More than 3,000 food lovers descended upon a dusty Auditorium Shores on Saturday for the first Austin Food & Wine Festival.
The event, which is a co-production of Food & Wine magazine, C3 Presents and restaurateurs Tyson Cole, Tim Love and Jesse Herman, continues today with more chef demos, wine and spirit panels, hands-on classes and a grand tasting, where attendees can sample food and drink from dozens of vendors and restaurants from Austin and across the country.
Love kicked off the festival with one of the largest hands-on grilling events in history, where more than 200 people cooked New York strips and flank steaks with him on 100 hot grills.
"I feel like I'm taking 200 kids to Six Flags, and I'm the only one to watch them," he said as he warmed up the crowd with shots of tequila and white wine.
New York chef Jonathan Waxman made sloppy joes, fried jalapeño poppers ("You can leave the seeds in there, but that's your nightmare.") and a giant s'more in a class about secret foods that he loves to eat. But the best piece of advice had nothing to do with what he made: "I learned how to cook from watching Julia Child on television. If there was a mistake that happened, she just kept going."
Legendary sushi chef Masaharu Morimoto awed a packed crowd with his knife skills as he cut fish and made sushi rolls, telling them that to get the rice right, they had to lightly knead the rice with what he called "cat hands."
The lines were long, especially before the grand tasting was open to people who didn't have VIP badges, which cost $850 and included entry into high-profile events on Friday and Saturday nights, but people seemed to take the mishaps in stride.
Anne Wilson, who lives just across Lady Bird Lake in Downtown Austin, said the festival reminded her of another C3 event. "Like the first Austin City Limits Music Festival, they have a lot to learn," but they'll iron out the kinks.
Kip and Paula Owen of McAllen met up with their son, Kyle, and his wife, Cory, who live in Houston, to attend the festival together with the $250 weekender badge, and Kip Owen was pleased from the moment Love took the stage.
"His personality really came through," Kip Owen said. The meat he got to grill was "the best I've ever had."
Paula Owen said she felt there was a little too much focus on pleasing the people who had bought VIP passes, but Kip countered: "Just think of what it costs to go to the Super Bowl."
C3 Presents and event co-founder Charlie Jones, a self-proclaimed foodie who was influential in bringing a nationally known festival to the city, said that just like any other C3 event, they'll be taking feedback from chefs and attendees to make next year's festival better.
"When we start an inaugural event, we want it to be a cultural event that will last a long time. ... We take the good and the bad and throw out a lot of stuff. We have to see what works and what doesn't."
He was most displeased with the "unfortunate" condition of Auditorium Shores, the once grass-covered lawn that is now mostly covered in dust. "This is Austin's premiere public outdoor event venue, and we're working aggressively with the city to get the grounds repaired."
But all in all, he's happy to have brought such an event to the city, whose food scene has been growing so quickly than the chefs who live here almost can't keep up.
"It was the right time to bring people here, to create a destination culinary event for Austin."
Contact Addie Broyles at 912-2504
Additional information from staff writer Matthew Odam