Recipe for success: New Mexico well represented as James Beard Foundation names finalists

Apr. 3—The finalists have been named.

On Wednesday, the James Beard Foundation whittled down its nominees even further in anticipation for the award ceremony in June.

New Mexico, once again, is well represented, with two chefs in the foundation's Southwest category, and a bakery, one restaurant and a leadership award nominee among national finalists.

In the Best Chef: Southwest category, Steve Riley of Mesa Provisions, 3120 Central Ave. SE, and Eduardo Rodriguez of Zacatlán in Santa Fe made the top five.

"Tears of overwhelming joy," Riley told the Journal on Wednesday. "Honored to represent Albuquerque."

In the Outstanding Bakery category, The Burque Bakehouse, 640 Broadway Blvd SE, made the list of five finalists.

According to the James Beard Foundation, the category recognizes a baker of breads, pastries or desserts that demonstrates consistent excellence in food, atmosphere, hospitality and operations while contributing positively to its broader community.

The Compound in Santa Fe is one of the five finalists in the Outstanding Restaurant category. The nominees are judged on demonstrating consistent excellence in food, atmosphere, hospitality and operations while contributing positively to its broader community.

"Congratulations to all of our esteemed honorees and nominees on this remarkable achievement," Clare Reichenbach, James Beard Foundation CEO, said in a statement. "Your vision, and continued dedication to excellence — both on and beyond the plate — make you true leaders of American culinary. Thank you for all you are doing to set a better standard for our industry and broader food system."

The winners will be announced June 10 in Chicago.

Leadership honor

Albuquerque-based Helga Garcia-Garza is also being recognized through the James Beard Foundation's 2024 Leadership Awards.

Garcia-Garza is the executive director of the Agri-Cultura Network and is being recognized for food security and access.

The category honors leaders who have advanced nutrition security, an issue that has directly impacted many independent chefs and restaurants, most notably through SNAP and SNAP expansion, community engagement, and beyond.

Agri-Cultura Network is a farmer-owned cooperative providing access to local and sustainably grown produce, which includes the agricultural program, La Cosecha CSA.

For over 50 years, Garcia-Garza has been a driving force for food justice and a dedicated community organizer, working on both sides of the U.S.-Mexico border.

The daughter of an activist and a member of a marginalized Native Indigenous community, Garcia-Garza's efforts are driven by her deep commitment to building an equitable and sustainable food system, empowering communities through education and making healthy food accessible to low-income households.

After spending 20 years as an organic farmer, Garcia-Garza now advocates for farmers' rights on environmental contamination issues.

Her work has enabled hundreds of families to access fresh, local produce using SNAP funding.

Beyond SNAP expansion, her efforts in community engagement and education around sustainable agriculture practices have empowered urban and rural farmers, contributing to a more resilient and nutrition-secure food system.

Garcia-Garza is currently focused on building a multi-million dollar solar-powered "Eco-Wellness" clinic that aims to bridge the gap between sustainable agricultural practices and nutritional well-being.

On Wednesday, the James Beard Foundation whittled down its nominees even further in anticipation for the award ceremony in June.