2022 James Beard Award finalists from Austin

A black and white portrait of Iliana de la Vega, chef at El Naranjo.

Chef Iliana de la Vega has been operating El Naranjo for almost 10 years. | Photo via @elnaranjoaustin

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Yesterday, the finalists were announced for the 2022 James Beard Awards — otherwise known as the Oscars of the culinary world — and Austin stars are shining bright. 🌟

You’ll find two Austin chefs up for one of the profession’s most prestigious honors, which the James Beard Foundation revamped after a two-year hiatus and internal audit. It’s an honor to be nominated since getting on this short list is a game changer for any chef or restaurant, no matter how long they’ve been around.

Mark your calendars for Mon., June 13, when the winners will be announced at a ceremony in Chicago. As we celebrate all the kitchen rock stars, here’s a breakdown of all you need to know for local flavor.

A close-up image of a taco.

Nixta Taqueria is known for authentically made corn tortillas and seriously delicious tacos — Chef Edgar Rico says the restaurant is “the culmination of who he is.” | Photo via @whatnugeeats

2022 finalists 🏆

Edgar Rico, Nixta Taqueria | Emerging Chef

East Austin’s Nixta Taqueria is known for its authentic corn tortillas and casual atmosphere for eating some not so casually delicious food.

Chef Edgar Rico is a Culinary Institute of America graduate and has previously worked in California fine dining, with “abuelitas in Oaxaca,” and at Austin’s own Peached Social House.

Edgar says Nixta Taqueria is “the culmination of who he is and what food means to him.

Iliana de la Vega, El Naranjo | Best Chef: Texas

Chef Iliana de la Vega has been operating South Lamar’s El Naranjo for almost 10 years. With deep family roots in Oaxaca, Iliana’s previous cooking has been featured on the cover of Bon Appétit magazine.

In addition to becoming the Culinary Institute of America’s first ever specialist for Mexican + Latin Cuisines, Iliana is a recipient of the Ohtli Award, the Mexican government’s highest honor for Mexicans living abroad.

Who’s got next? 🔮

Fancy medallions are great, but we want to hear about your tastes. Are there restaurants or local chefs you think deserve some more love? Who might we see repping Austin at the James Beards in the future? Send us an email, and let us know about the unrecognized award-worthy meals.