A new multi-city cook-off is headed to Austin for the first time. In February, 16 local chefs will compete to create the tastiest lamb dish in the land at Lamb Jam in hopes of winning the ultimate title of “Lamb Jam Master.”
During the February 22 event, chefs will cook dishes from assigned regions or cuisines, and attendees and Austin’s top food media will vote on the selections. The winner will then pack up their pots for the fifth annual Lamb Jam finale in New York City later this year. In the New York, the Austin victor will compete against winners from competitions in Seattle, Boston, San Francisco and Washington, DC.
Texas’ rank as the largest lamb producing state in the country and Austin’s nationally acclaimed food scene made it a natural choice for the competition.
Though several of the Austin chefs admitted they know little about what to expect at the competition — other than the fact that lamb is involved — the American Lamb Board says it's staging the event to help increase awareness about the benefits of lamb. Megan Wortman, executive director of the board, says that Texas’ rank as the largest lamb producing state in the country and Austin’s nationally acclaimed food scene made it a natural choice for the competition.
“Since this year marks the tour’s first time in Austin, we sought to represent a large cross-section of the culinary landscape in the area by selecting restaurants and chefs who are passionate supporters of the local food community and who source American lamb,” says Wortman.
“Compared to beef, lamb has a distinctive taste,” says Buenos Aires Café founding chef Reina Morris. “It all depends in the way it is raised. If it is left to roam, the taste is a bit stronger and more gamey and if it is controlled, the taste is much milder.”
Carlos Ysaguirre, chef at Jacoby’s Restaurant and Mercantile, cooks lamb on a regular basis either grilling it with Meyer lemons or grinding it for lamb burgers. Jacoby’s plans to seasonally serve lamb raised on the family ranch near Melvin, Texas. “Properly raised lamb tastes great,” Ysaguirre says. “I’m looking forward to cooking some good food and hanging out with great folks and, hopefully, we’ll win.”
Austin’s Lamb Jam takes place from 3-6 pm on Sunday, February 22 at the Barr Mansion. Tickets cost $60 and allow attendees to sample and vote on 16 lamb dishes, taste Texas beers and wine, and visit a spice rub station to create a take-home tin of lamb rub.
A portion of the ticket sales will benefit the Austin Food & Wine Alliance, a nonprofit that provides grants, education and events to foster awareness and innovation in the Central Texas culinary scene.
Austin chefs invited to participate include:
- Chris Hurley, The Bonneville
- Jack Gilmore, Jack Allen’s Kitchen
- Shawn Cirkiel, Parkside, Chavez, and Olive & June
- John Lichtenberger, Péché
- Carlos Ysaguirre, Jacoby’s Restaurant & Mercantile
- Phillip Brown, Vince Young Steakhouse
- Danny Kievit, Moonshine Patio Bar & Grill
- Reina Morris and James Watson, Buenos Aires Café
- Harold Marmulstein, Salty Sow
- Joel Welch, Kerbey Lane Cafe
- Bryce Gilmore, Odd Duck and Barley Swine
- Joe Anguiano, Vox Table
- Mark Schmidt, Blackbird & Henry
- Camden Stuerzenberger, Fork & Vine
- Roman Murphy, Bess Bistro
- Kyle McClelland, Dallas' Proof + Pantry