Wearing her signature dyed apron and brightly-colored headband and chef’s coat, Susan Feniger took the stage at the 10 a.m. Saturday slot with champagne in hand. Swearing she never drinks before 11 a.m., the enthused crowd burst into applause and the veteran chef was on her way to an early great start the first day of the Austin Food and Wine Festival.
Feniger wanted to introduce the audience to the essence of street food from around the world. After all, that’s what her Los Angeles restaurant, Street, is all about. Her cooking demo, “Entertaining Around the World,” showcased a menu that consisted of the basics of easy summer entertaining.
Feniger’s back and forth banter with fellow “Top Chef Masters” contestant and emcee of the session, Tony Mantuano, of Chicago’s Spiaggia, was a great complement to the food Feniger serves — lively and inspired.
“At some point I will get to cooking, I promise,” Feniger added in between audience laughter.
Before Feniger began working on the basics of an Egyptian street food dish made with rice, pasta and lentils (or “Egyptian bus stop food” as she calls it), she created a Canton Ginger Cocktail using ginger simple syrup, ginger vodka and muddled lemon.
Feniger talked about the spices and smells of India before beginning a puffed millet dessert which she likened to Rice Krispie Treats. Feniger worked most of the spices that make up a traditional curry in with marshmallows, added dried fruits and the millet, rolled the treats into balls and flung a few into the audience.
Feniger continued her jam-packed 45 minutes with chicken kabobs marinated in a red pepper puree and a thrown-together quick salsa, emphasizing the importance of making sure food served at a meal complements each other. Feniger was also able to throw together the basics of her famous Malaysian Black Pepper Clams in the limited time remaining.