For Austin's third instillation of the international Creative Morning series, a crowd of nearly 100 creatives gathered Friday morning beneath the massive trees of Springdale Farm in East Austin to hear chef, restaurateur and farm-advocate Sonya Coté speak about her life, inspiration and the road she's traveled.
Creative Mornings is a free monthly lecture that brings together those working in creative fields for breakfast and illumination before they head off to work. Started in New York City in 2009 by famed designer and Swiss Miss creator Tina Roth Eisenberg, Creative Mornings are 20-minute talks followed by community-oriented discussions. There are now more than 50 chapters around the world, from Auckland to Zurich, with the Austin chapter helmed by Ben Thoma and a team of hardworking organizers.
Coté's talk began as a call to arms by way of a moving video from Keep Austin Fed, a group that takes the discarded food from restaurants and delivers them to shelters and people in need.
Coté explained that the City of Austin would like to rezone and re-code what constitutes an urban farm, putting long-time Springdale, Boggycreek, Rain Lily and Hausbar farms (all of which source produce for many restaurants in town) in East Austin in danger.
Coté's talk also gave a unique glimpse into her personal life and evolution. She revealed she started her career as an illustrator in Dallas for Whole Foods, where her love for food eventually surpassed her love for illustration. After a few years and a life-changing trip touring farms in San Francisco, Coté came to Austin where she became the founding chef at East Side Show Room, which she described as her first opportunity to execute the dishes and plates she'd dreamt of.
After three years, Coté went on the open Hillside Farmacy to great acclaim and concurrently co-founded Homegrown Revival which promotes native, local and sustainably grown foods by educating consumers — something Coté feels strongly about and attempts to teach through all of her business ventures.
Her newest restaurant is Eden East, located inside Springdale farm. “It’s an all-night adventure on a farm, kind of like my dream come true,” she said. Eden East is only open on Fridays and Saturdays, allowing Coté and her team to truly experiment with dishes, using the farm as inspiration and resource. “It's just a really fun creative outlet for me. I can really be as creative as I can.”
The crowed buzzed energetically after Coté's talk, motivated by the endeavors, trials and triumphs she so honestly shared. As intended, each person likely took a nugget of encouragement to their job after the event, lending a bit of vigor to an otherwise ordinary business day.
The next Creative Morning will take place on July 25 with speaker Richard Garriot.
To learn how to help urban farms, visit Austin Urban Farms.