Regino Rojas has been named the sole semifinalist from North Texas for the 2018 James Beard Award for Best Chef in the Southwest.
Rojas, the chef and owner of Revolver Taco Lounge in Deep Ellum, joins 11 Texas chefs in the running for the same award. Besides Rojas, the nominees hail from the Austin, San Antonio and Houston areas. According to Eater Dallas, there were six Dallas chefs and restaurants named semifinalists last year.
Rojas started Revolver Taco Lounge in Fort Worth before relocating to Dallas last spring.
“People in this neighborhood, they come with a different mentality,” Rojas says. “They want to try different things — it’s Deep Ellum,” Rojas told KERA last summer.
Rojas, who was born and raised in Michoacan, Mexico, is set on bringing authentic Mexican flavors to the mix of Tex-Mex and cheap taco joints in North Texas.
"Me as a Mexican, raised and born over there, I don’t get it at all," he said. "I think it’s really bad Mexican food, but people enjoy it because people were born and raised with that stuff here. They have never really been exposed to the real deal – the real flavors."
To put that idea into practice, Rojas offers a unique fine dining experience in a private room in the back of his taqueria called the "Purepecha" room, named after an indigenous group back home. By reservation only, customers are treated to an eight-course-meal of modern Michoacan-style food.
“We’re cooking in front of them. They’re part of the whole scenario,” he said. “They’re family. They come and sit at my mom’s table type of thing.”
Rojas will have to wait until March 14 when James Beard finalists are announced to learn if his innovative approach gets him a step closer to winning the prestigious award.