Watch: Recap of Rock Your Taco at Austin Food & Wine Festival

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More than a dozen chefs from around the country competed for taco supremacy at Austin Food &Wine Festival’s Rock Your Taco event Saturday night at Fair Market. Check out the highlights in the video.

Chef Amanda Freitag poses with her lechon de coco taco during the Austin Food and Wine Festival’s Rock Your Taco celebrity chef showdown on Saturday April 28, 2018, in Austin. (Rodolfo Gonzalez FOR AMERICAN-STATESMAN)


Austin Food & Wine Festival: Chatting with C3 Presents partner Charlie Jones

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Noted foodie and partner of festival producer C3 Presents Charlie Jones talks about this year’s fest and his favorite event at the festival.

Racks of ribs grill over a fire pit during the Austin Food & Wine Festival. (Nick Wagner AMERICAN-STATESMAN)


Austin Food & Wine Festival: Chatting with Brooklyn’s Billy Durney about Texas and barbecue

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We headed up to Brooklyn last year to check in on their much-discussed barbecue scene. The only place we visited that would’ve cracked the Top 10 in Austin? Billy Durney’s Hometown Bar-B-Que in Red Hook. We chatted with the barbecue cook at the Austin Food & Wine Festival.

A pig cooks on a rotisserie during the Austin Food & Wine Festival. (Nick Wagner AMERICAN-STATESMAN)


Austin Food & Wine Festival: A chat with Poke-Poke owner Jason McVeary

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Austin’s Poke-Poke made its first appearance at the Austin Food & Wine Festival this year. We caught up with restaurant co-owner Jason McVeary.

Poke Poke



See which celebrity chefs and big Austin names will be cooking at the Austin Food & Wine Festival

The Austin Food & Wine Festival will welcome a host of new faces and introduce a few changes at the seventh annual event that takes place at Auditorium Shores April 27-29. Tickets go on sale at 10 a.m. at

During a year in which much attention has been brought to the culture of sexual harassment in the workplace, it is worth noting that the festival will welcome a large number of female chefs, wine experts and celebrities, including Stephanie Izard of Chicago, the first woman to win “Top Chef;” fellow “Top Chef” alumnus Nyesha Arrington; Southern chef Cassidee Dabney of The Barn at Blackberry Farm in Tennessee; chef and renowned cookbook author Lidia Bastianich and Helen Johannesen, wine director of a mini empire of restaurants in Southern California. Those women, all first timers at AFWF, will join a group of fellow festival rookies that includes barbecue master Rodney Scott from South Carolina; James Beard award-winning chef and restaurateur Paul Kahan of Chicago and New York City pitmaster Billy Durney of Hometown Barbecue in Red Hook, Brooklyn. 

Chef Amanda Freitag of “Chopped” fame is one of many female chefs coming to this year’s Austin Food & Wine Festival. (Tom McCarthy FOR AMERICAN-STATESMAN)

The chefs will participate in the three-day event that includes more than 40 events, tastings and demonstrations, including Friday night’s Grillin’ and Chillin’ with chef Tim Love and the always-popular Saturday night Rock Your Taco competition, which will pit Tatsu Aikawa & Takuya Matsumoto (Ramen Tatsu-Ya / Kemuri Tatsu-Ya), Tyson Cole (Hai Hospitality: Loro), Amanda Freitag (“Chopped”), Diego Galicia & Rico Torres (Mixtli in San Antonio), Ray Garcia (Broken Spanish in Los Angeles),  Izard (Girl & The Goat, Little Goat, Duck Duck Goat), Kahan (One Off Hospitality Group), Michael White (Altamarea) and others against one another in a battle for taco supremacy.

As we mentioned earlier this week, both the Fire Pits experience and Chefs Showcase during the Saturday and Sunday afternoon portions of the fest have grown this year to feature more chefs and more food, with names like Sonya Coté (Eden East, Hillside Farmacy), Wayne Mueller (Louie Mueller Barbecue) and Andrew Wiseheart (Contigo, Contigo Catering, Chicon) cooking over open flames at the former and Austin chefs including Ji Peng Chen (Wu Chow), Kazu Fukumoto (Fukumoto), Taylor Hall (Apis), Lance Kirkpatrick (Stiles Switch BBQ & Brew), Stephanie McClenny (Confituras), Jason McVearry (Poke Poke), Sterling Riddings (Guild), Maribel Rivero (Yuyo), Max Snyder (Pitchfork Pretty), Carmen Valera (Tamale House East) and Miguel Vidal (Valentina’s Tex Mex BBQ) serving dishes at the latter.

