For the past five years, the James Beard Foundation has taken an annual tour across America, stopping in some of the country's best food cities along the way. And this fall, for the first time, Austin has been selected as a destination on that tour. The Austin event (like all the tour stops) will feature nationally renowned chefs cooking with some of our best local culinary artists. There will be dinners, cooking demonstrations, book signings, and more, with a portion of the proceeds going to the James Beard Foundation Taste America Scholarship Fund.
"It was an honor to have Austin be featured in it," says chef Laura Sawicki. "And to be celebrating our food community at large. And then to be asked to participate on an individual level."
Sawicki, the executive pastry chef at Launderette, will be providing the dessert course for the event's gala benefit dinner.
"I'm going to be preparing a Parmesan rind mousse," she says. "I'll be serving it with poached quince that are slow cooked for about six hours until they are ruby red, with a little bit of candied buckwheat ginger thyme sort of crumbly bits and Parmigiano-Reggiano grated over the top. So definitely a savory take on dessert. Something very interesting that most people probably have never experienced before, and [I'm] delighted to share it."
Like Sawicki, chef Zach Hunter (of the soon-to-open The Brewer's Table) is also presenting a unique dish for the event. He's one of the featured local chefs taking part in the Smoke Session, which will kick off the first night of the Taste Austin event.
"I thought I'd do something a little different," he says. "So I'm going to take swordfish belly ... and then cure it like you would pork belly to make lardo, and then cook it at a low temperature and then slice it thin and it basically comes out the same texture as cured pork. And I'm going to wrap that around some raw apple and turnip and make a sauce from some charred pumpkin and coffee. I just want to do something interesting and fun."
Zawicki and Hunter are both excited to see Austin represented on the James Beard tour this year.
"Just to have the James Beard Foundation pick Austin as one of the 10 cities, it just speaks to the impact that we've already made, and the excitement and buzz across the country that people have for Austin," Hunter says.
"It's really truly an honor," agrees Sawicki. "This is them selecting our city as a whole and really recognizing all the great talent we have available. And to have been selected to do the only dessert at this dinner is really an honor. It's a lot of pressure, too. I've got one shot."
The hope for both chefs is that Austin will become a permanent stop on the annual James Beard tour. "I would like to think that Austin ... is in that conversation about the best food cities in the country," Hunter says. "And we hope to stay there."