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Rio Grande Valley chef named 'Best Chef in Texas' during James Beard Awards

Ana Liz Pulido accepts the Best Chef Texas award onstage during the 2024 James Beard Restaurant and Chef Awards at Lyric Opera Of Chicago on June 10, 2024, in Chicago, Illinois.
Jeff Schear
Getty Images for James Beard Foundation
Ana Liz Pulido accepts the Best Chef Texas award onstage during the 2024 James Beard Restaurant and Chef Awards at Lyric Opera of Chicago on June 10, 2024, in Chicago, Illinois.

A Rio Grande Valley chef was named Best Chef in Texas during the prestigious James Beard Awards in Chicago on Monday night, beating out four other finalists — including one from San Antonio.

Chef Ana Liz Pulido traveled more than 1,200 miles from her hometown of Mission, Texas, to proudly represent the RGV and its culture across the nation.

The James Beard Foundation said the award, colloquially known as the “Oscars of the food world,” was created to recognize talent in the overall industry, including culinary arts, media, hospitality, and the broader food system.

She dedicated the award to her father, Armando Pulido, who inspired her to cook and now assists her at her restaurant — Ana Liz Taqueria in Mission — by cooking the meat daily.

"My inspiration is my dad, honestly,” she said in an interview after the awards. “He likes to cook, but he does it just in the house...He used to have some taquerias in Mexico... [They] closed down, and then he retired. And he’s helping me now in the taqueria, so I'm so excited and this goes for him."

Ana Liz Pulido Winners Interview.mp4

Video Credit: James Beard Foundation

The taqueria is about a three-and-a-half-hour drive from San Antonio. It was called a “Pilgrimage-Worthy Spot”by Texas Monthly.

It was Pulido’s second consecutive nomination for Best Chef in Texas. She finished in the semi-finals in the 2023 James Beard Awards.

She is a graduate of the Culinary Institute of America in San Antonio.

James Beard Award winners receive a medallion, a certificate reflecting the winning entrant, and nationwide recognition on the James Beard website.

Texas provided more than 20 initial nominees competing for the Best Chef in Texas title.

The nominees included three San Antonio chefs, including finalist Christopher Cullum. Cullum is the owner and head chef of Cullum's Attaboy in San Antonio’s River Road neighborhood, which has been called the 2024 best brunch spot by San Antonio Magazine.

Another San Antonio nominee was Mixtli in Southtown. It was in the Outstanding Restaurant category, which celebrates a restaurant that presents excellence in food, atmosphere, hospitality, and operations.

Mixtli, which is an Aztec word for "cloud," serves historical Mexican cuisine. Its team of five chefs was awarded Best Restaurant in San Antonio by the San Antonio Express-News for 2024.

Other finalists for the James Beard Award came from Oregon, Mississippi, and New Mexico.

Norma Martinez contributed to this report.

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Samuel is a communications senior at Texas A&M University-San Antonio. He serves as the station manager for the student-run organization, TAMUSA Radio, and is a staff writer for campus magazine El Espejo.

Samuel will graduate from A&M-San Antonio in the Fall 2024 semester and plans to continue on as a journalist in his hometown of San Antonio.