A star-studded Texas lineup decorates the playbill for the third annual Austin Food & Wine Festival, not to mention a whole host of new events, demos and interactive cooking showcases. This year’s festival will take place on April 25-27, 2014, and is presented in partnership with founders Charlie Jones (C3 Presents); Tim Love (Lonesome Dove Western Bistro, Woodshed Smokehouse), Tyson Cole (Uchi, Uchiko) and Jesse Herman (La Condesa, Sway); and Christina Grdovic (publisher of Food & Wine).
As in previous years, the festival promises three days of more than 40 events, with everything from interactive chef-manned fire pits; live demos; panel discussions; and an extensive — and fan-cooled! — Grand Tasting pavilion offering food, wine and cocktail tastings, live music, book signings and more.
An exciting new addition is the intimate “Feast Under the Stars” dinner featuring a multi-course al fresco meal by five Texas chefs.
“A big part of this festival’s success comes from listening to our guests’ feedback from year to year,” says festival partner and C3 founder Charlie Jones. “We continue to make adjustments to the festival program to enhance the overall experience.
“Last year, the fire pit was a big success not only for our guests but also for the chefs who participated, so we have added an additional area this year to expand this interactive element. It’s really going to be a great year.”
Another exciting new addition is the intimate “Feast Under the Stars” dinner hosted at Austin’s Butler Park on April 24. This outdoor celebration will feature a multi-course al fresco meal by five Texas chefs: Love, Cole, Kent Rathbun (Abacus), Chris Shepherd (Underbelly) and Jodi Elliot (Bribery). Tickets for Feast Under the Stars are sold separately, for $185 per person. Wine pairings and parking are included in that ticket price.
“It’s great to see chefs from cities across Texas showcase their regional styles,” Shepherd says. “No other state has the diversity of Texas, and it makes things really interesting for a festival like this. All of us learn from each other — about different cultures, products, ingredients — and we all live in the same state.”
If you’re wondering about live grilling demonstrations from Fort Worth celebrity chef Tim Love — you’re in luck. Participants can look forward to Texas-sized class featuring a sea of guest-operated grills under the direction of Love, who is promising a hands-on grilling showcase that will top previous years.
The main festival kicks off April 25, with the Taste of Texas event, held at downtown’s Republic Square Park. Guests can taste their way through a variety of Texas-inspired dishes while enjoying a live music showcase from Escort. The lineup showcases the Lone Star State’s brightest chefs:
- Tatsu Aikawa (Ramen Tatsu-Ya)
- Alexis Chong (Sway)
- Jason Dady (Jason Dady Restaurant Group)
- Todd Duplechan and Jessica Maher (Lenoir)
- Omar Flores (Driftwood)
- Terrence Gallivan and Seth Siegel-Gardner (The Pass & Provisions)
- Diego Galicia (Mixtli)
- James Holmes (Lucy’s Fried Chicken, Olivia)
- Matt McCallister (FT33)
- Wayne Mueller (Louie Mueller Barbecue)
- Andre Natera (Toko V)
- Hugo Ortega (Hugo’s Restaurant, Backstreet Café)
- Jesse Perez (Arcade Kitchen)
- Blaine Staniford (Grace)
- Philip Speer (Uchi, Uchiko and St. Philip)
- Justin Yu (Oxheart)
“Once I figure out what I’m actually cooking and can get over the nervous energy of preparing that, I’ll be really looking forward to meeting some of the amazing chefs that I’ve never met before,” Duplechan says.
“Being around other chefs who are really good at what they do gives you a chance to pick up new ideas and learn, which is something I really believe in,” he adds. “You have to keep evolving as a chef and a restaurant. A festival of this caliber allows us to have that opportunity.”
