In a world of celebrity chefs, one man strives to put home cooks in the spotlight. Matt Timms of the Takedown, a traveling food competition, is heading to Austin to pit local kitchen wizards against one another. On Sunday, some of the city's greatest cooks will be battle for taco supremacy.
What started as a house party for like-minded people who enjoy cook-offs has turned into a full-time, nationwide position. Timms is a one-man show, handling everything from scouting venues to organizing cooks to, in this instance, finding a way to keep thousands of mini tortillas warm.
Takedown contestants have served up chili, bacon, cookies and everything in between. For the first time ever, the cook-off theme is tacos. Why tacos? "I love tacos," jokes Timms. "That's about it." The decision to debut the Taco Takedown in Austin was even easier.
"I've been eating Mexican food since I got to Austin. Every time I come, I find a new place," says the Brooklyn native. "I knew that the culture would be right." And as the call for cooks implores, Timms is also eager to discover why Austin's tacos are so damn good.
There are no rules in the Takedown — no restrictions, no cap on ingredients. Timms hopes that the diverse lineup of competitors will bring a mixture of authenticity and innovation.
Timms says he loves a crunchy taco (you know, the kind that makes true Texans cringe), but he has a hard time picking just one fave. "I love the concept of tortillas, melted cheese and meat together — in any form."
His favorite Austin taco comes from La Cocina de Consuelo, a little family operation on Burnet Road. "There's a million reasons why I love that pace, but the food is just fantastic," says Timms. The emphasis on community makes that joint — and other taquerias like it — an absolute treat.
In the era of reality food television has changed the way we look at dining, he says. "Making celebrities out of chefs has backfired in a couple of ways. People get ridiculous about who they are rather than what they do."
That's why the Takedown on Sunday will feature home cooks. Competitors will prep at home and bring their components to Shangri La to be wrapped in 250 miniature tortillas from El Milagro for the event.
Taco expert Mondo Reyes, Hilah Johnson, Addie Broyles of the Austin American-Statesman, and Brandon Watson from The Austin Chronicle will serve as judges. The Austin Taco Takedown takes place Sunday from 2-4 pm at Shangri La. Tickets are $20 and get you a taste of every taco in the competition.