Announcing Our Local Food Heroes!
Last fall, we asked Edible Austin readers to vote for their local food heroes—those who are making significant contributions to our food scene. We’re honored to present the winners of our 2015 Local Hero Awards, with a peek into why they’ve become such an integral force for good and deliciousness in Austin’s community.
Chef / Restaurant: Chef Jesse Griffiths of Dai Due
Jesse Griffiths and Dai Due have been a large part of the culinary dialogue in Austin for years—ever since Dai Due was but a humble booth at the SFC Farmers’ Market Downtown in late 2000 and hosted supper clubs and workshops. Recently recast as a restaurant and butcher shop, Dai Due continues to be regionally sourced, seasonal, savored and sought after. On the menu, Griffiths’ craft appears both classic (think biscuits and gravy, pastrami sandwiches and fried chicken) and mythic (cemita with venison barbacoa, pon haus and queso flameado)—appealing to the eccentric tastes and eager expectations of Austin’s denizens. Still known for multicourse nightly supper clubs, Dai Due is now open for breakfast and lunch every day except Monday, and the front butcher shop and market are there to tempt the appetite with the likes of goat chops, porchetta, bone broths and pickled vegetables.
Food Shop: Antonelli’s Cheese Shop
When Antonelli’s Cheese Shop opened in Hyde Park in 2010, its essential draw was the ease with which customers could simply pop in to find a plentiful assortment of carefully chosen and artfully placed cheeses from both near and far. Owners John and Kendall Antonelli represent a passionate font of knowledge about their curated collection: Don’t be surprised if a quick trip turns into a prolonged stay when they practically pull up a chair to make you feel right at home while you savor the sharp scents, velvet interiors and sometimes pungent samples. And the couple has expanded their love via classes at the shop; creative collaborations with other chefs and restaurants; and through events such as the Cheers! to Cheese series, pop-up picnics on the city’s lawns and beer pairings with local breweries.
Food Artisan: confituras
It’s an unfortunate reality that fresh food doesn’t last forever, but this shortcoming has created opportunity for Stephanie McClenny. If you want figs in the dead of winter or strawberries in the scorching summer, she can help. Since 2010, McClenny has packaged precious and petite jars of jams, jellies, marmalades and most recently, salts—allowing consumers to capture the tangy zest of a Meyer lemon and the ruby-red blush of a grapefruit long past their local seasons. What these little jars lack in size, they make up for in flavor and flair. McClenny makes her creative concoctions in small batches with ingredients sourced organically and from Central Texas whenever possible—exercising with success the adage of quality over quantity. All one needs is a simple schmear of McClenny’s bourbon brown sugar peach preserves on toast, or a pinch of cowgirl salt on a piece of Gulf fish, to appreciate the magic she’s managed to catch and can. And while she seals her jars tightly, she’s not one to bottle up her knowledge. McClenny generously spreads her craft to others through seasonal canning classes and demos.
Farm / Farmer: Glenn and Paula Foore of Springdale Farm
Glenn and Paula Foore, the owners of Springdale Farm, have provided the community with so much: over 75 different varieties of fresh produce; a popular morning market to socialize and spend time together; a backyard space that has hosted events from weddings to pig roasts; and partnerships with some of Austin’s most prestigious farm-to-table restaurants. But when they started the farm more than seven years ago, they hoped to do even more. Now, through their educational food, music and arts events, the Foores show others the powerful way food can galvanize community, culture and compassion. By encouraging and inviting people to visit and experience an urban farm through tours, fundraisers, weddings and supper clubs, the Foores further the awareness and the appreciation of the local food scene, which in the end, helps us all.
Beverage Artisan: Tipsy Texan
There’s a resounding theme in this year’s local hero awards. Not only are the winners masters at what they’ve devoted themselves to—from farming to cooking to canning—but they’re also willing, and often overwhelmingly eager, to share this mastery. In the beverage scene, David Alan is no exception. This professional and personable mixologist, who goes by the moniker “Tipsy Texan,” has been teaching and training Austin’s barkeepers and bar patrons for the past 15 years. In doing so, Alan uses his other expertise—conviviality—to encourage the use of fresh fruit juices, in-season herbal infusions and local liquors and beers. His 2013 book, “Tipsy Texan: Spirits and Cocktails from the Lone Star State,” is a Texan tippler’s bible—offering readers a tour of our best distilleries, bars and bartenders, and the foundational lessons needed to re-create the same cocktails and spirits at home. Alan even created a comprehensive educational program called Tipsy Tech to teach the history behind spirit distillation and the practice of using these spirits in mixology.
NonProfit: Sustainable Food Center
You’ve undoubtedly heard of the Sustainable Food Center (SFC). This nonprofit and its dedicated staff of program directors, garden managers, farmers’ market coordinators and educators have their figurative hands deep in almost everything related to local food and sustainability that occurs in Austin. A large part of this is literal, too, and involves showing people how easy it is to roll up their sleeves and plunge their hands into real dirt. SFC was founded over two decades ago in 1993 with the mission of cultivating a community that not only has access to nutritious and affordable food, but also participates in the local food system through gardening, cooking and, most importantly, confidence. Armed with the core values of fun, empowerment, collaboration, integrity and resourcefulness, SFC has been creating and providing opportunities for children and adults alike to learn and grow. Among their endeavors are programs such as Grow Local (which offers the resources necessary to start gardens in backyards, in schoolyards and within communities), Farm Direct (which connects and delivers local and farm-fresh produce straight to consumers), the Happy Kitchen/La Cocina Alegre (which empowers people through community cooking, nutrition and skill-building classes to be self-sufficient in the kitchen) and of course, hosting the beloved weekly farmers markets.