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James Beard Award semifinalists for Texas' best chef are out; Austin also gets US nods

Matthew Odam
Austin 360

After the coronavirus pandemic and some internal soul searching derailed the James Beard Foundation's annual awards for the past two years, the nonprofit organization returns in 2022 to honor some of the country’s most remarkable culinary talent. 

The foundation announced its James Beard Awards semifinalists Wednesday. This is the first year that Texas will have its own winner for best chef. The Lone Star State was granted its own category in 2019, and semifinalists for the category were named in 2020. But the new award was not handed out in 2020 or 2021, so this is the first year that a Texan will be crowned culinary king or queen of the state.

Amanda Turner, who was named Olamaie chef de cuisine in 2021, has earned national recognition from the James Beard Foundation.

Austin only nabbed two of the 20 semifinalist nods, with former fine dining chef and current trailer smokehouse chef Damien Brockway of Distant Relatives earning his first nomination and Iliana de la Vega of Oaxaca-inspired El Naranjo scoring her third semifinalist honor.

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Chef Damien Brockway operates Distant Relatives at Meanwhile Brewing in Southeast Austin.

There was not much Austin representation in the national awards, though Edgar Rico of Nixta Taqueria and new Olamaie chef de cuisine Amanda Turner were both named as semifinalists in the newly branded emerging chef category, along with 18 other chefs across the country. 

Iliana de la Vega's El Naranjo on South Lamar Boulevard is inspired by the cuisine of Oaxaca.

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Chef Edgar Rico, left, who opened Nixta Taqueria in East Austin in 2019 with Sara Mardanbigi, was named to the semifinalist list in the James Beard Foundation's emerging chef category.

Winners will be celebrated at the James Beard Restaurant and Chef Awards ceremony on June 13 at the Lyric Opera of Chicago.