Chef Rafael Rios garnishes pozole. Novo Studio

Chef Rafael Rios, owner and proprietor of Bentonville’s Yeyo’s El Alma de Mexico, has been named as a semi-finalist in the Best Chef: South category in the annual James Beard Awards, one of the nation’s most prestigious culinary honors often referred to as the “Oscar’s of the food world.” Finalists will be announced on Wednesday, March 29, and winners will be celebrated at the James Beard Restaurant and Chef Awards Ceremony on Monday, June 5, in Chicago.

The James Beard Foundation established the awards in 1990 as a way to recognize leaders in the culinary and food media industries. The first awards were given in 1991.

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Rios was also a Best Chef: South semi-finalist last year and in 2020. Arkansas Times contributor Brian Sorensen profiled Rios last year.

Rios opened Yeyo’s El Alma de Mexico in Bentonville’s 8th Street Market in 2017 after years of operating a food truck known as The Yellow Truck, which operates in the Bentonville Square. In 2020 he opened the cocktail bar Yeyo’s Mezcaleria y Taqueria. Yeyo’s more recently opened The Blue Truck, which is located at Natural State Beer Co. in Rogers.

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Two Arkansas restaurants have won James Beard awards establishing them as “America’s Classics.” Jones Bar-B-Q in Marianna and, most recently, Lassis Inn of Little Rock, which was honored in February of 2020.