2017 Local Food Heroes

Last fall, in addition to a national election, Edible Austin readers had the honor and privilege to exercise their right to vote for our annual Local Hero Awards. Together, you chose the best people, businesses and organizations making a difference in our local food scene. Cue the red carpet!

 

emmer
Jessica Fradono Photography

Chef / Restaurant: Kevin Fink, Emmer & Rye

This Rainey Street restaurant makes no apologies for its wholehearted embrace of whole grains—especially ones with evocative names like “White Sonora” and “Blue Beard Durum.” Chef Kevin Fink mills these and other fine flours by hand—the first step in rendering some of the most flavorful noodles created since our hunting-gathering forefathers went off the Paleo diet. Wheat may take center stage here (the plant even decorates the walls), but Fink hasn’t ignored the rest of the food pyramid. There’s plenty of short-rib carnitas, pork Milanese, cured mackerel and other meats to go around, and even more unexpected proteins, such as octopus and caviar, sharing space on the dim-sum cart alongside an amazing assortment of pastries. Bon Appétit put Emmer & Rye on its 50 Best New Restaurants list of 2016, and Food & Wine named Fink one of the best new chefs the same year—surely the first of many accolades to come.
emmerandrye.com • 512-366-5530

 
antonellis

Food Shop: Antonelli’s Cheese Shop

A Hyde Park institution, Antonelli’s Cheese Shop gives buying cheese the same gravitas as selecting vintages at a wine store and the same delight as ordering a scoop at your favorite ice cream shop. The staff here sound like sommeliers when describing the curated selection of the world’s finest artisanal cheeses (including great local stuff), and pass out samples with the pleasant enthusiasm of the Amy’s Ice Creams counter staff. They’ll also go on and on about the available varieties of cured meats, preserves, honeys, chocolates and other high-end must-haves for the serious-about-cheese lifestyle. For those who find this sort of selection daunting, a database keeps track of all your previous purchases for easy reference any time you come back. Since John and Kendall Antonelli opened the place in 2010, they’ve shared their cheese-mongering know-how with local restaurants and breweries, and through events like their “Cheers! to Cheese” beverage pairing series, they keep coming up with new ways to enrich the dairy lives of all Austinites.
antonellischeese.com • 512-531-9610

 
miche 

Food Artisan: Miche Bread

As a full-time neuroscience researcher at University of Texas at Austin, Sandeep Gyawali studies the effects of alcohol on the brain. As a baker-by-night, he studies the effects of scrumptious, nutritious and boldly experimental bread on the stomach. Gyawali baked in New York and at Austin’s Easy Tiger before finding his groove as Miche Bread—making bread solely for loyal subscribers, who pick up the loaves at a handful of spots around town. Gyawali coaxes rich flavors from his breads by milling local heritage grains and letting the dough leaven naturally—sometimes for days—with native yeasts and bacteria. But Gyawali’s obsession with dough doesn’t extend into the money sense of the word; he scaled back his subscriptions from weekly to every-other-week so he could spend more time experimenting, like perfecting a technique for milling Austin’s plentiful mesquite beans into flour. The Austin Mesquite Project, funded with a grant from the Austin Food & Wine Alliance, is inspiring local food and beverage makers to make mesquite products, like Jester King’s upcoming mesquite beer (the brewery’s Jester King Kvass is brewed using Miche’s bread). And Gyawali himself worked with Emmer & Rye on a mesquite cocktail tincture they entered in the Official Drink of Austin contest. Its name? The Mesquite-O-Bite, of course. 
Subscription pickup at Travis Heights Beverage World, Salt & Time or Kettle & Brine • michebread.com

 
springdale

Farm / Farmer: Glenn and Paula Foore, Springdale Farm

The City’s economic development program that helped Glenn and Paula Foore buy 4.83 acres of unassuming East Side land came with a stipulation: They had to provide jobs for the neighborhood. The couple wound up doing that and so much more for the area as they built a beloved urban farm that’s grown into a community hub. Opened in 2009, Springdale Farm sells its 75 seasonal vegetables every Wednesday and Saturday morning. The Foores also host community events like the East Austin Urban Farm Tour and an annual Tomato Dinner, as well as countless food, music and arts shindigs with local organizations. They’ve even started selling their own handmade line of soaps, body butters, scrubs and other bath products, as well as candles made with herbs and other natural ingredients grown on the farm, with partner Carla Crownover. But even when nothing’s going on at the farm, it’s always a fun place to simply hang out with the regulars and Ellie May, the farm dog. Little wonder Springdale has made this list five years running.
springdalefarmaustin.com • 512- 386-8899

 
txkeeper

Beverage Artisan: Texas Keeper Cider

Back when there was no end to apple varieties and no fridges to keep them from spoiling, “keepers” were those special apples that stored well and improved with age. Alas, like so many other apple types, the Hick’s Texas Keeper—grown in Lamar County in the 1880s—didn’t keep well enough to survive extinction. Its spirit lives on in Texas Keeper Cider, founded in 2013 by three cider-loving Austinites. Lindsey Peebles, Brandon Wilde and head cider-maker Nick Doughty built their cidery and much of the equipment in it by hand on a friend’s 20-acre ranch just south of Austin. Determined to keep their edge by staying small, the trio has produced a line of potent ciders almost as diverse as the apples of yore, and with even cooler names: Ciderweizen, GoldRush, Cider Noir. The crew makes these drinks with nothing but apples and a spice or two, though they’re game for anything, like adding grapes to the mix (Grafter Blanc and Grafter Rosé) or hops and yeast (Co-op Saisonniers, made with The Austin Beer Garden Brewing Company). Texas Keeper gets even crazier with the limited editions it serves exclusively from a taproom in the farmhouse next door, making it a must-visit for cider lovers. 
texaskeeper.com • 512-910-3409

 
whole kids

NonProfit: Whole Kids Foundation

Since 2011, the Whole Kids Foundation has invested $15 million in programs to improve the nutrition and general wellness of more than four million children in the United States, Canada and the U.K. That includes funds to help grow more than 3,600 school gardens, launch 4,400 school salad bars and train 11,000 educators in the foundation’s healthy-teacher education program. The nonprofit has expanded its reach in recent months with programs such as the School Food Support Initiative pilot, which teamed with the Chef Ann Foundation and Lifetime Fitness Foundation to help five U.S. school districts revamp their meal programs. The foundation also created a certified-organic educational farm in Roswell, Georgia, that teaches kids where healthful food comes from and offers a CSA program for the locals. Though it operates as an independent entity from Whole Foods Market, Whole Kids draws on the contact list of its corporate parent for financial support from brands such as Annie’s, Applegate, Back to Nature, Barbara’s Bakery, Cascadian Farm, CLIF Kid, Health Warrior, King Arthur Flour, Organic Valley, Rudi’s Organic Bakery, Stonyfield Farm and Tom’s of Maine. The foundation doesn’t overlook its own backyard either: Whole Foods Market employees alone have donated more than $1 million to the cause.
wholekidsfoundation.org

By Steve Wilson