Virginia B. Wood on the good news coming out of the Austin restaurant scene this week

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The good news has just been pouring in around here this week! Food & Wine magazine has named Austin chef Will Packwood one of the Best Chefs in America for 2001. Packwood, a CIA graduate who is the executive chef at Emilia's (600 E. Third, 469-9722), attended the magazine's annual gala last week in New York City before returning to participate in the Texas Hill Country Wine & Food Festival. The editors of Food & Wine solicit nominations from food writers, industry professionals, and chefs nationwide and then travel coast to coast to check out the emerging talent. Packwood is the first Austin chef to make the annual list. His recognition reflects well on the entire Austin restaurant scene, and he deserves hearty congratulations!… In a follow-up to Chronicle contributor MM Pack's recent story about local culinary education programs, we've been informed that Bowie High School culinary student and Four Seasons pastry apprentice Christina Hernandez was recently named the Texas winner of the annual Johnson & Wales high school student recipe contest, winning $1,000. Johnson & Wales, located in Providence, R.I., is one of the top culinary schools in the country, and the high school recipe contest offers aspiring culinarians an opportunity to compete for college tuition funds. This is the second state win in two entries for Hernandez. Last year, she placed 17th in the national competition and moved up to fifth this year. Her prize money will go toward financing her continuing education. Bravo, Christina!… Possibly the best news this week is that the folks at Jean-Luc's French Bistro (705 Colorado, 494-0033) survived a potentially devastating grease fire above the kitchen's grill two weeks ago and were able to get repairs and inspections made in time to participate in the Wine & Food Festival and reopen that same weekend. Chef/owner Jean-Luc Salles confided to me that the luckiest thing of all was his purchase of business interruption insurance. "After El Arroyo burned a few years ago, I asked my insurance guy if business interruption coverage was included in our policy," he recalled, adding that "the agent told me we didn't have it but could add it pretty cheaply, and now I'm sure glad we did. Being closed for any length of time could kill a small business like mine." The popular downtown bistro is once again open for lunch and dinner… The local Ruth's Chris Steak House (Congress & W. Sixth, 477-7884) outlet has added two new members to their management staff. Cindy Davis, whose experience includes working as a wine buyer and assistant manager at Jeffrey's, as well as management positions at Mezzaluna and the Granite Cafe, is the new manager. The new assistant manager is Do Young Son, a Ruth's Chris company veteran who comes to Austin from their downtown Dearborn, Mich., location… Cooking classes at the new Central Market Cooking School Westgate (4521 Westgate Blvd., 358-1909) began on the store's second anniversary, April 7. Westgate will hold an average of 18 classes every month, accommodating 16 students per class. Instruction will be provided by Central Market staff chefs such as Roger Mollett, John Mims, and Barbara Hoover and will include daytime, hands-on, and demonstration classes. Coordinator of the new program is Megan Abajian-Brown and reservations can be made by calling 358-1909… Texas Land & Cattle Company opened their fourth Austin outlet April 2nd. The new restaurant is located at 5510 South I-35 at Stassney Lane. That's a total of 19 Texas Land & Cattle restaurants in Texas, plus one each in New Mexico and Arizona.

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Will Packwood, Christina Hernandez, Johnson & Wales, Jean-Luc's French Bistro, Jean-Luc Salles, Roger Mollett, Texas Land & Cattle Company

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