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Austin Texas Food by Ainsley Daschofsky - 3w ago

After all these months blogging we have run into many restaurant owners with a passion for what they do. We went to McDonald’s to see if their standards of food had shifted from borderline animal abuse to something we could stomach.

I was shocked by what happened. The owner’s family has owned McDonald’s franchises for 20 plus years, and he did love his restaurant. Their standards are actually leading the fast food market too. Their beef standards have not fully changed but they are changing their chicken to be hormone free in the next couple of months.

We can easily blame McDonald’s for everything it has created when it comes to frightening standards of food, but in reality, those people are dead and the only people we can blame are the ones who bought the products. The standards are changing because people are demanding that change. As people wake up and demand for higher standards the industry will change.

McDonald’s is now offering fresh beef that requires a special compression fridge they designed. With opening the fridge for every order they had to create a way to keep it cold inside.

We asked about the sourcing of ingredients and the owner said they do source from Texas.

Interview Coming Soon….

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All over Austin we have great BBQ joints. From the kings of BBQ, Franklins, Valentina’s, Freedmans, and La Barbecue.  There are so many places to claim to be there best. But thats not what we are talking about today. Louie’s owned by Luis Vasquez has opened their new spot at St. Elmo Market 4329 S. Congress. They were previously located in Sunset Valley has opening on south Congress. With his new location he looking to claim is name in BBQ. For me he is trying to keep the title of the Prince of BBQ in Austin. Given the name Prince by me just a few seconds ago. Luis is doing something that every home pit master dreams of. Making Texas BBQ for his friends and family. But for Luis his friends and family are the lucky people in South Austin. 

When I think of amazing BBQ in Austin Louie’s doesn’t come to mind. But that is not what makes Louie’s amazing. What makes Louie’s is Luis. Most BBQ places are owned or ran by pit masters that have a long pedigree of where they have worked or previous pit masters they have worked for. But not Luis, and that’s what you want. This is a man who is self taught. He did what most men do when they want to learn something. YouTube. Is this bad? No, absolutely not we all do this. But what sets Luis apart from other guys is he has  done this and his food is actually good. Like really good. Is it the best, no. But man I can eat it over and over again and not feel like this isn’t dang good Texas BBQ. Luis is doing something that you are not seeing much in new BBQ places in Texas. Most BBQ places are opening up to be the best. They are looking for that title. They want to be the best. Luis is just doing what he loves. I was able to sit with a friend of mine for a meal there a couple of months ago. We both agree that what he is doing is good.

Now somethings that does set Luis apart is what he is doing with his sides. Mac and Cheese is always a good sign. Luis serves his the good ole fashion way. Bright yellow cheese and noodles. The way God gave it to us. Cilantro lime slaw, potato salad and street corn are a couple or the other sides they are offer. Louie’s has the traditional brisket, sausage, and pork ribs. The trinity in Texas BBQ. Along with pulled pork and chicken you can also get these meats in sandwich and taco form.  LOADED BAKED POTATO this is something that you are not seeing in most BBQ places. But is a must at Louie’s. From potatoes that weigh any where from 2.5 lbs to almost 3 lbs its hard not to want to try this out. Your choice of meat, butter, cheese, green onions, sour cream, jalapeno salsa and BBQ sauce. Yes all of this on one baked potato. Luis charges $10 for this beauty and we don’t even care. Its worth every penny and pound.

If and when you make your visit to Louie’s make sure you take the time to say hi to Luis Vasquez. He is a kind and humble person.

Hours

Tuesday- Saturday

11:00am- 7:00 pm or Sold Out

Picture from Luis Vasquez
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For years Austin has been known for our food truck scene. With movies like Chef and TV shows such as The Great American Food Truck Race being filmed here, Austin has been named a great place for food trucks. We have had our share of mouth changing food trucks: Chi’lantro, Peached Tortilla, and East Side Kind have all three been named best food truck in Austin in the past. But today who is the best? Who do we as Austinites go to for our food truck fix? Well, Ainsley and I put our list together for who we think are the top five food trucks in Austin.

5. Bananarchy By Dream Chimney

What is there not to like to about a banana on a stick? Bananarchy has hit our inner child. Growing up, popsicles were the treat of summer. Cold. Refreshing. It hit every taste bud known to man. Here the frozen banana comes covered in chocolate. There are other flavors and sundae levels of toppings. But for us, chocolate hit the spot. They are opening back up at their south location pretty soon. They just announced that they will be opening a new location at space 24 twenty.

4.Four Brothers. Picture by Lazy Smurfs

With four locations in Austin, Four Brothers is not hard to find. They have taken Venezuelan food and have made us adopt it like an orphan child into our culture. For us, the Arepas are what got our attention first. Yuca fries and tequenos are also big hits. The sauce for the yuca involves cheese to bring the fluffy on the inside and crispy on the outside fries to a familiar world of fried indulgence. Don’t forget to grab a slice of the tres leches. It will not disappoint.

3. Crossroads Farm to Truck

Husband and wife team Wayne and Danielle Van Steen have a secret they want to tell you. There is a food truck that truly makes everything in-house.  They mean EVERYTHING. This farm to trailer food truck has daily specials and a seasonal menu that changes frequently. Read our interview with the owners here.