The unofficial kick-off for the festival is a separately ticketed Feast Under the Stars dinner on Thursday night, with a meal prepared by Tyson Cole (Uchi), Mary Catherine Curren (ELM Restaurant Group), Todd Duplechan (Lenoir), Kevin Fink (Emmer & Rye), and Michael Fojtasek (Olamaie). Tickets to that cost $250 and can be purchased online.

Tickets for the April event go on sale at 10 a.m. and can be purchased at


Win hotel stay, flights to Austin and all-access tickets to Austin Food & Wine Festival

The Austin Food & Wine Festival has announced a series of changes to their annual festival. Chef Tim Love, a festival partner, will move his massively popular hands-on grilling session from the weekend afternoons to Friday night. As per recent years, the event, at which attendees learn to cook a perfect steak, veggies and more, is for All-In ticket holders. That session will supplant the Lone Star Nights event, which has kicked off the festival in years past and was an add-on ticket possibility for regular ticket holders.  

Tim Love’s Grilling and Chilling event will take place on the Friday night of the festival and be open to all All-In ticket holders. (Jay Janner AMERICAN-STATESMAN)

The Fire Pits, an area at the daytime slate of events, will expand this year to include more chefs, more live fire cooking and more food for attendees. The Chef Showcase, which features food from festival chefs, will also grow, giving attendees a chance to more fully get their grub on.

In addition to the changes, the festival has announced a massive Giveaway Getaway package. The winner will receive two round-trip flights to Austin (if you’re a local and win, you can fly in a friend), a room for three nights at the new Fairmont Hotel, two All-In tickets (normally priced at $625 each), rideshare credits and a merch bag full of swag. Head to the festival’s website to enter the Giveaway Getaway.

The Austin Food & Wine Festival takes place April 27-29 at Auditorium Shores in Austin. Tickets go on sale Thursday at 10 a.m. 

Austin Food & Wine Festival announces 2018 dates

Ready to hang out with celebrity chefs, learn how to make homemade pasta and get drunk with Tim Love while singing your eyebrows? Well, now you’ve got a weekend to circle on your calendar.

Chef Tim Love hands a taco to Mikaela Blood as the country’s best chefs compete with their own versions of taco dishes in the Rock Your Taco showdown during the Austin Food and Wine Festival at Fair Market April 29. 04/29/17 Tom McCarthy Jr. for AMERICAN-STATESMAN

The Austin Food & Wine Festival posted an Instagram photo today teasing the dates for next year’s festival. It will take place April 27-29.  More details on tickets, talent and more in the weeks and months to come (the lineup and tickets were released in January for this year’s festival). In the meantime, take a look at some of last year’s coverage:


10 tasty takeaways from the 2017 Austin Food & Wine Festival

Chef Tyson Cole hands out tacos and receives compliments from Donna and Ed King as the country’s best chefs compete with their own versions of taco dishes in the Rock Your Taco showdown during the Austin Food and Wine Festival at Fair Market April 29. (Tom McCarthy Jr. FOR AMERICAN-STATESMAN)

The fifth installment of the Austin Food & Wine Festival kept attendees well fed and fueled by libations over three days. The weather gods smiled and the sold-out festival, which included a venue making its AFWF debut, seemed to run without any serious problems. We take a look at a few highlights, best bites and random notes from the festival.

Beef cheek from Matt Balke of Bolsa in Dallas. (Matthew Odam AMERICAN-STATESMAN)

Texas proud: The Lone Star Nights kickoff again once again showcased the amazing array of talent across the state and should serve as encouragement for diners  to gas up their cars and road trip to restaurants outside of their hometowns. My highlights: Sonoran cascarelli with ricotta from Kevin Fink of Emmer & Rye; beef cheek pastrami with Eagle Mountain pimento cheese from Matt Balke of Bolsa in Dallas; trout roe migas from Paul Qui’s Kuneho; and Northern Thai chicken salad from Thai Changthong of Thai Kun.

