The chefs are coming! The chefs are coming!
On Friday, April 27th some of the biggest names in the culinary world arrive in Central Texas for the Austin Food & Wine Festival. Chefs I’ve only seen on TV like Masaharu Morimoto, Michelle Bernstein, Marcus Samuelson, Jonathan Waxman, Tony Mantuano and Andrew Zimmern will all be leading sessions and demonstrations on the banks of Auditorium Shores during a two day extravaganza that promises to be a food and wine paradise.
In case you haven’t been following the play by play, what used to be the Texas Hill Country Wine and Food Festival, run by a local non-profit, has been sold to C3 Presents, the organizers of the Austin City Limits Music Festival and Lollapalooza, in partnership with Food & Wine Magazine. The new festival is now part of the same family as the famed Aspen and South Beach festivals, bringing all of the star power with it. To be honest, I’m a bit giddy.
Jesse Herman, owner of La Condesa and one of the festival organizers, explains, “We wanted to help define Austin as a food destination as much as it is a music destination. If you look for any city in the country, other than New York or San Francisco, that is generating incredible awards and accolades in the restaurant business right now, it’s got to be Austin.”
The festival not only gives Austinites a chance to rub elbows with celebrity chefs, but it gives some of the chefs an opportunity to visit Austin for the first time. I spoke with New York Chef Jonathan Waxman earlier this week and when I told him how excited we were that he was coming to town, he countered with, “I’m more excited than you.” He is thrilled for his first trip to Austin after hearing for years what a great town it is.
Not to worry, there will still be plenty of Texas faces involved in the festival as well. Chef Tim Love is leading two sessions focused on grilling, Chef Tyson Cole is teaching a sushi session and Chef David Bull will guide folks through the world of savory chocolate. And, that’s just the food. There are a multitude of sessions on wine and even tequila and vodka tastings.
Is it worth the $250 price tag? Absolutely. Now, I’m going to be completely honest that I’ve been granted a press pass, but I would have ponied up the money for a ticket had that not been the case. Here’s my view on the economics. For $250 you get to attend 6 sessions and 3 grand tastings. The cost of a class with a big named chef at Central Market is $60-$65 or about $24/hour. You get 6 sessions (ranging from 45 mins to an hour and a half) with some of the greatest chefs in the world, and, if you use the $24/hour figure, the sessions would total $144. Then, you get 3 grand tastings. The ticket to the former Hill Country Wine and Food Festival Sunday Fair was about $40. You get three of those session which would total $120. As it turns out, your $250 ticket is actually a bargain.
And did I mention that at least one of the sessions is with Morimoto. MORIMOTO. This is the culinary equivalent of Pearl Jam playing ACL Festival. I may never get to see Morimoto again, but I get to see him next weekend. Woo hoo!!!!
Most importantly, a portion of the proceeds will be reinvested back in local culinary enterprises through the granting program of the Austin Food & Wine Alliance, ensuring that Austin stays at the forefront of the national culinary scene for years to come.
Sounds like a great reason for an Austin staycation to me. See you at the festival!