Will Travel for Food

This past year was a great one for culinary travel. Central Texas cooking teachers Linda Fox and Cameron Graham hosted several successful cooking classes at a swanky oceanside villa in Ziahuatanejo, Mexico, while chef Harvey Harris spent six months in castles and restaurants in Piedmonte and Tuscany studying regional Italian cooking. Gilligan's owner Stan Adams took his executive chef Fred Geesin to Florida to investigate exciting Caribbean flavors, and Chap Ross took a chef job in a thatched-roof lodge in the rain forest of Belize. Fonda San Miguel owner Tom Gilliland was one of many Austinites who attended the International Association of Culinary Professionals convention in Portland in April and recently enjoyed the IACP fall international seminar in Venice with 34th Street Cafe's Eddie Bernal, followed by an eating trip to Spain.

Queen of the Free Hotel Accommodation

This past year saw the first version of my Free Hotel Accommodation Tour, and I'm packed and ready to resume at a moment's notice. This year, I resolve to visit New Orleans again in January, attend the IACP convention in Phoenix in April, do some geneology work while attending the Southern Foodways Symposium in Oxford, Mississippi in May, and squeeze a trip to Belize in there somewhere. I also plan to take more weekend trips around Texas like the one I took to Blair House in Wimberley and my stint as a guest judge at a culinary event in Jefferson.

For history buffs, Jefferson is a beautifully preserved old city on the banks of the Cypress Bayou north of Longview, near Caddo Lake. It boasts two hotels that have been in continuous operation for well over 125 years and more than 60 bed & breakfast houses, most in lovingly restored historic homes filled with period antiques. During the last century, Jefferson was the busiest inland port in Texas, considered as cosmopolitan as New Orleans or Galveston. Today, it's a busy town that has turned its history into a thriving hospitality business, much closer to the antebellum South than to the wild frontier.

I was invited to judge the annual Taste of Jefferson event where all the local eateries put up booths on a downtown street to showcase their signature dishes in competition. My fellow judges were two East Texas resort chefs and a sous chef from the Dallas Cowboys training table. I was surprised to find that Jefferson has some actual nightlife and several perfectly respectable restaurants for a town of 2,500 people. The trip came complete with lodging in an 1868 Greek Revival style B&B called The Governor's House. I hope they invite me back next year.

Good Citizenship Award

Reviewing a file of press releases and event announcements for the past 12 months, I noticed one name that came up consistently. No matter what the cause, be it hunger relief, fine arts, education, or AIDS research, this same independent chef/restaurateur could always be counted on to quietly and cheerfully donate his time and his good food in support of charity events. That man is native Austinite Charles Mayes, owner of Cafe Josie. Thanks, Charlie, for being such a good neighbor.

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