Austin chefs Edgar Rico of Nixta Taqueria and Iliana de la Vega of Oaxaca restaurant El Naranjo are the winners in the Emerging Chef category at the 2022 James Beard Awards, often called the Oscars of the foodie world. The restaurant and chef awards ceremony took place tonight.
Rico won in the Emerging Chef category, his first nomination. His other nominees included Angel Barreto of Anju in Washington, DC; Calvin Eng of Bonnie’s in New York; Cleophus Hethington of Benne on Eagle in Asheville, North Carolina; Serigne Mbaye of Dakar Nola in New Orleans and Crystal Wahpepah of Wahpepah’s Kitchen in Oakland, CA.
Rico opened Nixta Taqueria in Chestnut with partner Sara Mardanbigi in October 2019. He’s racked up accolades since, including the Eater Austin award for Best Restaurant of the Past Two Years, and won fans over to his duck carnitas taco and beet tartar tostada.
De la Vega won the first-ever Best Chef, Texas category (Texas was previously included in the Southwest category). It was her second nomination, edging out Tiffany Derry of Roots Southern Table (who also has Roots Chicken Shak in Austin); Christine Ha and Tony J. Nguyen of Xin Chào in Houston; Quy Hoang from Blood Bros. BBQ in Bellaire; and Steven McHugh of Cured in San Antonio (who lost his fifth nomination). De la Vega opened El Naranjo on Rainey Street in 2012, but moved to South Lamar in 2019 and is known for her expertise in moles.
Earlier this weekend, Jesse Griffiths of Austin’s Dai Due restaurant won the single subject award for his book The Hog Book: A Chef’s Guide to Hunting, Slaughtering and Cooking Wild Hogs. The book covers the importance of eating feral hogs, an invasive species in Texas. Griffiths self-published the book in August 2021 and it is available for purchase online.
Austin’s semi-finalists this year included Amanda Turner, executive chef at Southern Olamaie restaurant, for the Emerging Chef category; and Damien Brockway, the pitmaster and owner of the Distant Relatives barbecue truck, for the Best Chef, Texas category.
Previous winners of the Austin James Beard award are Aaron Franklin in 2015, Paul Qui in 2012 and Tyson Cole in 2011, who tied with Saipin Chutima of Lotus of Siam in Las Vegas.
Disclosure: Certain Vox Media staff members are electors of the James Beard Foundation Awards.