Jamaican Chef in Texas Honored as Semifinalist of The Prestigious James Beard Awards

Jamaican Chef Nicola Blaque in Texas Honored as Semifinalist of The Prestigious James Beard Awards

The James Beard Foundation presents annual awards to recognize the best regional chefs and restaurants in the United States. In 2020, the Foundation decided to expand its geographic award categories to recognize Texas as its own region and deserving of its own slate of awards to reflect the state’s increasing influence on the American food scene. As a result, six chefs and restaurants in San Antonio, Texas, were named semifinalists for the prestigious James Beard Awards in 2023.

Among the semifinalists is Jamaican Nicola Blaque, the chef and owner of The Jerk Shack, a nationally praised restaurant, who is in the running for the title of Best Chef in Texas. Blaque also operates a separate eatery, Mi Roti at the Pearl, where a free event at the Food Hall at Pearl’s Bottling Department will celebrate Blaque’s semifinalist title on Thursday, Feb. 23 from 5-7 p.m. Blaque’s staff will serve light appetizers and drinks, while San Antonio’s Poet Laureate, Andrea “Vocab” Sanderson, will mark the occasion by reciting a poem, and DJ Donnie Dee will play blues, soul, and hip-hop music throughout the evening.

Chef Nicola Blaque

Chef Nicola Blaque

After serving a decade in the US Army, Chef Blaque pursued a career in cooking, moving to San Antonio from Hawaii to attend the Culinary Institute of America. She opened The Jerk Shack with her husband Cornelius Massey, in 2016, just two years after graduating from the Institute. She wanted to introduce the area to Caribbean fusion cuisine. Later on, she opened Mi Roti with Chef Lionel “Butch” Blache, an eatery inspired by the “build your own” menu based on roti, a Caribbean flatbread that is popular as a street food. Chef Blaque has said that she is on a mission to “elevate and modernize Caribbean food” and to give diners a taste of lesser-known cuisines.

The other San Antonio chefs selected as semifinalists for James Beard Awards include Jennifer Hwa Dobbertin of Best Quality Daughter in the Emerging Chef category; Anne Ng of Bakery Lorraine for Outstanding Pastry Chef or Baker; Weathered Souls Brewing Co. for Outstanding Bar: Andrew Ho, Andrew Samia and Sean Wen of Curry Boys BBQ for Best Chef in Texas; and John Russ of Clementine for Best Chef in Texas.

The finalists will be announced on March 29, 2023, with the winners to be revealed on June 5, 2023, at a ceremony in Chicago.

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