Festival brings under-the-radar cooks to Austin
None of the chefs cooking at next month’s Indie Chefs Week have their own television shows, cookbook deals or line of signature spices.
They are chefs such as Craig Thornton, who was recently profiled in the New Yorker for the by-donation-only private dinners that he hosts in his Los Angeles apartment (and that are among the hardest reservations to snag in the whole city).
Or Gregory Gourdet, a former New York chef who has been making waves in Portland, Ore., with his food at the downtown rooftop restaurant, Departure.
Or Randy Rucker, a rabble-rouser chef in
Houston who is planning to open a restaurant called Briar and Bramble early next year.
These are the kinds of chefs that Ned Elliott has befriended during the years, either by cooking with them in restaurants such as the French Laundry or Per Se, eaten at their restaurants during his travels or exchanged tweets with them on social media.
“I had no idea until a couple of months before we opened Foreign & Domestic that there was a thing called Twitter,” he said. “And through that, we’ve connected with so many different cooks, chefs and sous chefs. We were sitting around talking one night and thought, ‘Wouldn’t it be fun if we could host something to bring them all together?’ ”
That seed has grown into Indie Chefs Week, a dinner series that will take place Jan. 9-12 at the restaurant, 306 E. 53rd St. It will feature dozens of buzzworthy — but underthe-radar — chefs whom Ned Elliott and his wife, Jodi, respect and wanted to connect.
Each night will feature a collaborative dinner between a handful of the chefs, ending with a 21course showcase meal on Saturday night that will include contributions from everyone.
Elliott says the event is more than an excuse to host dinners at his restaurant.
“We want to start a dialogue between a lot of different people” who are doing interesting things in their communities. “We all go through the same thing,” he says, and events such as this give the opportunity for chefs to network. He says chefs are considering hosting similar events in other cities and that he hopes to make it an annual event here.
“Over five years, all the sudden there are 100 or so chefs who have been exposed to one another who wouldn’t have otherwise,” he says. To ease the financial burdens on the guest chefs, Elliott says they’ve rented a house for them to stay in, and, if they can at least cover the costs to the restaurant, they’ll be able to pay for their airfare too. Any extra money will go to Share Our Strength, a nonprofit that the restaurant has helped in the past.
Participating Austin chefs include: host chefs with Foreign & Domestic Anthony Fusco, Nathan Lemley and Rosie Shipman; Contigo’s Andrew Wiseheart; Mat Clouser of Swift’s Attic; Plinio Sandalio of the Carillon; Todd Duplechan of Lenoir; Shawn Cirkiel of Olive & June and Parkside; and Uchi Houston alum Monica Glenn.
You can buy tickets ($125 to $200 a dinner, including alcohol but not tax or gratuity) and find out which chefs are cooking when at indiechefsweek.com.