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Austin Food and Wine Festival: Jonathan Waxman dazzles with classics

Courtney Sebesta

Jonathan Waxman, the culinary “Obi Wan Kenobi” and the father of New American cuisine, took the cooking stage with the same ease he is known for in the kitchen. Waxman began the session reminiscing about his early years and how chefs have now evolved to putting the whole “kitchen sink” on the plate.

Known for simplicity, Waxman’s “Razzle Dazzle” presentation clearly went back to traditional classics. Waxman and his apprentice for the day, Travis, a local who quickly became a crowd favorite began with a chateaubriand wrapped in puff pastry. Waxman rolled with the uncooperative humidity and often tricky temperature of the cast iron skillets. “Obi Wan” exhibited great strength when demonstrating how to flatten a puff pastry by beating it. The rolling pin split in two to the delight of the crowd.

A short lesson in crepe making — “the batter needs to coat the back of the spoon,” “always season the pan” and “the first crepes are always crap” — led to a Crepe Suzette flambé. A torch was brought out for a Baked Alaska filled with Blue Bell ice cream which triggered a reaction from the crowd.

Waxman had to wait almost the entire demo time for his cast iron skillets to get hot enough to cook mussels with a simple vinaigrette. He clearly proved why he’s a master chef — nothing rattled him in the kitchen.

Waxman relied on culinary students to assist him in the kitchen which was a treat for the crowd to see how involved he was in instruction and interaction behind the stove.