Greenville restaurant owner and head chef Dayna Lee-Márquez has been named a semifinalist for the James Beard‘s Best Chef: Southeast for 2023.
Lee-Márquez, a native of Texas, is the owner of West Greenville’s restaurant Comal 864, located at 1112 Woodside Ave. The restaurant brings a Southwest Texas flavor to the local food scene.
Lee-Márquez is among 20 other finalists for the top chef award, including two others from South Carolina: Daniel “Dano” Heinze of Vern’s in Charleston and Jessica Shillato of the Spotted Salamander in Columbia.
“I’m just as surprised as everyone else is,” Lee-Márquez said. “I’m not classically trained, I learned how to cook from my grandmother. The flavors I bring from South Texas are a fusion of border food.”
Across the SouthSee the 2023 James Beard Awards semifinalists
Comal 864 is known for its Tex-Mex cuisine, as Lee-Marquez has introduced its South Texas ties and pallet to Greenville, morphing its former food truck into one of the top Mexican menus within city limits.
The menu includes the popular Birria Quesitacos with shredded marinated beef and a consommé dip, alongside their rendition of a classic flour tortilla burrito. The breakfast menu is well known for its seven different burrito options starting at $5
The restaurant also gives away at least 100 tacos per week, while hosting holiday lunches for those who are in need of food.
Lee-Márquez says she would not be nominated for this award if not for the Greenville community and her staff.
“We are very community-oriented,” Lee-Márquez said. “I have a very maternal energy, and when combined with good creative food, and service, I think that’s the perfect equation.”
The James Beard Awards, considered to be among the nation’s most prestigious honors, recognize exceptional talent in the culinary and food media industries, as well as a demonstrated commitment to racial and gender equity, community equity, sustainability, and a culture where all canthrive, according to a statement from the James Beard Foundation.
Another South Carolina James Beard Award semifinalist for 2023 is in the Emerging Chef category, Benard Bennett of Okan, a West African food experience in Bluffton. The award is presented by S. Pellegrino Sparkling Natural Mineral Water.
The 2023 James Beard Foundation Awards are presented by Capital One—a nonprofit and food culture enthusiast organization that has honored culinary talent and sustainability for the past 30 years.
Nominees for the James Beard Foundation Awards will be announced on Wednesday, March 29 with the awards ceremony taking place on Monday, June 5 at the Lyric Opera of Chicago.
Past Greenville nominees include Greg McPhee, owner of The Anchorage, and Mr. Crisp; Jon Buck, executive chef of Husk Greenville; David Porras, co-owner of Oak Hill Café & Farm; and Adam Cooke, co-owner and executive chef of Topsoil Kitchen Market.
– AJ Jackson covers arts, entertainment, food and more for The Greenville News and Anderson Independent Mail. Contact him by email at [email protected], and follow him on Twitter @ajhappened.