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Henderson chef named finalist in 2024 James Beard Awards

Updated April 3, 2024 - 12:36 pm

Steve Kestler of Aroma Latin American Cocina in Henderson has been named a finalist in the Best Chef: Southwest category of the 2024 James Beard Foundation Restaurant and Chef Awards. The Beards, often called the Oscars of the food world, are the most prestigious culinary recognition in this country. The foundation announced the finalists Wednesday in Washington, D.C.

“This was totally unexpected. We’re just so happy. We’re just so grateful. This city is giving us so much support,” Kestler said.

Chefs D.J. Flores of Milpa and Brian Howard of Sparrow + Wolf, who had been named in January as semifinalists for Best Chef: Southwest, did not move on to the finalist round.

Chef Oscar Amador of Anima by EDO, who was a finalist last year for Best Chef: Southwest, was named a semifinalist this year for Outstanding Chef, a nationwide category that ranks among the most prized James Beard Awards. He also did not advance.

Kimmie and Josh Mcintosh of MILKFISH Bakeshop, a bakery pop-up, were named semifinalists this year for Outstanding Bakery but did not make the finalist cut.

Under the radar

Kestler, a native of Guatemala, opened Aroma in October 2021. The menu celebrates Latin American comfort food. One signature dish is a gaucho sandwich stacking grilled New York steak, caramelized onions, tomatoes, greens, chimichurri and house dressing between brioche. Another is Korean enchiladas that are, in part, like tinga meets bibimbap.

Aroma, tucked into a corner of Henderson at 2877 N. Green Valley Parkway, flies somewhat under the radar.

“The first year was a little challenging, but more people are coming in right now,” Kestler said. “Now that we went to the finals, I think we’re going to see some more customers. We want to show everybody what we do.”

Aroma also was named Yelp’s top taco spot in the U.S. for 2023.

Before opening Aroma, Kestler cooked at, among other places, Bazaar Meat by José Andrés in the Sahara and Bouchon, Thomas Keller’s bistro in The Venetian.

James Beard winners will be revealed at a ceremony at the Lyric Opera in Chicago on June 10. Visit here for a full list of the 2024 finalists.

Contact Johnathan L. Wright at jwright@reviewjournal.com. Follow @JLWTaste on Instagram and @ItsJLW on X.

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