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Austin Food & Wine Festival lineup announced

Addie Broyles, Relish Austin

Staff Writer
Austin 360

The lineup for the first Austin Food & Wine Festival was announced today, and, as expected, the three-day event in late April doesn't look much like its predecessor, the Texas Hill Country Wine and Food Festival, which ended its 26-year-run last year.

C3 Presents, which produces the Austin City Limits Music Festival, Food & Wine magazine and Texas restaurateurs Tyson Cole of Uchi/Uchiko, Tim Love of Love Shack in Fort Worth and Jesse Herman of La Condesa collaborated to take over the festival and reshape it into a higher-profile event, which will likely draw attendees from across the country. The event is scheduled for April 27-29 at various locations around the city with Auditorium Shores as the central venue. Also announced Tuesday was the Austin Food & Wine Alliance, the beneficiary of the Austin Food & Wine Festival that will use the money to give grants to local food innovators.

The festival will feature more nationally known chefs, including Michelle Bernstein, Masaharu Morimoto, Marcus Samuelsson and Jonathan Waxman, than in years past, and slightly fewer Texas participants than longtime festival-goers are used to. Monica Pope of Houston, Tim Byres of Dallas and San Antonio's Jason Dady and Andrew Weissman, most of whom had been regulars at the Hill Country Wine and Food Festival, will return to the Austin Food & Wine Festival. Media celebrities Andrew Zimmern and Gail Simmons are also slated to attend.

Among the Austin talent announced Tuesday: Rene Ortiz, Nate Wales and Laura Sawicki of La Condesa; Bryce Gilmore of Barley Swine; Aaron Franklin of Franklin Barbecue; David Bull and June Rodil of Congress; and the Uchi/Uchiko team of Cole, Phillip Speer and Paul Qui. Austin sommeliers Devon Broglie and Craig Collins, as well as Houston author Russell Kane, round out the local beverage experts scheduled to participate.

One of the biggest changes that longtime attendees will notice is in the ticketing. Instead of buying tickets to individual tastings or events, the festival is selling only passes: A $250 weekender pass will get you into most of the events taking place Saturday and Sunday, April 28 and 29, and the $850 VIP pass is your ticket for all the events, including a few exclusive ones, such as one Friday night that features a performance by Lucinda Williams.

You can find details on the 40 or so events, as well as a complete list of participating chefs, on the festival's website, austinfoodandwinefestival.com. Passes will go on sale Tuesday, Jan. 24.

It would be nearly impossible for the team behind the new festival to take it to the next level without some (possibly significant) growing pains. The ticketing method and price, as well as the fact that all attendees must be 21 years of age or older, will likely exclude a number of locals who couldn't afford or didn't have time to go to more than one or two events, as well as families with young kids who often flocked to the annual Sunday Fair tasting event. Texas winemakers were also a big part of the previous festival, but none of them were mentioned by name in the initial lineup.

The festival previously drew a mostly statewide audience, but with the media outreach that C3 and Food & Wine already have, it's possible that many of the attendees will be coming from farther away. The festival is promoting several big-name acts that are scheduled to play in Austin that week, including the Black Keys at the Frank Erwin Center and Blue October at Stubb's.

The festival is sure to continue to elevate Austin's reputation as one of the top food cities in the nation, which is good for Austin restaurants long after the festival closes. But for the local food scene, the newly formed Austin Food & Wine Alliance will likely have a longer, more meaningful impact in the form of grants that the nonprofit will give out to culinary innovators who need a bit of financial help to get their ideas off the ground.

"Anybody who has an innovative food idea that will benefit the community is eligible," says Cathy Cochran-Lewis, president of the alliance and past president of the Wine & Food Festival of Texas.

In addition to the money raised through the festival, the Austin Food & Wine Alliance will host educational and culinary events throughout the year to showcase what the Central Texas food scene has to offer and to help raise money for the grants.

One of the first Austin Food & Wine Alliance fundraisers is Live Fire!, an outdoor grilling event at the Salt Lick Pavilion on April 26, just a day before the festival starts. (Tickets and more information will be available soon at austinfoodwine alliance.org.)

Unlike the previous nonprofit board, which included more than 60 people, the alliance is accepting applications for committees and a much smaller board that will help execute its mission. If you're interested in being on the board, you have until Jan. 31 to submit an application that is available on the alliance website.

abroyles@statesman.com; 912-2504