In is, we realize, mostly chefs and media types who care about the country's most prestigious culinary awards from the James Beard Foundation, and how many times a chef has been anointed best in their region has little to do with what ends up on the plates of Dallas diners. But the Awards do help provide the city's rising dining scene with a little national credibility.
In 2015, it looks as if the James Beard Foundation is stuck with the same perception of the city's dining scene that it had last year. Yesterday, the Foundation announced its full slate of nominees for this year's awards, and the representatives from Dallas look awfully familiar.
One new face, though, isn't exactly new to Dallas or the James Beard Awards. Nominated in the overall Best Chef category is Stephan Pyles of his eponymous restaurant, Stampede 66, and San Salvaje, which is also up for Best New Restaurant. In the past, Stephan Pyles has been nominated for various James Beard Awards six times, and took home the Best Chef honor in 1991. The last time he was nominated for an award was in 2012.
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Among the semifinalists for the Best Chef: Southwest Region award are some of the city's strongest talents. FT33's Matt McCallister, Casa Rubia's Omar Flores, Knife's John Tesar, and Lucia's David Uygur are all in the running, with some pretty stiff competition from the rest of the chefs in their region. All of this year's nominees from Dallas have not yet won a James Beard award, but it seems as if they've got the same chance of winning that they've had last year.
Outside of the chefs, James Tidwell at the Las Colinas Four Seasons Resort and Club Dallas in Irving is a semi-finalist in the Outstanding Wine, Beer and Spirits Professional category. Tidwell, one of only four Master Sommeliers in Texas, has worked with the Four Seasons in the beverage department since 2002, and has a hand in planning wine programs for Four Seasons resorts across the country.
If we had to place our bets on the Dallas nominee with the best chances of winning in this category, it's got to be Tesar. No chef in Dallas made bigger ripples than Tesar last year, and he's savvily marketed himself as one of the country's up-and-coming chefs, even at his ripe old age. Outside of the braggadocio and occasional outburst, Tesar is responsible for one of, if not the most, exciting restaurant concepts in the city over the past year.
It also doesn't hurt that his infamous feud with Dallas Morning News critic Leslie Brenner was covered by every major food publication in the country, and he's been on what seems like a country-wide "hey check me out tour" for the better part of this year. Outside of appearances at the James Beard House, Tesar has traveled to cook with celebrated chefs in Oregon, Colorado, and California (among other locales) in the past year.