This weekend, dozens of well-known chefs, mixologists, sommeliers, and restaurateurs will descend upon Austin for the second annual Austin Food & Wine Festival.
To prepare for this weekend’s food and wine festivities, Texas Monthly spoke with a few of the local and celebrity chefs from this year’s lineup.
Here, James Beard Award-winning chef Marcus Samuelsson of Red Rooster in Harlem and Top Chef Masters fame discusses his role in this year’s Austin Food & Wine Festival.
Layne Lynch: Welcome back to Austin! What made you decide to return for year two?
Marcus Samuelsson: This festival is a little more rock ‘n’ roll and has a different vibe from other food festivals. Plus, with a great food and music scene, this is the place to be. I’m looking forward to competing in the Rock Your Taco event where I’ll be bringing a little Ethiopian flavor to the table.
LL: You seem genuinely excited about what’s taking place in the Austin culinary scene. What are some of the factors that make Austin stand out among other food cities like New York, San Francisco, and Seattle?
MS: Chefs here are a bit more daring and think outside the box. I love how they can be experimental and how it usually works in their favor.
LL: Are there any restaurants, bars, places you want to check out while you’re in town?
MS: I’m looking forward to going back to La Condesa, who hosted me while I was touring for Yes, Chef last summer, and I hear there’s a bar with over fifty beers from regional Texas breweries. How cool is that? And whenever I’m in town, I love to check out my favorite hotels like Saint Cecilia and Hotel San Jose.
LL: I know a few of the chefs in the festival lineup this year came out of your kitchens. Do you keep up with a lot of your former cooks and chefs?
MS: Absolutely. A lot of them have actually come back and are with me at Red Rooster or my other restaurants. I encourage my guys to go out and experience the world and other kitchens and if I’m able to work with them again, it’s just that much better.
LL: How do you balance being a celebrity and chef at the same time?
MS: Having been fortunate enough to be good at what I do, I’ve been able to explore other avenues of creativity. Cooking is still my priority and passion, but because I’m a naturally curious person, I’m never going to stop looking for opportunities outside the kitchen.
LL: Last time we talked, you had just released your book Yes, Chef, which turned out to be tremendously successful. What’s the next project on your plate?
MS: We just got in our first copies of Yes, Chef in paperback, so I’m going to embark on a slightly shorter book tour of cities that we missed the first time around. The paperback version is available May 21.