DANG. IT’S BEEN A TOUGH YEAR. Almost nothing seemed to go how I wanted it to go, from the geopolitical climate to the timing of this issue. Over the last week or so, I moved apartments, had to replace my phone, and found a family of brown recluse spiders living inside my truck’s tailpipe. Needless to say, I’ve been eating a lot of pizza. ... MORE
For better or worse, I’ve always found it impossible to feel stressed in the moment of eating. Yes, there’s the immediate pleasures of salt and fat, but it has always been more than that. Anxiety does its damage by making us feel alone. Comfort food gives us an opportunity to feel connected.
For many of us, stirring a béchamel into mac & cheese or licking the chocolate batter off a beater is our earliest introduction to the idea that food is really about community. Those memories stick to our ribs – we remember an aunt beaming with pride when a meringue didn’t weep or a boyfriend who made us migas on the first sleepover.
Even the meals we eat alone – like the giant bowls of pho I would stretch over three meals when I could barely afford rent – are part of that continuum, the product of a people whose love of community is so strong that they risk the razor thin margins and brave the long hours of running a restaurant. That love is a constant reminder that we are all in this together.
I am fortunate that I got to work with a community of writers in coming up with the list of 100. Thanks to Emily Beyda, Mary Bryce, Jessi Cape, Melody Fury, Dan Gentile, Melanie Haupt, Lauren Jones, Josh Kupecki, Veronica Meewes, and Adrienne Whitehorse and special thanks to interns Sierra Diaz and Thea Newell, who went above and beyond. Our proofing team – Danielle White, Kat McNevins, and Greg Stitt – worked double time to handle all the copy before an early press deadline.
Our ever-impressive creative director Jason Stout created the sharp look of this issue, and production manager Chris Linnen, and graphic designers Zeke Barbaro and Carrie Lewis were uncommonly patient in the face of my many last-minute changes. Staff photographer John Anderson with help from frequent Chronicle contributor David Brendan Hall are responsible for the beautiful photography throughout.
Behind the scenes, web director Brian Barry and digital strategist Mike Bartnett took care of all the difficult computer stuff necessary for the success of an issue. And marketing director Sarah Wolf, marketing manager Karena Rogers, special events guru Dan Hardick, and digital coordinator Tamar Price put together not one, not two, but four special events to celebrate First Plates. Thanks so much for the teams at El Chile Group, Cuvée Coffee, Peached Social House, and the ABGB for lending their venues and expertise.
Last but not least, I owe a huge debt of gratitude to the many people who I am fortunate enough to get to work with every week – the men and women who make Austin’s food scene so special. There’s no greater comfort than knowing they are there to share a meal. – Brandon Watson