Food News

Latest Nominations Show a Shift Toward Youth in Dallas' James Beard Awards

First the big news: Yesterday, this year's James Beard nominees were announced and Dallas has a respectable showing. Abacus and Rosewood Mansion on Turtle Creek received nominations for Outstanding Service, which may not come as a huge surprise considering these two Dallas institutions are known for pampering their guests to the extreme. Café on the Green at the Four Seasons Las Colinas received a nomination for Outstanding Wine Program, which won't shock you either, considering they received the same nod last year.

It's the Best Chef Southwest and the Best New Restaurant categories that will grab your attention, especially when you look at who has received these same nominations in the past few years.

In 2012, Beard nominations went to Stephan Pyles for Outstanding Chef, and Bruno Davaillon (The Mansion) and Teiichi Sakurai (Tei-An) for Best Chef Southwest. The announcement was "a total snooze," I wrote two years ago, because those chefs were veterans of the Beard ceremonies, and Dallas mainstays.

My argument wasn't meant as a jab. I wanted to see new faces and restaurants in the spotlight because that's one of the ways to demonstrate that Dallas' dining scene is evolving. I noted that Matt McCallister hadn't been around very long, but was showing Beard-caliber kitchen skills while cooking at since-closed Campo. David Uygur, being one of the best chefs in the city, had potential as a future nominee, too.

The next year proved a little more fresh and youthful. Cedars Social got a nomination for Best Bar program, Nick Badovinus was recognized as an Outstanding Restaurateur and Jason Maddy received a nomination for his cooking at Oak. This was in addition to nominations for more settled restaurants such as The French Room, Pyles and Tei-An.

But this year's nominations are even more exciting.

I was surprised when David Uygur wasn't mentioned for the second time in 2013 because he absolutely deserved it then, but the Beard Committee has finally caught up with his pasta-making skills. The dining experience at Lucia is both elegant and moving, and Uygur achieves unparalleled consistency. He's a great nomination for Best Chef Southwest.

Uygur is joined by Matt McCallister, who is changing the way that Dallasites look at their plates at FT33, and John Tesar at Spoon, who is doing stunning things with seafood.

And would you look at Omar Flores, who first got our attention with his Oak Cliff seafood restaurant Driftwood? His nomination for Best New Restaurant: Casa Rubia is a surprise, considering the Spanish spot has been open for just longer than three months. A win, though, would be big for Dallas and could change how some view the Trinity Groves complex, validating it as a serious restaurant project.

While a nomination is a great honor, the hope is a few of them will actually bring a medal home. Come on guys -- Alice Laussade pulled it off.

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Scott Reitz
Contact: Scott Reitz