2012 has been a year in which Austin' food scene really took a giant step out onto the national stage, with chefs, restaurants, farmers' markets, urban farms, and artisan food makers garnering plenty of positive media attention. And while the media coverage and awards have been wonderful, what has impressed me most is how the food community was able to coalesce around common goals. Many of my wishes for the coming year are in that same vein.
1) More community financial support of small food business ventures via platforms such as Kickstarter and Indiegogo. The owners of Salt & Time were able to raise the final chunk of money necessary to open their new shop on East Seventh with a successful Kickstarter campaign, while Indiegogo contributions financed the completion of the web series Barbecue With Franklin. I'm really curious to see how Texas French Bread's community supported restaurant expansion idea pans out. All around, I'm hoping to see more small businesses supported by the community.
2) A streamlined city permitting process that would be user friendly for small, independent businesses. The city of Austin is more than generous when wooing big companies, but small, independent start-ups are often snuffed out before they can ever get open because of bureaucratic delays in the cumbersome, labyrinthine, and incomprehensible city permitting process.
3) Better medical care for people in the food business. How many benefits did we all gladly attend this year for uninsured food people with astronomical medical bills? For some time now, there's been discussion around town about creating a medical safety net for local food business workers that is something on the order of the HAAM program for local musicians. Where, oh where, is a dynamo like the late Robin Shivers when you really need one?
4) More collaboration among local and regional chefs on food events that are about food, hospitality, and collegiality instead of celebrity. While it's all well and good to observe demos by Food Network stars at high-dollar events, what I would love to see more of are events such as the Killed by Dessert party at Foreign & Domestic this fall. Pastry chefs from both California and New York joined forces with some of Austin's best pastry talent to present a fascinating multicourse sweet and savory dessert dinner. They're expanding the concept in early January with Indie Chefs Week, when the restaurant will stage a week of dinners featuring up-and-coming chefs from around the country – sounds terrific.
5) More collaboration on neighborhood marketing campaigns to build everybody's business. The bars and restaurants along North Loop and East 53rd work together to attract business to their neighborhood, and now savvy business owners in the Warehouse District are following suit.
6) More success for local artisan food makers. More area firms than ever are finalists in the Good Food Awards this year, and some local companies are having success at fancy food shows on both coasts, but it's still really difficult for local artisan food makers to get over the steep hurdles on the road to financial success. I've just gotten a review copy of a new, self-published book called How to Make a Profit Creating & Selling Your Own Specialty Food Products in the USA, by culinary entrepreneur Harvey P. Clark. I'll blog about it if I think it could be helpful.
7) Based on my personal tastes, I'd like to declare the bacon-in-desserts trend officially dead and the deconstructed savory dessert trend on its way out. And I would love to see the obsessive cult of personality that's built up around the barbecue business, fueled by public relations campaigns thinly veiled as blog posts, dialed back considerably. Happy New Year.
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