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These Two L.A. Taqueras Were Just Nominated For James Beard Awards, Here’s How They Feel About It

Taqueras in the male-dominated taco community are few and far between, but both a Latina and Black taquera in L.A. were nominated for a major award in “the Oscars of Food.” That counts as a once-in-a-lifetime occurrence in our book.

9:32 AM PST on January 26, 2024

Taqueras in the taco community are few and far between.

In Mexico and among the more taco-obsessed cities in the U.S., men take up most of the space when it comes to the art of perfecting tortillas, salsa, and meat.

This year's James Beard Foundation Awards are shifting the axis, nominating both a Latina and a Black taquera in the same region and category. This historic moment in the "Oscars of Food" feels like a once-in-a-lifetime occurrence in our book. 

On Wednesday morning, the U.S. food and restaurant community woke up to the announcing of the 2024 James Beard Award semifinalists. The list, full of women and people of color, is a radical change from the foundation's controversial 2020 list, when there were straight-up no Black winners, amid a greater and persistent snubbing of L.A.’s food community.

This year, the list of finalists in the "Best Chef: California" category spanned as far as the San Gabriel Valley and included an Indigenous chef based in Historic South Central. 

“Being nominated for a Beard is something I would have never thought possible,” Alisa Reynolds, the chef/taquera behind Tacos Negros at My Two Cents in Mid-Wilshire and host of “Searching for Soul Food” on Hulu, tells L.A. TACO.

“As a woman of color and chef, we always struggle to keep our doors open," Reynolds says. "People don’t understand how it’s much harder for us to get investors—but our love language will always be food.” 

Her restaurant’s slogan is “where soul and the tortilla meet,” and she backs that up with plates of cornmeal-fried catfish tacos and oxtail tacos, among other beautiful fusions of Los Angeles flavors on a tortilla.  

“I’m flabbergasted for the accolade and the acknowledgment,” she says. “I want to expand on this diaspora of Latinos and Black people in America getting together and eating tacos because I could eat 100,000 of them. I love them. My dad was obsessed with Mexico and Mexican food. Tacos are born in me. I mean, we ARE in Mexico, really.”

Also nominated in the same category is Elvia Huerta, the powerful woman behind El Sereno’s Evil Cooks team. Huerta says the nomination feels unreal.

“This is so surreal, and I’m still in disbelief," she says. "Never in a million years did I think I would be nominated for something so amazing like this, but I’m glad I was nominated alongside my husband.”

In a story Huerta posted on her Instagram account, the idea of actually winning alone is exhilarating.

“Being a semifinalist is already a win, but imagine if we actually win?!” she wrote.

Whether they win or not, Huerta and Reynolds are grateful for having this national recognition. Such an accolade can be a major boost for business and open opportunities that weren't previously presented.

“To bring more eyeballs to try our food?" Reynolds asks rhetorically. "I’m ecstatic just about that.”

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