You can still smell the smoke! The recently concluded Austin Food and Wine Festival celebrates the constantly evolving tastes of Texas, the flavors, aromas, cultures, and characters. Itself evolved from the earlier Texas Hill Country Food and Wine Festival, it brings chefs from all over the world to our fair city to showcase their skills and knowledge to attendees and contemporaries.
Once confined to more populous metros such as New York and LA, the chefs of honor at this exclusive culinary event are more likely than ever to call Texas home. We all know that we live in a state full of delicious dishes, but have you ever looked up from your brisket to thank the cook?
Here’s a quick amuse-bouche from the 3rd Annual Food Republic Interview Lounge, hosted by W Austin at the start of this year’s festival weekend.
Wayne Mueller: Louie Mueller Barbecue
Mueller is a name that seems to be synonymous with barbecue. The family can boast a hand in many of the most famous pits in Texas, though the flames can sometimes burn with contention.
Wayne Mueller reigns over the more sedate Louie Mueller Barbecue in Taylor, watching over the same restaurant his grandfather started 55 years ago. While much of Texas cooking has moved toward innovation, the emphasis here is on remaining true to the legacy. The location has been altered as little as possible since 1959, and Wayne sees this as an important element of his cooking, that “barbecue is the product of its environment.”
Chris Shepherd: Underbelly
Chris Shepherd works his kitchen magic in a very different environment. Choosing to settle in Houston’s nascent culinary scene, Shepherd is hoping to bring “his vision of what Houston is” to the plates of curious diners.
Operating out of his restaurant, Underbelly, Chris has created a cuisine based on local ingredients, with an emphasis on using whole ingredients, quite literally nose to tail. The result is a menu that constantly evolves to match available supplies and critical acclaim.
Paul Qui: Uchi, East Side King
Needing little introduction to Austin foodies, Paul Qui is a local culinary celebrity who so far has surpassed the hype. Honing his craft in the famous kitchen at Uchi and the East Side Kings food trailers, the Top Chef star has now branched out on his own, starting up a self-titled restaurant in the constantly changing East 6th Street neighborhood.
We’re fortunate to have one of the most celebrated chefs at the Austin Food and Wine Festival operating in our own backyard, but don’t be lazy about trying the fare at Qui. Who knows how long before another city demands Paul Qui’s attentions? At least we know there will always be something good to eat in Austin.
Consider this a small sampling of Texas taste experts. Who would you add to the list?
All photos by Trevor Yopp. All food and drinks by Trace.
Disclaimer: While the writer has not received compensation for producing this article, she was plied with a combination of indulgent small plates and fancy libations. All opinions are her own.