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Beard nomination puts Elena’s alum among culinary elite

February 28, 2019

What started in his parents’ kitchen on Avenue E has evolved into a thriving culinary career and, as of Wednesday, a second nomination for a prestigious James Beard Foundation award for Beaumont native Ricardo Sanchez.

Sanchez, executive pastry chef at Bullion in Dallas, was at his home there Wednesday morning when a line cook from the restaurant texted him, “Congratulations.”

“I thought, ‘What is he talking about?’” Sanchez, 42, said during a phone interview. He said the Bullion managers then sent a group message stating that he and co-owner and executive chef Bruno Davaillon, himself winner of a Michelin Star award, had been nominated as semifinalists for the 2019 James Beard Foundation Awards

Sanchez is among 20 pastry chefs nominated from around the country.

“I was in disbelief,” he said.

Davaillon was nominated as the best chef in the southwestern United States.

Houston set the pace in this year’s James Beard Foundation chef and restaurant competition with 11 nominations. The list of finalists will be announced there on March 27.

If Sanchez makes it to that round, he will be invited to the James Beard Awards Gala on May 6 in Chicago.

In 2017, he and the team at Flora Street Café in Dallas were semifinalists for the best new restaurant category, but did not win.

There was a time when Sanchez, a French-trained pastry artisan who has worked with world-renowned restaurateurs and chefs, may have taken your order or cooked you a meal at his family’s Mexican restaurant. Sanchez’s uncle owns the two Elena’s restaurants in Beaumont.

“Me and my cousins worked there after school,” Sanchez said.

For him, spending time with family meant spending time in the kitchen, where aunts, uncles, cousins and people close to his heart were talking, laughing and cooking the recipes that would set the foundation for his career.

“I used to cook dinner for my little sister after school when my parents were at work,” Sanchez said.

That freedom to cook what he wanted allowed his creativity to bloom, he said. His signature dish today ties his Mexican heritage and his classical training in a way he said makes him proud.

Sanchez created Bullion’s Mille Feuille, incorporating dulce de leche into the classic French dessert. He said of all the desserts he developed for Bullion, he spent the most time perfecting his twist on the Mille Fueille, getting the arlette puff pastry to a perfect flaky crispness. It’s become something the restaurant is known for.

Though he’s traveled the country for work after graduating from the Art Institute of Houston, taking jobs in Phoenix and working at world-class restaurants in Las Vegas and Dallas, Sanchez still visits the Golden Triangle almost monthly to see family.

When he comes into town, he makes a point of ordering chile con queso or pollo rojo at a familiar spot.

“I’ve got to swing by Elena’s,” Sanchez said. “It’s like coming home.”

haley.bruyn@beaumontenterprise.com

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