HOUSTON – A small restaurant nestled in Houston’s Chinatown is getting major recognition as having some of the best food in the nation.

The chef at Mala Sichuan Bistro, Jianyun Ye, is a finalist for a James Beard Award in the Best Chef: Southwest category.

Ye is from China and doesn’t speak English, so restaurant owner Cori Xiong spoke on his behalf.

“He is shocked and honored to be nominated for the James Beard award,” said Xiong. “It’s a huge compliment of the 20 years of work he has put into this profession. He would like to use this opportunity to continue the vision of Mala Sichuan Bistro, and bring authentic Sichuan cuisine to the U.S. and make Houston’s food culture more interesting, more authentic and more diverse.”

The restaurant has two locations, but you’ll find Ye on Bellaire Boulevard most often.

The other location is on Westheimer in Montrose.

“It was very unexpected, because we’re such an ethnic food. Usually, it’s fine dining that I would think that would win this type of award. It’s really exciting that we get to be recognized and nominated for this award. It’s the biggest award in the food industry,” said Xiong.

The James Beard Foundation has narrowed it down to just six finalists for the Best Chef: Southwest.

Houston’s Hugo Ortega is also nominated.

The winner will be announced on May 1st.