It's taken less than two years for Austin's food and cocktail scene to explode onto the national stage. Respected publications like Bon Appétit, Food & Wine, StarChefs.com and the prestigious James Beard Foundation have all honored Austin's restaurants, chefs and mixologists with inclusion on their annual "Best of" lists.
No one needs to tell us how good food and drink is in Austin, we have the good fortune of enjoying it everyday (if we want to eat out that much and, frankly, if we can afford it).
But until now, there has been no way to measure the very best of Austin's culinary and cocktail scene. Sure, we have a few people's choice awards, but popularity contests don't generally identify the best... just who can get the most votes.
With that in mind, we at CultureMap announce the inaugural 2012 CultureMap Tastemaker Awards, a competition meant to recognize the very best Austin has to offer.
On April 12 in a public event (meaning you can come) at the Driskill Hotel, we will announce the 2012 CultureMap Tastemaker Award winners for Chef, Restaurant, Pastry Chef, Mixologist, Wine and Beverage Service, and Decor/Atmosphere.
Modeled after the James Beard national awards, The Tastemaker Awards relies on the expert opinions of those who know food and drink. "We really want this event to have the credibility of other national culinary awards," says CultureMap Food + Drink Editor Jessica Dupuy. "We want to give Austin's culinary professionals an award they can be proud to earn."
Last month Dupuy tapped acclaimed Texas Chefs Robert Del Grande of Houston's RDG + Bar Annie and Andrew Weissman of San Antonio's Il Sogno, Sandbar and the former Le Reve to lead a secret panel of 12 food experts from the Austin area. The panel chose five nominees in each awards category and will submit final ballots to accounting firm Maxwell, Locke and Ritter for tabulation.
The ceremony on April 12 will celebrate Austin's rise onto the national culinary scene and thank those who lead the charge. The nominees represent a diverse collection of new talent like Paul Qui, Bryce Gilmore, Laura Sawicki, Houston Eaves and Chauncy James, and veteran standard bearers like Fonda San Miguel, David Bull, Tyson Cole, Uchi and Paggi House.
You're invited to the CultureMap Tastemaker Awards, too. A limited number of tickets are on sale now. $30 pre-sale tickets (for you, our loyal readers) are available now through Monday, Feb. 21. They go to regular price on Tuesday, Feb. 22. VIP tickets, which include seated viewing of the awards ceremony and an after-party at a very cool location, cost $100. Both get you free food and drink, much of it from the nominees, and a chance to mingle with Austin's culinary and cocktail superstars.
Scheduled just two weeks before the Austin Food & Wine Festival, the Tastemaker Awards offer a chance to honor the locals making Austin a great place to eat and drink, and for a good cause. A portion of the proceeds will benefit the non-profit Austin Food & Wine Alliance.
The 2012 CultureMap Tastemaker Awards will take place at the historic Driskill Hotel on Thursday, April 12 at 6:30 p.m. For detailed information about the event, including a full list of nominees and ticketing options, visit The Tastemakers website.