As the Quesoff Approaches Co-Founder Adi Anand Talks Cheese

Home chefs & top chefs head to Mohawk for Austin's gooiest competition

Austin is obsessed with queso. From family potlucks to some of the fanciest menus in town, we’ll take queso in whatever form we find it. But what if there were a way to objectively discover the most delicious version our lovely city has to offer?

What if there was a contest, a ques-off, if you will, to determine the most delicious potential combo of melted cheese and toppings for the rest of us to re-create year-round? Well, thanks to Quesoff co-founders Adi Anand and James Moody, on Saturday, July 27, there is!

We're all winners. (Courtesy of Quesoff by Jessica Alexander)

“It was a summer night in 2011 when James and I had a few too many whiskeys and declared our love for queso,” says Anand. “We decided the city needed a party to celebrate this magical dish.” And thus, Quesoff was born. Each year, amateur and professional queso enthusiasts compete against one another to discover the ultimate in queso-y deliciousness, bringing obsessively tested professional recipes as well as beloved culinary hand-me-downs to the table.

Each year, the ambition and scope of Quesoff seems to grow. “Quesoff has a lot of momentum at this point and is somewhat of a cult favorite in town, dare I say,” says Anand. The organizing process is as challenging as it is satisfying: “Signing up the teams and gauging how many amateur teams will compete against the pros in the four categories is always fun,” he says. “I think the fact that everyday folks have beaten out top chefs over the years is something that’s truly special about this competition. We have different judges each year so it's all done very fairly and each dish is evaluated on a case-by-queso basis.”

Courtesy of Quesoff by Kayla Dockery

While he claims to be better at banter than cooking, and has no beloved queso recipe of his own, Anand has a soft spot for the home chefs who compete in the Quesoff each year. “I think my favorite memories revolve around regular ol' home teams achieving success-not chefs or restaurants, but ordinary lay-folks who just love queso so much that they put their own personal home recipe up against the best in town in a competition,” Anand says. “Quesoff has launched a couple of small businesses – folks that built a brand around their queso dish and its success – that is pretty darn sweet.”

But that doesn’t mean he’s not equally excited to find out what the professionals have to offer: “Uchiko is entering this year and I’m stoked to see what they come up with! Lots of other great restaurants always bring it too – I’m excited to see what Scholz Garten does this year.”

For both the professional and home teams, Quesoff offers an opportunity to get a little experimental, and Anand loves nothing more than sampling the new flavors that appear each year. “There's been so many – queso with all types of ingredients in 'em, different degrees of spicy in 'em, and a plethora of flavors,” he says. “Frank's duck mezcal queso from years ago still makes my mouth water, and the Thai curry queso from The Strange Goo was special too.”

And sometimes, things get seriously weird in the most delicious way. “The Cream Team won wild card with a queso gelato two years in a row,” says Anand. “It was delicious, and it was truly unexpected by most folks.”

Still, for Anand, the most exciting part of the Quesoff is the community spirit that surrounds the event. “As well as being super delicious, queso is the type of dish that brings people together,” he says. “To dip, to share stories, and to feel good about everything. In terms of immersers, it is right up there with the best.”

Adi Anand (l) and 2018 "Meaty" category winner, Better Half (Courtesy of Quesoff by Jessica Alexander)

2019 panel judges:

Andrew Knowlton (Editor at Large, Bon Appétit)

Callie Speer (Executive Chef/Owner, Holy Roller)

Fermín Núñez (Executive Chef, Suerte)

Kendall Antonelli (Co-Owner/Founder, Antonelli's Cheese Shop)

Matthew Odam (Restaurant Critic, Austin American-Statesman)

Michael Fojtasek (Executive Chef/Owner, Olamaie)

Participants include:

Past winners – Cheesus, Dai Due, Better Half, and Kesos Tacos

New/return eateries and businesses – Micklethewait Craft Meats, Uchiko, Central Standard, Scholz Garten, Pink Avocado Catering, Luvit BBQ, Republic Diner, Siete Foods, Posse East, Trudy's, Red's Porch, JuiceLand, Sala and Betty, Credo Foods, Jamie's Salsa, Eldorado Cafe, Taco Baby, Austin Daily Press, Austin's Pizza, Guero's, Maudie's, and “home teams” such as Voodoo Magic, Club Indigo, Formaggi-hoes, Downtown Cheesy Brown, and It's All Gouda.

The event is Saturday, July 27, 1pm at Mohawk, and the entry fee is $3 (100% of those proceeds go to Central Texas Food Bank). For more info, please visit their Facebook page.

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Quesoff 2019, Adi Anand, queso

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