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Food-O-File

Are chef shuffles any of our business?

By Virginia B. Wood, Fri., Aug. 30, 2013

Local social media and restaurant news columns have been buzzing about the departures of high-profile chefs and bartenders from big-name Austin restaurants over the past couple of weeks. Unless someone discovered the cure for cancer in a restaurant kitchen or absconded with public funds, I'm not sure it's any of our business why anyone leaves his or her job. What concerns me is that in these days, when opening restaurants requires so much investment, and when chefs, bartenders, or managers rarely have anything to invest other than their name identification and "sweat equity," I'm curious how long they are required to stay with a venture in order to become vested as a partner? And while I can't tell you what chef pals Rene Ortiz and Laura Sawicki – both, until very recently, of La Condesa and Sway – are doing this week, I do know the talented pair will present an Outstanding in the Field dinner at Rain Lily Farm on Wednesday, Oct. 23. Tickets ($200 each) can be purchased at www.outstandinginthefield.com. The duo is also listed among the chefs participating in Josh Ozersky's Meatopia Texas event (www.atpearl.com/meatopia) at the Pearl Brewery in San Antonio the weekend of Nov. 2-3.

Though I don't drink alcohol, I was very impressed with the delightful mocktails bar manager Michael Simon prepared for me during one of the Qui media dinners earlier this summer. Simon is so good at non-alcoholic drinks that his PG-13 Singapore Sling was featured in the August issue of Bon Appetit magazine. No idea where Simon is going post-Qui, but I bet plenty of craft bars will be eager to snap up his talents.

Two local businesses I greatly admired have closed recently. Jessica and Rodolfo Buonocore closed their popular ate.cafe in the Lakeway area and moved their young family back to California. The Buonocores' cozy little spot put out delightful breakfasts and lunches and also had a busy catering operation. I didn't get out there as often as I would have liked, but I know their stellar sandwiches and pastries had a devoted fanbase. And speaking of wonderful pastries, Flour Bakery co-owner and baker Hope Williams announced the closure of her company on Facebook and Twitter last weekend. It seems the all-encompassing grind of running a small, wholesale artisan food business was too much for Williams, according to her very personal post. She opted to close the bakery business she and partner Greg Wilson built up over the past year and to spend more time with her kids. Having been in the wholesale baking business myself back in the day, I know the stress she faced. You can bet Williams' hearty sourdough loaves, Smart Tarts, and other pastries will be missed at the Sunday HOPE Market as well as coffee shops such as Houndstooth and Patika.

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