The two chefs, who work at at Emmer & Rye and Olamaie, respectively, were both selected as finalists for Best Chef in the Southwest in 2019, along with Bryce Gilmore of Barley Swine. That award ultimatelywent to Chef Charleen Badman of the Scottsdale, Arizona, restaurant FnB.
This year, the Beard Foundation created a new regional category just for Texas. Fink and Fojtasek will be competing against two Houston chefs—Anita Jaisinghani of Pondicheri and Trong Nguyen of Crawfish and Noodles—as well as Steve McHugh of San Antonio’s Cured.
This year marks the third straight finalist nomination for Fojtasek, who opened Olamaie in 2014, and the second for Fink, who opened Emmer & Rye in 2015.
The dining rooms of both restaurants are closed due to safety concerns amid the coronavirus pandemic. Emmer & Rye is open for takeout orders and has also set up a market out of its restaurant space to sell groceries. Olamaie has been temporarily closed since March 15.
A recent study by the National Restaurant Association found that Texas restaurants have lost more than 688,000 jobs and $4.2 billion in sales since the beginning of the coronavirus outbreak as the measures put in place to protect safety have crippled the industry across the nation.
James Beard Foundation CEO Clare Reichenbach said the decision to announce the award nominees was made thoughtfully after consultation with chefs and restaurateurs around the country.
“The feedback was [that] announcing the nominees would be some welcome good news,” Reichenbach said in a Twitter video.
The ceremony presenting the Beard Awards is normally held each May in Chicago, but will be postponed to Sept. 27 this year.
For more on the development of Austin’s food scene in the last decade, read Community Impact Newspaper’s coverage from 2019, featuring both Fojtasek and Fink.
Editor's Note: This story has been updated to correct the spelling of Tucson, Arizona, where chef Kevin Fink worked before he arrived in Austin.