Chef Tyson Cole created a smoked masu taco with Asian pear, yuzu kosho and ramps to win his third Rock Your Taco crown. (Tom McCarthy Jr. FOR AMERICAN-STATESMAN)

Taco king: Tyson Cole may operate some of the best sushi restaurants in Texas, but the man knows how to create a killer taco. The chef took home the Rock Your Taco title for the third time in five years on the strength of his smoked ocean trout taco that was tingly with pickled ramps, and bright with shiso.

Chef Alon Shaya created a pastrami taco with preserved mango labneh, pickled cabbage and herbs for the Rock Your Taco event. (Tom McCarthy Jr. FOR AMERICAN-STATESMAN)

National names: One of my favorite parts of the fest each year is getting to taste food from out-of-state chefs. I’ve dined at Ludo Lefebvre’s Peitt Trois in Los Angeles, so I was not surprised to see him create an excellent, though I was surprised to have such love for a taco with mashed potatoes in it. Jimmy Bannos Jr.’s imaginative taco made with a chorizo shell got me excited to visit  the Purple Pig in Chicago again. Christina Tosi of Milk Bar in New York City proved why she is the most fun and talented pastry chefs in America with her corn cake taco with strawberries. And, I didn’t need another reason to head back to New Orleans, but Israeli-born Alon Shaya’s pastrami taco with preserved mango labneh, pickled cabbage and herbs certainly has added to the city’s appeal.

Fair Market was a hit at this year’s Austin Food & Wine Festival. (Tom McCarthy Jr. FOR AMERICAN-STATESMAN)

New kid on the block: The evening events were moved  to Fair Market this year, and the event space in East Austin proved an ideal fit. The tasting stations and bar were located in the hangar-style indoor space and two outdoor spaces. The chambered spaces slowed the flow of traffic and kept people from eyeing something across the park and heading that direction. I didn’t experience any extended line waits, and hope to see the space utilized more by AFWF and other events.

The briscuit from Olamaie. (Contributed by Olamaie)

Stellar bites: Olamaie’s other worldly biscuit and Texas staple brisket were combined for what was known as a “briscuit.” There were several heavy, smoky dishes during the Saturday daytime tastings, but Contigo was wise enliven their lamb shoulder with an electric chimichurri.

Keep your eyes open and you might find a new favorite wine. (Matthew Odam AMERICAN-STATESMAN)

Rosé all day: Sure, there’s wine everywhere and it’s easy to get carried away with tastings. But the point of a festival like this shouldn’t be to get drunk; hopefully, it can be about discovery.  Like most rosé lovers, I know about the easily drinkable Whispering Angel from Chateau d’Esclans, but I didn’t know about their Les Clans and Garrus rosés, the latter of which was brawny and beautiful with a long finish with notes of toasted oak. They were offering limited pours, and later in the day had the Garrus below the table. Pro tip: Always ask if they’re hiding something great out of sight.

Jonathan Waxman at Rock Your Taco. (Tom McCarthy Jr. FOR AMERICAN-STATESMAN)

Getting to know you: One upside from the cooking demos is that you don’t just learn how to make a dish, but you also hopefully find out a little bite about the person behind the name. Celebrated California chef Jonathan Waxman, the proud shedder of about 20 pounds in recent weeks, shared his recipe for vegan chili and also had the temerity to let people know he had cut alcohol from his diet. He also talked about how he loves a heavy skillet, and said that when he graduated from culinary school in France he received a set of Le Creuset cookware but he couldn’t afford to ship it home.  

Tameca Jones performs at the Austin Food and Wine Festival. (Tom McCarthy Jr. FOR AMERICAN-STATESMAN

Live music. Because Austin: Tameca Jones’ soulful and powerful performance at Rock Your Taco reminded me that I should see her whenever I get the chance.

The Foodie Magician blew our minds at dinner Sunday. (Matthew Odam AMERICAN-STATESMAN)

High-cholesterol David Blaine: Some friends and I were having dinner after the festival Sunday night when I was introduced to Josh Beckerman, the Foodie Magician. The charismatic magician worked his sorcery on me, pulling a card from his wallet with the name of my favorite restaurant and pulled some crazy slight of hand maneuvers that involved a friend’s cell phone and convincing a member of our party that he had touched specific parts of their body even though he never did. Then he disappeared. You never know whom you’ll meet at AFWF.

