Food and Drink

Oro by Nixta, Khaluna, Hai Hai restaurants, chefs named James Beard award finalists

Awards to be named June 10

A man garnished a taco.
Chef Gustavo Romero garnishes a birria taco before plating a pick up order in Minneapolis.
Evan Frost | MPR News 2021

Updated: 6 p.m.

Two chefs and one restaurant were named as finalists for a James Beard Award for 2024.

Oro by Nixta, owned by Kate and Gustavo Romero, was named as a finalist for Best New Restaurant. Christina Nguyen of Hai Hai and Ann Ahmed of Khâluna are in contention for Best Chef of the Midwest.

Person prepares food in kitchen
Chef ann Ahmed at Gai Noi in Loring Park in Minneapolis.
Photo by Monique Sourinho, courtesy of Tiffany Gerber

In January, five Minnesota chefs and two establishments were named as semifinalists, along with three nominations from Fargo, N.D., one from Sioux Falls, S.D., and one from Bay City, Wis., with Twin Cities connections.

Ahmed, who specializes in Laotian food, is also chef and owner of Gai Noi in Minneapolis and Lat14 Asian Eatery in Golden Valley. Hai Hai serves Southwest Asian street food; Nguyen is also chef and co-owner of Hola Arepa in south Minneapolis.

Oro by Nixta, which showcases heirloom Mexican corn, said in a post on Instagram “We’re now truly pinching ourselves.”

“Mil gracias to all of you who buy our tortillas, visit our restaurant, cornllaborate on foodie things- look at what’s possible?!?! Special thank you to all the artists who visually bolster our story with their talent on our walls. And to all of team tortilla, who’s showing up and grinding made it a reality. No one gets here alone, this one is for all of us,” it said.

Ahmed said getting the recognition is “huge.” 

“I feel like it’s something that I've worked so hard for ever since I opened my first restaurant 19 years ago. I never opened a restaurant to be like, ‘Oh, I want to be number one, I want to get awarded’ — it was just a passion. This has been awesome because it’s been a recognition not for myself but my whole team,” she told MPR News host Tom Crann.

The awards are presented annually and date back to 1990, and first awarded in 1991. They were named for James Beard, a chef, author and pioneering creator of television cooking shows.  

The winners will be celebrated at the awards ceremony on June 10 at the Lyric Opera of Chicago.

Food in various bowls
Gai Noi in Loring Park in Minneapolis.
Photo by Monique Sourinho, courtesy of Tiffany Gerber
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