The James Beard Foundation today announced the semifinalists for its 2018 Restaurant and Chef Awards, and Houston showed up big with twelve nominees across several categories. The prestigious awards, considered the Oscars of the culinary world, recognize honor the top chefs, restaurants, wine professionals, journalists, cookbook authors, restaurant designers, and other food professionals in the United States.

In recent years, the Houston chefs have snagged three of the last four Best Chef: Southwest awards — Underbelly's Chris Shepherd in 2014, Oxheart's Justin Yu in 2016, and Hugo's chef-owner Hugo Ortega in 2017. 

This year, five Houston chefs got the nod for the best chef Southwest award. Included in the 2018 list are: Ross Coleman and James Haywood of Kitchen 713, Anita Jaisinghani of Pondicheri, Trong Nguyen of Crawfish & Noodles, Ryan Pera of Coltivare, and Ronnie Killen of Killen’s Steakhouse

Other semifinalists include Xochi for Best New Restaurant, Anvil Bar & Refuge for Outstanding Bar Program, Aqui’s Jillian Bartolome for Outstanding Pastry Chef, Hugo’s for Outstanding Service, and Pappas Bros. Steakhouse for Outstanding Wine Program. Tracy Vaught, of Hugo’s, Caracol, Xochi, and others, received a repeat nomination for the prestigious Outstanding Restauranteur category.

We’ll have to wait until March 14 to find out who makes the finalists cut. Award winners will be announced at a gala in Chicago on May 7.