This morning, the James Beard Foundation announced the semifinalists for its annual James Beard Awards, which are basically the food industry's equivalent to the Grammys. Dallas didn't exactly show up strong this year, but we do have one semifinalist, and it's a nomination we 100 percent agree with: Regino Rojas of Revolver Taco Lounge, a semifinalist in the Best Chef: Southwest category.
Revolver has made big waves since opening its Deep Ellum taqueria and purepecha room, an intimate back room where Rojas serves beautiful modern Mexican dishes, last year. We named Revolver Best New Restaurant in the 2017 Best of Dallas Awards.
Although Dallas has far fewer nods this year than in years past, there are some fun Texas semifinalists, including Norma Frances “Tootsie” Tomanetz of Snow’s BBQ in Lexington for Best Chef: Southwest and Jeffrey Stuffings of Jester King Brewery in Austin, nominated in the Outstanding Wine, Beer or Spirits Professional category.
Dallas has seen semifinalists in multiple categories the last few years — and a lot of familiar names nominated multiple years — but wins are few and far between. Observer writer Alice Laussade won a James Beard for humor in food writing in 2013.
Last year, Dallas had several contenders: Flora Street Cafe, semifinalist for Best New Restaurant; FT33's Maggie Huff, semifinalist for Outstanding Pastry Chef; and several semifinalists for Best Chef: Southwest — Omar Flores, Casa Rubia (which closed in July 2017); Teiichi Sakurai, Tei-An; John Tesar, Knife; and David Uygur, Lucia.
In the Best Chef: Southwest category in 2016, Dallas had four chef nominations out of 20: Matt McCallister, FT33; Teiichi Sakurai, Tei-An; David Uygur, Lucia; and Omar Flores, Casa Rubia. In Outstanding Wine Program, one nod: Four Seasons Resort & Club Dallas at Las Colinas. And the one it seemed the entire city was pulling for: Misti Norris, semifinalist in the Rising Star of the Year category.
Rojas will be up against a good number of Texas chefs: Ross Coleman and James Haywood of Kitchen 713 in Houston, Kevin Fink of Emmer & Rye in Austin, Michael Fojtasek of Olamaie in Austin, Diego Galicia and Rico Torres of Mixtli in San Antonio, Bryce Gilmore of Barley Swine in Austin, Anita Jaisinghani of Pondicheri in Houston, Ronnie Killen of Killen’s Steakhouse in Pearland, Steve McHugh of Cured in San Antonio, Trong Nguyen of Crawfish & Noodles in Houston, Ryan Pera of Coltivare in Houston and Tomanetz from Snow's.
Dallas has significantly fewer nods than every other major Texas city, but Rojas' nomination — a step away from the old Dallas guard that's hogged the spotlight for so long — is something to be proud of.
"A great honor been nominated for a James [Beard] Award," Rojas posted on Facebook today. "This is a nomination for my culture for my people! Viva Michoacán!!"
Meanwhile, Dallas chef John Tesar, a frequent nominee who didn't make the cut this year, seemed less enthused.
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"Disappointing? The word is insulting and bordering on ridiculous," Tesar posted on Facebook today. "We are much more than BBQ and tacos and steak even, for that matter."
He Tweeted at the James Beard Foundation, too: