This weekend, a group of acclaimed food and beverage personalities will flock to Austin for the third annual Austin Food & Wine Festival, including pastry chef Jodi Elliott of the soon-to-open Bribery bakery in Austin. Below, Elliott spills details about her new dessert bar, leaving Foreign & Domestic, and her profound affection for Austin Tex-Mex.
Layne Lynch: The past few years have been really awesome for you as a pastry chef. What’s been the greatest highlight thus far?
Jodi Elliott: Yikes, I have to choose just one? I would say the success of the bake sales. It’s been amazing. My career thus far has been mainly restaurants, but now I have a whole different direction I’m going in because of the bake sales. To have people line up and wait for something that I created is unbelievable. Because of the die-hard loyalty and support of everyone, I’m now going to live out a dream I never knew I had. And winning Food & Wine’s People’s Best New Pastry Chef wasn’t bad either. Icing on the cake – pun intended.
LL: You and Ned [Elliott] moved to Austin to open Foreign & Domestic. As outsiders who had to root themselves into Austin, what was one thing that did and still does surprise you about the culinary community?
JE: I think the diversity and sheer size of the culinary community here is surprising. Austin is growing, but it’s still a small town next to Houston, Dallas, and San Antonio. The restaurants we have here are stellar and there’s a plethora to choose from. We came here because of the growing food scene and the mentality here. People are avid foodies and love to eat out and try new things. There’s support here and it means the world to the small restaurants trying to get by.
LL: Are there any chefs or restaurants showcasing at the festival that inspire you or that you admire?
JE: Rick Bayless. I’ve never met him and have been a fan for years. I love and admire how he showcases Mexican cuisine and culture, which is my absolute favorite. Andrew Zimmern. He’s such a sweet man. I love how he’s game for anything, and his passion for all food is contagious. I love all the chefs from Houston: Chris Shepherd, Seth Siegel-Gardner, Terrence Gallivan, Justin Yu, and Monica Pope. I don’t get down there often enough, but I love the food scene and these restaurateurs are really putting Houston on the map. They all are so deserving of the accolades.
LL: What are your top five food stops in Austin and why?
JE: Choosing only five is difficult, but I have a few. Whip In. I love, love, love the simplicity-and-no-frills-but-exceptionally-well-done food. Tex-Mex; it’s something that anyone coming here has to experience. I love Maudie’s, Angie’s, Matt’s El Rancho, Polvos, and Tres Amigos. The margaritas and queso are a must at each of these places. I love Lenoir and Fabi & Rosi. I think there are both doing amazing food that you get to enjoy in the most charming and cozy settings. The service is always stellar as well. Foreign & Domestic. I can say that now that I don’t own it anymore. Ned is the most talented cook I’ve ever worked with or been around. I think his food is impeccable and thought provoking without trying to be. He deserves more attention for it.
LL: What can you tell us about your upcoming bakery Bribery thus far?
JE: Bribery is in the works! I hope to have a few locations, which I can’t divulge just yet. It will be a bakery by day and a dessert bar by night. I’m beyond excited to be working on my very own pastry mecca of sorts. The day menu will definitely be an extension of the bake sales. We will have a few key items but the rest will change often. Think green chili chicken and Monterey jack cheese croissants, sausage, egg, and cheddar biscuit sandwiches, quiches, buttermilk pie, pineapple brown butter blondies, turtle brownies, etc. There will be a mix of sweet and savory and some grab-and-go lunch options. At night, a full cocktail program with syrups, candies, and garnishes made by me as well as plated desserts will be served. There will be casual food, like donuts, and fancy dishes, like soufflés, to choose from. I see it as a grown-up place to enjoy sweets and drinks after dinner out or at home. It will be somewhere you can begin or extend your evening out.
LL: There’s been some talk of Foreign & Domestic opening a location in Houston. What makes you feel the restaurant would make a successful crossover?
JE: I’m out of the loop on that since I'm no longer Ned's business partner. Although, I do think it’s a great idea. We’ve had an insanely loyal Houston following since we opened, so I’m not surprised. I haven’t been at Foreign & Domestic for over six months, and Bribery is my main focus now.