competing with larger cities on a national scale and gaining recognition for diverse cuisines.

Driving the news: San Antonio is represented in four James Beard categories, which was released yesterday.

  • Emerging Chef: Jennifer Hwa Dobbertin, Best Quality Daughter
  • Outstanding Pastry Chef or Baker: Anne Ng, Bakery Lorraine
  • Outstanding Bar: Weathered Souls Brewing Co.

Three San Antonio chefs or groups were also nominated for Best Chef in Texas:

  • Nicola Blaque, The Jerk Shack
  • Andrew Ho, Andrew Samia, and Sean Wen, Curry Boys BBQ
  • John Russ, Clementine

Zoom out: Forty-one Texas restaurants and chefs are semifinalists for the 2023 awards.

  • In 2019, the James Beard Foundation established Texas as a separate region.
  • The decision was supported by demographers who analyzed the growth of the state and hospitality industry data.

Blaque and Wen say the range in nominated cuisines — which includes Jamaican and South Asian-Texas barbecue — shows how much the local industry has grown.

  • "We're just as strong as any other city. We're hard workers and our city's been underrated, but we're coming up and we're coming for them," Blaque says.
  • "It truly is a burgeoning food scene for all kinds of cuisines and seeing that makes me feel confident about the city and makes me excited about what we have to offer in the next five or 10 years," Wen says.

What's next: Nominees will be announced on March 29, and winners will be celebrated at the James Beard Restaurant and Chef Awards Ceremony on June 5 in Chicago.

  • Local chefs Bruce Auden, Steve McHugh and Andrew Weissman were nominees in the past but a San Antonio chef or restaurant has never won a James Beard award.

What they're saying: Blaque, Wen and John Russ say the news was unexpected but are honored to be included with fellow San Antonio chefs.

  • "I'm shaking because I've sacrificed a lot and I'm not from this country. I was born in Jamaica. I would have never thought I would be on the list," Blaque said.
  • "It was never a goal of ours. The only goal for us was just to like, really care about the food and the community," Wen said.
  • "I attribute this honor to my wife and staff who make this possible; our culture and hard work are only one part of the recipe, our incredible guests are the other," Russ said.

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