It’s that time of year again.
The Austin Food & Wine Festival is only weeks away, and a lineup made up of extraordinary local and national chefs is about to descend upon our capital. As in years past, the festival has set its sights beyond the city limits, inviting a slew of gifted food and beverage personalities from around nation to showcase their incredible talents. This year’s lineup is perhaps the best yet, with James Beard Award Winners Hugh Acheson and Aarón Sánchez, Austin’s own Tyson Cole and Bryce Gilmore, the ever-jovial Tim Love, Andrew Zimmern, and many more.
To kick off the festivities, Texas Monthly caught up with some of the attending chefs to gauge their views on Texas’s culinary scene, the pros and cons of celebrity chefdom, and the next steps in their careers. Here, Tim Love—famed Texas chef and host of CNBC’s “Restaurant Startup”—discusses how he remains confident while running seven hectic restaurants, his love for life in front of the camera, and the mistreatment of cauliflower.
Layne Lynch: You opened your restaurant Lonesome Dove in 2000, and now you have seven restaurants under your belt. How do you compare your confidence back then to what it is today?
Tim Love: In 2000 when I first opened Lonesome Dove, I had what I like to call “confidence out of necessity.” It was sink or swim every day. I now have more confidence in the actual business side of restaurants and what it takes to make them operate from the beginning. However, every time I open a restaurant, I carry the same nerves as I did the first time around, which I feel like is a very good thing. It’s important to never let your guard down in the business and always keep learning as much as you can.
LL: You’ve undoubtedly segued into celebrity chef territory. Tell me about being in those glamorous shoes.
TL: Believe me, it is a great feeling to have such loyal fans and people who appreciate what I create every day. I also love entertaining fun and energetic people. Overall, it is very rewarding to be in that position.
LL: You’re now a prominent television personality with your show “Restaurant Startup.” What attracted you to life in front of the camera? And what fascinated you about the specific topic of starting a restaurant?
TL: In front of the camera, behind the camera–I just love creating fun. I like to say I walk with a hundred-foot circle of fun around me. As far as the theme of the show, I enjoy creating food and the art of the deal. I always have. So to have a show that does exactly that is frankly quite amazing.
LL: Will there be a fourth season of the show, or is it too soon to tell?
TL: We are definitely looking forward to shooting season four!
LL: The Austin Food & Wine Festival has had you on board since the beginning. How have you seen the festival change since its genesis?
TL: The Austin Food & Wine Festival has grown leaps and bounds every year. With more and more talent attending now, the festival is on a track to becoming one of the best food festivals, I believe, in the world. Austin is such a great town and the festival really draws on that incredible energy from its surroundings.
LL: Lonesome Dove has two Texas locations, one in Fort Worth and one in Austin. When you’re opening an existing restaurant in a different city, do you try and make it identical to the one before, or do you adapt it to its new surroundings?
TL: Lonesome Dove has a unique spirit. It’s really this spirit that I drew from to create the second location in Austin and now the third location in Knoxville. Every Lonesome Dove I build takes on the character of that city and combines that with the core nature of the original Lonesome Dove. In short, each restaurant is very representative of the city it’s in.
LL: When you’re in Austin these days, what are your top five restaurants, bars, or hangouts?
TL: I personally like Clark’s Oyster Bar, Odd Duck, JuiceLand, Garage Cocktail Bar, and Thai-Kun.
LL: Tell me about what you’ll be doing at the festival this year. Any surprises up your sleeve?
TL: I always have a few surprises up my sleeve! But I am most excited about releasing my new rosé called Love & Hope. We will certainly be drinking it at my grilling demo this year.
LL: One thing I’m always curious about is how chefs feel about the current culinary landscape. Do you feel there are any trends or developments that are overrated or ridiculous right now?
TL: I feel like I am seeing a lot of caviar these days, which is good for me because I love caviar. I love cauliflower, as well, but it seems people are trying a little too hard to use it. It’s such a beautiful vegetable and so good for you, but all it needs is some good olive oil, salt and pepper, and a nice wood oven.
LL: I know you’ve got a full plate at the moment, but are there any Austin or Texas-specific projects you’ve got in the pipeline?
TL: We are looking at opening a second location of Woodshed Smokehouse in Houston! And I am also excited about the second pop-up at my Fort Worth test kitchen–La Oficina. There’s always something keeping me busy.