Saturday evening’s Rock Your Taco competition will return, inspiring the competitive spirit in both Texas and out-of-state chefs alike. Two-time Rock Your Taco champion Tyson Cole will defend his crown against these challengers:
- David Bull (Second Bar + Kitchen, Bar Congress)
- Bryce Gilmore (Barley Swine, Odd Duck)
- Tim Love
- Monica Pope (Sparrow Bar + Cookshop)
- Kent Rathbun
- Chris Shepherd
- Rick Bayless (Frontera Grill)
- Richard Blais (Juniper & Ivy, FLIP Burger and The Spence)
- John Currence (City Grocery Restaurant Group)
- Mike Lata (FIG and The Ordinary)
- Georgia Pellegrini (chef/author)
- Ming Tsai (Blue Ginger, Blue Dragon)
- Tandy Wilson (City House)
“Year three of the festival has me super excited for so many reasons,” Cole says. “We have more local and national talent, more fire pit action, and, of course, I’m excited to defend my Rock Your Taco title. Looking for a three-peat!”
With live music from JC Brooks & The Uptown Sound, chefs will square off against one another to create the ultimate taco, with winners chosen by judges Grdovic, Graham Elliot (Graham Elliot Bistro) and TV host Andrew Zimmern. Jeni Britton Bauer (Jeni’s Splendid Ice Cream) will offer a sweet end to the competitive night.
Bryce Gilmore will also be on deck as one of the presenting chefs for the interactive fire pits, which will run throughout both days at Butler Park. Here, Texas chefs will cook over open fire pits and offer tastes to attendees:
- Tim Byres (Smoke)
- Jason Dady
- Ned Elliot (Foreign & Domestic)
- Aaron Franklin (Franklin Barbecue)
- Bryce Gilmore
- John Russ (Lüke San Antonio)
- Paul Qui (Qui, East Side King)
- Andrew Wiseheart (Contigo)
Throughout the grounds of Butler Park, guests can enjoy chefs’ showcases featuring a dynamic roster of primarily Austin chefs serving tastes of their signature dishes:
- John Bates and Brandon Martinez (Noble Sandwiches)
- Stefan Bowers (Feast Restaurant)
- Shawn Cirkiel (Parkside, Olive & June, Backspace)
- Kassie Harris (Whip In)
- Chris Hurley Jennifer Costello (Bonneville)
- Allison Jenkins and Janina O’Leary (La V)
- Josh Jones (Salt & Time)
- Larry Kocurek (Trace)
- Rick Lopez (La Condesa)
- Jeff Martinez (El Chile y Cantina)
- Sarah McIntosh (Epicerie Café & Grocery)
- Scott Mechura (Goodall’s Kitchen)
- Sandi Reinlie (Vespaio)
- Josh Watkins (The Carillon)
- Kevin Williamson (Ranch 616)
“As we've been building the restaurant, we've had the chance to get out there and connect with Austin by participating in an abundance of culinary events, but this really takes the cake,” says executive chef Allison Jenkins, of the soon-to-open LaV. “We are super excited to have the opportunity to showcase what we do, not only to Austin, but to all of the out-of-town visitors heading to the fest.”
LaV’s managing partner and sommelier Vilma Mazaite will also be on hand for a special wine education demonstration.
“It's a true honor to participate in the festival, even before our restaurant has opened,” Mazaite says. “Although the details of my wine demo are still something I am working on, I am leaning towards a presentation with a fun, female focus.”
Joining Mazaite to talk wine, cocktails and more is a star-studded collection of sommeliers, beverage directors, mixologists and craft beer experts, including Master Sommelier Devon Broglie (Whole Foods Market), Master Sommelier Craig Collins (Arro, 24 Diner), sommelier Jill Gubesch (Frontera Grill), Food & Wine magazine’s executive wine editor Ray Isle, author Mark Oldman and Nate Wales (La Condesa, Sway).
As in previous years, tickets are available in two options. “Taste” passes are $250 and include access to more than 40 demos, hands-on experiences, seminars and tastings, and the daily Grand Tasting events. Taste pass holders also have the option to add on tickets for Friday night’s Taste of Texas event ($150) and/or Saturday night’s Rock Your Taco competition ($150).
“Savor” passes are $850 and include priority access to all demos, tastings and hands-on experiences; private Grand Tastings on Saturday and Sunday; access to a VIP lounge with a bar and additional tastings; and access to both the Taste of Texas and Rock Your Taco evening events. Tickets for Thursday’s Feast Under the Stars are sold separately.
Tickets go on sale Tuesday, January 21, at 10 am CST. The complete list of programming — including panel discussions, cooking demonstrations and more — will be announced on February 25. For more information, visit the Austin Food and Wine Festival website.