2. Holla Mode
Holla Mode Ice Cream Wizards. - YouTube

Summer is right around the melt your socks off corner, and how else do you handle a Texas summer than ice cream? Holla Mode is fairly new to the food scene in Austin. There is nothing really that special about it. It is rolled ice cream. But, really its such a fascinating experience, and it isn’t all just show. The ice cream is Thai style and uses coconut milk with bright ingredients. Key lime is Ainsley’s favorite. Great for the family or just a night out with your new bumble date.

1. Valentina’s

This was a no-brainer for us. Miguel is doing something that no one else in this city is doing. He knows that we love three things. We love queso, tacos, and BBQ. So Miguel gave it to us.  Boy did he play to the inner fangirl. I always feel like Joey when I visit. Meat good. Queso good. BBQ good. What’s not to love? Throw in brisket chili and the amazing fajita tacos and call it a night. Side note. They are open until 10pm and yes the BBQ is still amazing that late. Thank you, Miguel. We all love you.

Honorable Mentions:

Kreyol Korner

Read our Interview

Austin Halal

Read our Interview

Gobble Gobble

Rosarito Foodtruck

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Austin Texas Food by Ainsley Daschofsky - 3M ago

Kreyol Korner was such a foreign treat that even though I knew the ingredients it felt like I had never tasted them before. We had the most delicious ear time with the owner, Nahika Hillery.

Ainsley: So, what is your background?

Kreyol Korner: So, um. I actually have no background in culinary. I’m actually coming from a medical background. I used to work at a research lab where we would use cadavers and we would dismember their body parts and then create like, mock OR rooms for the surgeons so they can practice implanting the new devices before they hit the market.

Jason: Holy Cow!

Ainsley: Almost looking at a funeral home but like, an artistic funeral home is what this sounds like to me.

KK: (Laughs) So, families, they sign up to donate their bodies ahead of time of course or whenever their, ah, family member passes away.

Ainsley: Yeah, for science!

KK: Not at all, it’s still a passion of mine. I love cooking, like I still love pathology. I still listen to podcasts of natural medicine and everything just to kind of stay like, up to date with what’s going on. But yeah, I mean… No I don’t feel like I’m losing anything.

KK: So yeah, they donate their body to our lab and that’s when we also distribute the body parts to different Universities that are doing research as well but we also hold research at our lab.

Ainsley: Ok, weird question. Do people ever ask for like a hand or something?

KK: They do! Absolutely, yeah. When they’re studying arthritis or if they’re trying to come up with new medications for any sort of joint dysfunction.

Ainsley: Oh, I meant the family, do they ever just want something? Like a hand or something to turn to ash?

KK: Oh no, it is all or nothing at our lab. Yeah, So um, at a transplant bank they’ll only take the organs but we’re not a transplant bank so we take the whole body.

Ainsley: That’s so fascinating. So do you put science into food? Do you feel like, those two came together?

Ainsley: I know! It’s like everyone in America seems to be on some type of drug. It’s like ‘let me take my morning brain medication.’

KK: So what’s so funny is that I got into that field, studied biology, worked at that lab for three years and I applied to grad school in Canada to go study pathology.

Ainsley: What is pathology?

KK: Pathology is the study of disease. So um, I did an internship in China for five months working as a medical intern in the alternative medicine department. So I learned about natural medicine which then beats my interest to study pathology to understand the correlation between food and disease and um, basically how we can come up with treatments without using prescribed medication.

Ainsley: So mostly herbal based or not to put bad food in your body?

KK: Well, it’s not that I’m totally against, you know, prescription drugs. I feel like they do assist with whatever the treatment is but I feel like we’re relying on it too much on not relying on our bodies.

Ainsley: I know! It’s like everyone in America seems to be on some type of drug. It’s like ‘let me take my morning brain medication.’

(laughter)

KK: Right.

Ainsley: Yeah.

KK: So that was like, where my heart was at and what ended up happening is my husband wanted to move to Texas and I knew nothing about Texas before I came here. I literally- like when I say nothing I mean I made such nerd comments like- you know? Riding a horse to work?

Ainsley: Riding cowboys?

KK: Exactly!

(Laughs)

KK: It’s been great. I did a lot of market research before opening. I rented out like, two tables for two days during SXSW last year.

KK: So… Anyway, he took me here to visit. We initially went to Dallas first because that’s where he wanted to move and a lot of people encouraged us to move to Austin because we were like, a young couple, so we ended up moving to Austin, I fell in love with it. Um, But they didn’t have the research lab I worked at before and they also did not offer the Pathology program that I wanted to pull for.

Ainsley: Uh huh.

KK: So, um, I ended up getting into education and I was teaching um, anatomy and physiology and AP biology and then-

Jason: Where at?

KK: At Harmony.

Jason: Harmony?

KK: Harmony school of political science. And then I ended up getting promoted to an assistant student and then while I was doing that we entertained at our house and a lot of our Austin friends have never had Haitian food before.

Ainsley: Like with a huge back yard kind of thing?

KK: Yeah, so we constantly had friends over and I’m constantly cooking and-

Ainsley: And they’re like “We love you! Please open a food truck!”

KK: (Laughs) