Uchi and Uchiko together swept the first annual Austin CultureMap Tastemaker Awards gala on Thursday night at the Driskill Hotel, taking three prizes out of seven. The two sibling restaurants won for best restaurant, best decor and atmosphere, and best pastry chef (Philip Speer). The crowd in attendance at the lively upstairs venue, with music blasting away, was composed of the usual Austin foodies, the restaurant, wine, and bar community, and a young, new, rather dazzled-looking contingent that caused the old-timers to mutter, “Who are these people?” Other winners were David Bull of Congress for best chef (pictured), June Rodil of Congress for best wine and beverage service, and Chauncy James of East Side Showroom for best mixologist. The winner of the “new restaurant challenge,” a people’s choice award, was Contigo. The awards ceremony was preceded by the usual walk-around-and-eat-and-drink-till-you-drop affair, with very impressive food and drinkies presented mainly by the nominees; the Driskill Hotel’s executive chef Jonathan Gelman, befitting his role as host, pulled out all the stops with duck tamales with mole, charred corn, foie crema, and apple relish, tied up in teeny corn husks. Best Chef David Bull’s fabulous short ribs were no slouch either. For dessert, the Driskill passed a series of cordial-filled chocolates, which almost caused a stampede. The winners were determined by a secret ballot of journalists and writers who cover food and drink in Austin, honorary chairs being chefs Robert Del Grande of RDG in Houston, and Andrew Weissman of Il Sogno and Sandbar in San Antonio. The awards were sponsored by CultureMap web site and will benefit the newly formed Austin Food & Wine Alliance, a new nonprofit organization that gives culinary-related grants. It will sponsor the tremendously popular Live Fire! cooking event featuring award-winning chefs on April 26 at the Salt Lick Pavilion, kicking off the Austin Wine & Food Festival.
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