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Chef Iliana de la Vega of El Naranjo wins James Beard Awards’ first-ever Best Chef: Texas
One of the more rewarding aspects of working with people in the hospitality industry is seeing them – finally – get the recognition they deserve, and although we may be biased, no one is more deserving than Chef Iliana de la Vega of El Naranjo. A longtime friend and client at Resplendent, Chef Iliana was named the first-ever Best Chef: Texas in this year’s James Beard Awards, one of the most sought-after culinary accolades (and what we lovingly call the Oscars of the food world).
It’s been such an honor to work with Chef Iliana and the entire team at El Naranjo for nearly four years, and we truly couldn’t be more proud of the work she’s done not only in the past four years but over the course of her illustrious career. We’ve been in awe each time she was named a James Beard Semifinalist, we celebrated her success the first time she reached Finalist status, we jumped for joy and literally shouted the moment she was announced as the Best Chef: Texas winner, and we wept with her when she took the stage to graciously accept the award. Beyond that, we’ve also watched her navigate a pandemic that shook the entire industry with such compassion and care for her staff and community, going so far as to help her team receive their first COVID-19 vaccines; we’ve witnessed her enthusiastically share her love of cooking and Mexican cuisine; and we’ve applauded her endless efforts in educating Austin (and beyond) about traditional Mexican cooking techniques, processes and ingredients, from nixtamalization to huitlacoche and more.
(We’ve also eaten our fair share of her signature filet, our favorite item on her menu, but that’s for another post.)
We’re humbled and proud to partner with groundbreaking chefs like Iliana, who are so passionate about the food and community they create. There truly could not be anyone more deserving of this kind of recognition – so here’s to you, Chef. We can’t wait to see what you do next.