Austinites snag two James Beard Foundation Awards nominations
Though Austin restaurants have been invited to appear at the James Beard Foundation House in New York City in the past, the prestigious nonprofit that celebrates American culinary endeavors certainly seems to have its eye on Austin this spring. On April 1, a pop-up art exhibit entitled "The Jemima Code," curated by Austin food and nutrition journalist Toni Tipton-Martin, will debut at a Beard House reception, and the 7-foot-tall, screenprinted images of African-American cooks working in Southern kitchen hearths and gardens will greet guests there the entire month of April. New York chef Scott Barton will prepare food for the exhibit's debut reception using recipes from her upcoming photo album and recipe collection, The Jemima Code: A Gallery of Great Cooks (UT Press, 2013), aided by students from the culinary programs at Connally High School in Pflugerville and Travis High School in Austin. On April 9, Austin chefs/restaurateurs Jack Gilmore of Jack Allen's Kitchen and Bryce and Dylan Gilmore of Barley Swine will present a multicourse dinner which the foundation is calling Gilmore and Sons Taste of the Texas Hill Country's Finest Harvest and Spirits. And as if that isn't enough, two Austinites are finalists in the James Beard Foundation Awards which will be presented in New York City on May 7. Chef Paul Qui of Uchiko is a nominee for Best Chef in the Southwest region, and Austin-based photographer and graphic artist Jeff Scott is nominated for his culinary art book series, Notes From a Kitchen: A Journey Inside Culinary Obsession (Tatroux, 2011). Being represented at the Beard House by such a wealth of local talents and flavors reflects well on the entire Austin culinary community, and we salute them!
The second annual Foodways Texas Symposium took place in Austin this past weekend with about 150 chefs, food writers, photographers, bloggers, artisan food producers, farmers, culinary historians, and enthusiasts enjoying informative panel discussions and Texas-sourced meals. The Blanton Museum on the UT campus hosted discussions on everything from the effects of drought conditions on the Texas food supply to canning and preserving to preserving the rich culture of drinking in the South to the agricultural importance of heritage breeds. We witnessed dynamic food photo essays and heard some of the first heartwarming oral histories from a project about iconic Texas restaurants currently being conducted by graduate students in UT's Department of American Studies. (Email suggestions of iconic Texas restaurants that should be included in the project to email@example.com.) The panelists demonstrated an impressive level of knowledge and scholarship, offering thought-provoking information to engage the crowd. One highlight of the weekend was seeing a Lifetime Achievement Award presented to venerable 88-year-old barbecue pit master Vencil Mares of Taylor Cafe, who described the long success of his business by saying, "You need to give people good food, good service, sanitation, and a smile." On Friday, we enjoyed a Texas bycatch luncheon and then a local artisanal market followed by a bluesy barbecue dinner on the scenic patio at Fiesta Gardens. Saturday's feasts were presented at two East Austin urban farms: a luncheon of Texas goat meat paired with greens, flowers, vegetables, and ice cream at sun-dappled Springdale Farm, then pit-roasted heritage pork with soup, salad, vegetables, cornbread, and strawberries served family-style under twinkling lights in the field at Boggy Creek Farm. Texas beers, wines, and sakes flowed freely at every meal. The delicious and educational weekend ended at Hoover's Soular Food Garden with a lecture on chuck wagon cooking by famed cowboy chef Tom Perini, followed by a campfire breakfast and fond farewells. The symposium provided a great opportunity to meet and connect with Texas food enthusiasts from around the state. I came away excited and energized by projects I'd like to participate in, as well as ideas for stories the Chronicle Food section can tell. I found myself agreeing with Carla Crownover when she turned to me at dinner Saturday night and said, "I've finally found my people." See videos of the seminars and oral histories at www.foodwaystexas.com. If these folks seem like they could be your people, join up.