Austin chefs turn up the heat on reality TV, plus restaurant openings on the horizon

By Virginia B. Wood, Fri., April 26, 2013

These days we're about as likely to see Aus­tin food professionals on the Food Net­work and Cooking Channel as we are to see local musicians playing on Letterman. In the past couple of weeks alone Sugar Mama's Bakeshop (1905 S. First) owner Olivia O'Neal won a battle on Cupcake Wars, and Hudson's on the Bend (3519 RR 620 N.) sous chef McCaily Cranna competed on Chopped. Though they signed confidentiality contracts about what they can say about the experience, they did report that the popular competition show segments are filmed over the course of one grueling 12-hour day, with gaps between rounds when the competition kitchens are cleaned up and departing contestants are interviewed on film. While Cranna didn't make it past the appetizer round on Chopped, it was obvious from the judges' comments they were impressed with all but one of the components of her dish; they even applauded her boldness at trying to make a beurre blanc sauce that included a blue gummy snake. O'Neal, on the other hand, emerged victorious on Cupcake Wars, creating a huge cupcake display for a book launch party for pop satirist "Weird Al" Yankovic. She's featuring the different winning cupcake flavors in the shop over the next few weeks. O'Neal also shared some exciting news about changes in her business: Based on customer demand, she's adding an espresso machine and coffee service, starting May 7. "We're not trying to compete with the great coffee shops in this neighborhood, but this is something our customers have been asking for since we opened," O'Neal told us. "We've got the room since we expanded into the whole building, so we're going to do some fun things with homemade syrups and making our own marshmallows." O'Neal also disclosed she's close to inking a deal for a second Sugar Mama's location and hopes to have it open by the end of the year or in early 2014.

In other high-profile chef news, chef and restaurant mogul Larry McGuire arrived at Sunday's Vaca y Vino Argentine celebration after spending the week training staff and directing menu tryouts at the newly refurbished Jeffrey's (1204 West Lynn). He says to expect a soft opening this week. ... The cozy Josephine House next door has been serving lunch and cocktail fare for a few weeks now, whetting the neighborhood's appetite for the debut of McGuire's new version of the venerable West Austin eatery. ... And while extensive staff training is ongoing at Qui (1600 E. Sixth), publicist (and chef/owner Paul Qui's fiancée) Deana Saukam tells us not to expect an opening until May or June.

On Tuesday, federal agents with the IRS and FBI were seen raiding Twin Liquors corporate headquarters. At press time, we hadn't been able to reach owners for comment; keep an eye on austinchronicle.com/blogs for updates.

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