A food pyramid for the typical Austin diet would have to include queso as a creamy foundation. And this Saturday the homegrown celebration of Austin's favorite cheesy concoction, the Quesoff, returns to the Mohawk.
Entering its fourth year, the Quesoff features more than 20 teams competing in four categories: meaty, spicy, veggie and, new this year, "wild card." We talked with Adi Anand, the national program manager of DoStuff Media and one of the brains behind the Quesoff, to discuss the origins of this delicious food fest and the possibilities for his next food-centric competition.
According to Anand, the idea of a queso celebration started like many other great ideas in Austin — over a few drinks with a friend.
“I used to work at Transmission Events as part of their creative events team,” Anand tells CultureMap. “One night, over many a Jameson, Mohawk owner James Moody and I decided that the time was ripe for a queso competition in town. We had been joking about it for a while, but that fateful night we decided to make it happen. Based on the love for queso we saw just between our friends, we thought this idea had legs and we could make it something special.”
The creators weren't exactly sure if people would show up to eat free queso on a hot Saturday afternoon, but the inaugural event was an overwhelming success. “We decided to make it an annual event,” says Anand.
As one of the chief creators of the Quesoff, many may wonder what Anand thinks makes a good queso. “The first thing I look for in a queso is the consistency. Something too watery or too thick paints a picture immediately. But the biggest test is the taste. I can disregard the consistency if it tastes awesome. Presentation is vital, too, but not essential. Ultimately, it's the taste that matters.”
With this year's new wild card category, Anand says no ingredient is off limits when making a batch of queso. “We've seen many a unique queso concoction already, like fried chicken doused in queso or tandoori queso by my mom two years ago, so this year we decided to add a wild card category. Anything goes. I'm hoping to see tons of interesting dishes in that category: lobster queso, queso sandwich, queso sushi roll. I hope folks go, well, wild in this category.”
Now that he's cornered the queso market, Anand tells us he's planning a celebration for another favorite dish.
“I'm working on a Kebabathon too, so hopefully Austin will soon have its own kebab fest. I'd like it to represent kebabs from all over the world: the Turkish kebab wrap, the Indian kathi or seekh roll, the Saudi shawarma, the Greek gyro, the Euro kebap and many other cuisines that could be adapted into a Kebab form. I’m thinking a bulgogi kebab from Korea, a fajita kebab from Mexico, a raw fish kebab from Japan, a Cajun one from Lousiana, a lobster one from Maine or Massachusetts, and so on.”
If you want to learn more about Anand's adventures in scouting for kebabs in Austin give him a follow on Twitter. And if you want to experience the Quesoff IV first hand, head to the Mohawk on Saturday — and get there early. Austin's love affair with queso runs deep and this event is no stranger to large crowds and long lines. The event is free — bags of chips can be purchased for $5.