Chef Tim Love is the straw that stirs the drink at Austin Food & Wine Festival. (Tom McCarthy FOR AMERICAN-STATESMAN)

Socializing, not social media: Festival co-founder and master of the flame Tim Love appeared to be on mostly PG-13 behavior during his grilling demos, though he couldn’t help but let an F-bomb fly when calling out someone on her phone during his session. She told him she was updating social media. He conceded that the social media fix wasn’t a horrible sin, but added that the demo and festival were actual forms of socializing and not just social media. “We hardly ever interact anymore, and we’re forced to interact here,” Love said. “I (expletive) love it.”

What Austin restaurants did Austin Food & Wine Festival celebrity chefs love?

IU heard the name Kemuri from a lot of visiting chefs last weekend. (Ricardo B. Brazziell AMERICAN-STATESMAN)

You know how you love to hit all the cool, delicious spots when you visit a town? Chefs are the exact same way. And they really know what’s up. It’s their job. So, where do you turn when you’re looking for a hot restaurant recommendation (well, the Austin360 Dining Guide, of course), but chefs also make great guides. You just have to know whom to stalk on Instagram. We saved you some of the legwork. Below are where some of the biggest visiting names visited while in Austin over the weekend.

Judging by context clues, it appears Georgia-based chef Hugh Acheson followed Alton Brown’s playbook and visited Veracruz All-Natural.

Acheson’s caffeine fix at least one morning came from Houndstooth ….

Famed California chef Jonathan Waxman hit Fresa’s on South First Street.

Waxman, who announced at the fest that he has lost quite a bit of weight, also hit June’s for some veggies. (Read our recent review.)

Israeli-born chef and James Beard winner Alon Shaya of New Orleans knows that Uchiko always delivers the goods.

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@uchikoaustin tofu is on 🔥

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Shaya proved himself master of the taco at Rock Your Taco and hit La Condesa after arriving to town.

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Hello Austin

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Shaya knows that Franklin is the place to be for brisket in Austin.

I’d say Snow’s in Lexington should be proud given that Will Guidara, owner of Eleven Madison Park, recently named the #1 restaurant in the world, made the drive on a Saturday morning for barbecue.

Ming Tsai was one of many chefs who visited Kemuri Tatsu-ya for the Texas izakaya experience. (Read our recent review.)

Tsai went heavy at Kemuri and a little lighter at Clark’s.

Nashville chef Matt Bolus hit La Barebcue for his brisket fix.

Ford Fry, who spends most of his time in Georgia, also had love for Kemuri.

Junior Borges made the trip up Burnet Road to Bonhomie.

Borges showed more Uchi veterans love by visiting Nick Yanes’ Juniper in East Austin.

Borges also stopped into Paul Qui’s Kuneho. (Read our recent review.)


What happens to Austin Food & Wine Festival if it rains?

That question will be on some people’s minds as they head down to Auditorium Shores for the first full day of the fifth edition of the Austin Food & Wine Festival Saturday morning. Humidity and wind prevailed this morning,  along with a 30 percent chance of rain and a chance of thunderstorms after 1 p.m., according to the National Weather Service.  Of course, this is Texas, and if you don’t like the weather, just wait five minutes because it will likely change.

The daytime activities take place from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. Saturday at Auditorium Shores, and the festival will work in close coordination with the Austin Parks and Recreation Department to monitor weather conditions, according to a festival rep.  Last year’s festival was cancelled before it began due to heavy rains early in the week.

Josh Neises, with Lonesome Dove, flips lamb chops at the Austin Food and Wine Festival on Auditorium Shores on Saturday, April 25, 2015.

“We also have an on-site weather monitoring station that provides real-time updates on conditions.  Austin Food + Wine Festival is a rain or shine event, and we will take all necessary precautions to ensure the welfare and safety of our patrons, purveyors and staff,” the festival said in a statement. “All safety decisions are made by a team of representatives from C3, the Austin Parks and Recreation Department and the City of Austin’s emergency services departments.  In the event of dangerous weather or site evacuation, AFW will notify all patrons via social media and the website

That chance of precipitation will ramp up to 60 percent by tonight, which will be mostly cloudy with a low around 57, according to our Taylor Goldstein, and showers are likely and possibly a thunderstorm before 7 p.m., with showers and thunderstorms likely mainly between 7 p.m. and 1 a.m.

The Rock Your Taco event takes place at Fair Market tonight, and while the event space in East Austin does offer some covered areas, the same weather procedures from the daytime festivities apply to the evening events.

The good news: Sunday is supposed to have a high of 77 and be mostly clear, so as long as there is no standing water, it should be lovely tomorrow.