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Tue. Jun 18th, 2024

Austin chefs are returning home empty-handed from the James Beard Awards in Chicago

By meerna Jun11,2024

Birdie's chef owner Tracy Malechek-Ezekiel (pictured with husband and co-owner Arjav Ezekiel) was a James Beard Awards finalist for Outstanding Chef: Texas.

The odds weren’t in favor of Central Texas chefs on Monday night at the James Beard Foundation Awards in Chicago. Only one Austin chef, Tracy Malechek-Ezekiel of Birdie’s, and the team of women who own Barbs BQ in Lockhart, made it to the ceremony as finalists.

Everyone returned home empty-handed. Ana Liz Pulido won the title of Best Chef in Texas for her work at her eponymous taqueria, Ana Liz Taqueria, in the Rio Grade Valley town of Mission. Texas Monthly published its 2022 chef profile, documenting how Pulido began her career as a Valley teenager operating an Elotes cart.

This was the third consecutive year that a chef of color won the Beard Award for Best Chef in Texas, which has only been awarded three times. The 2022 winner was Iliana de la Vega of Austin’s El Naranjo, and last year’s winner was Benchawan Jabthong Painter of Street to Kitchen Thai restaurant in Houston. Prior to 2021, Texas chefs competed in the Best Chef: Southwest category. No awards were presented in 2020 and 2021.

Restaurant review:Lockhart reclaims the crown for Barbecue Capital of Texas – 3 crowns to be exact

Barbs BQ, owned and operated by (from left) Chuck Charnichart, Haley Conlin and Alexis Tovías Morales, was a finalist in the Best New Restaurant category.

Barbs faced competition from across the country in the Best New Restaurant category, which included nine other restaurants. The award was received by Senegalese chef Serigne Mbaye Dakar NOLA. Mbaye recently attended Aaron Franklin’s Hot Luck festival and created one of the festival’s memorable bites, as did Valerie Chang of Maty’s in Miami. Chang was also a winner on Monday night, taking home the title of Best Chef: South.

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By meerna

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