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Horno, El Chile Toreado both semifinalists for James Beard Award

Green chile is in and fine dining is out for Santa Fe’s two semifinalists for the prestigious James Beard Best Chef Awards.

Horno owner and chef David Sellers and the father-and-daughter team of Luis and Berenice Medina at the El Chile Toreado food truck on Early Street are Santa Fe’s two entries in a field of 20 chefs for Best Chef in the Southwest region, the James Beard Foundation announced Wednesday. This includes New Mexico, Arizona, Nevada and Oklahoma.

Santa Fe’s Fernando Olea at Sazón won the James Beard Award Southwest last year, the first Santa Fe winner since 2005.

This year, New Mexico has five semifinalists. The others are Basit Gauba at Tikka Spice in Albuquerque, Andrea Meyer at The Love Apple in Taos and Justin Pioche at Pioche Food Group in Upper Fruitland.

“I think it’s a trend you are seeing,” Sellers said about a shift away from fine dining. “People in general are realizing you can eat good food without spending $200 per person.”

Sellers opened Horno less than two years ago after spending seven years at the Street Food Institute in Albuquerque.

“I had no idea it was coming,” Sellers said about the James Beard listing.

“It’s validation for what we are doing: fine dining without fine dining prices.”

The James Beard Foundation looks to reward best chefs “who set high standards in their culinary skills and leadership abilities, and who are making efforts to help create a sustainable work culture in their respective regions while contributing positively to their broader community,” according to the foundation’s announcement of the nominees.

Horno is reopening Thursday after a two-week winter break.

“I’m such a big fan of Horno,” said Berenice Medina, who operates El Chile Toreado with her father, Luis, and brothers Jonathan and Lester. “We were here before the food truck craze started.”

The Medina family launced the El Chile Toreado food truck in 2005 while the food truck craze, according to some food writers, was launched in 2008 with Roy Choi’s Kogi truck in Los Angeles.

“It’s amazing,” Medina said about the James Beard recognition. “That’s very heartwarming that people can taste the love we put in our food.”

The breakfast burrito stands out at El Chile Toreado, she said, as do the tacos and carnitas.

The James Beard Foundation’s broadening of semifinalists beyond fine dining appears to be an outgrowth of various policy changes in the past couple of years.

“With a cycle of learnings under our belt — and with an ongoing commitment to make the awards process as fair, inclusive and representative as possible — we are excited to announce new changes that will only improve on what we accomplished in 2022,” Tanya Holland, chair of the James Beard Awards Committee, said in an October news release.

The list of 20 semifinalists in the Southwest will be winnowed down to five nominees or finalists March 29, and the winners will be announced June 5 at the James Beard Restaurant and Chef Awards Ceremony at the Lyric Opera of Chicago.

There is one winner per region.

Source : Santa Fe new Mexican