Servantes, Kirkland named James Beard Award finalists

Servantes, Kirkland named James Beard Award finalists Main Photo

29 Mar 2023

Downtown, Burnt Bean

Dalondo Moultrie The Seguin Gazette

A pair of local pit masters are etching their name in history as the best.

After receiving good news earlier this year, the news got even better Wednesday for the Owners of Burnt Bean Co. in downtown Seguin as they learned they are finalists for Texas Chef of the Year in the prestigious James Beard Awards.

“We’re just trying to be the best barbecue in the world,” Burnt Bean co-owner Ernest Servantes said. “People don’t understand how big this is. It’s huge.”

In its nearly three years of operation, Burnt Bean was chosen as a back-to-back semifinalist in the James Beard Awards competition. Last year, the chef’s were named semifinalist, but didn’t advance.

Being back-to-back semifinalists is an honor, Servantes said. Last year, he cried at the honor of being chosen a semifinalist but this year, Servantes and his pit master partner, David Kirkland, are looking for even more.

“It went from crying to ‘We belong here,’” he said. “Now, we’re laser focused. It went from being happy and humble to now we’re going to win it.”

The James Beard Foundation recognizes the country’s food culture in various ways, including honoring the best of the best with awards. Servantes compared the honors to widely known entertainment awards like the Golden Globes or the Oscars.

Awards are broken into regional categories and Texas, being such a large state, encompasses a category of its own. That means that the pit masters at Burnt Bean are facing competition against five other Texas chefs all vying to be named the James Beard Award Best Chef: Texas recipient. The pair earned their seat at the big table and will attend the James Beard Restaurant and Chef Awards Ceremony on Monday, June 5, 2023, at the Lyric Opera of Chicago. It is then the James Beard Foundation will announce the winner.

Already, Burnt Bean is recognized near and far, Kirkland said.

People fly to San Antonio, ride share to Burnt Bean, turn around and ride share back to San Antonio International Airport and catch a flight back home in the same day, Kirkland said.

On Wednesday, after he and Servantes learned of the James Beard nomination, a Houston resident showed up at the restaurant after driving to Seguin for lunch only to learn that the shop is open only Thursday through Sunday, Kirkland said.

Those stories, he said, illustrate one of the duo’s accomplishments, James Beard Award notwithstanding.

“That’s been our goal from the beginning, to put Seguin on the map,” Kirkland said. “This town has done so much for me.”

Burnt Bean owners are living the American Dream, they both said. They work scores of hours each week to make the restaurant successful.

They pour in all of the blood, sweat and tears necessary to cook some of the best barbecue around week in and week out, Kirkland said.

The owners plan to continue putting in the hard work and letting the James Beard Award chips fall where they may, he said.

“At the end of the day, if we don’t win, we won’t have any regrets because we’ll put it all out there,” Kirkland said. “This way, we’ll do the best we can possibly do. The end result is the end result. If we don’t win, it won’t be for lack of effort.”

If this or more honors come along, so be it, he said. But the main goal is to provide great food to the people of Seguin and its visitors, Kirkland said.

“We are just two guys putting in 1000%,” he said. “The things that come along are just blessings.”

View article on