Things used to slow down here in the summer, but it looks like June could be the busiest month of the year for Austin-area chefs.

Chefs in Motion

Things used to slow down here in the summer, but it looks like June could be the busiest month of the year for Austin-area chefs. David Garrido of Jeffrey's and Dan Haverty of the Shoreline Grill were at Jeffrey's at the Watergate as part of the star-studded celebrity chef lineup participating in the benefit to raise funds for fellow chef Jean-Luis Palladin's medical care. (For many years, Palladin operated the same restaurant space in the Watergate Hotel.)… La Traviata chef/co-owner Marion Gillchrist took a quick trip to NYC to check out everything from menu items to plate presentation in the three Italian restaurants of TVFN's Mario Battali and three others operated by chef/restaurateur Danny Meyer… Several area chefs participated in cooking demonstrations at the annual Southwest Foodservice Expo in Dallas last week: Alma Alcocer-Thomas of Jeffrey's, Steve Howard of the Navajo Grill in Fredericksburg, David Bull of the Driskill, Kevin Williamson of Ranch 616 and Ella's, Sam Dickey of the Granite Cafe, and Andre Touboule of the Texas Culinary Academy created signature dishes with either Texas beef or Gulf oysters for conventioneers… Chef partners Stewart Scruggs and Mark Paul spent the past six weeks refurbishing the kitchen and the interior of the former Castle Hill Cafe location on Lamar in anticipation of the June 16 opening date of their new restaurant WinkFour Seasons exec chef (and Chronicle restaurant poll's Best Chef of the Year) Elmar Prambs departed for a well-deserved three-week vacation visiting friends and family in Bavaria… Consulting chef Happy Abdelbaki recently competed the six-month contract that had him developing the menu, staffing, training, and opening the kitchen at Craig Gatewood's new Dam View Cafe on Lake Austin. Happy's next gigs will be catering meals on a Washington, D.C., movie set and then providing his Cajun specialties for the drivers in a series of CART auto races… Check out the July issue of Food & Wine with Emilia's chef Will Packwood on the cover with his fellow Top 10 New Chefs in America and be sure to save his recipe for the Chocolate Banana Tart in hazelnut crust… While all these guys and gals have been rushing about, Jean-Luc's French Bistro chef/co-owner Jean-Luc Salles has been spending part of each day tending two large organic garden plots, harvesting vegetables and herbs for use in his restaurant. He figures he saved about $80 a month on sorrel alone, and the relaxing garden work reduces his stress level immeasurably.

Great Condiments

While my fridge and pantry are crammed with condiment samples I receive regularly, very few of them are actually worthy of column space. However, there are some clear winners recently and they are all easily available locally. Grab a jar of the lovely imported Adriatic Fig Spread at Whole Foods Markets and try it with a variety of cheeses, starting with something mild such as brie and work up to something stronger, such as Spanish Manchego. The summer canning season is in full swing at Boggy Creek Farm, and Larry Butler's new batch of reduced-sugar organic strawberry jam is a little on the thin side, making it a great topping for ice cream. The wild plum jelly is puckery perfect on hot biscuits, toast, and scones… Honey lovers will want to sample the lemon, orange, cinnamon, strawberry, raspberry, and natural bee butters, whipped and flavored honeys sold under Lisa Jardine's Bee Cave Honey Company label at fine grocery and specialty stores.

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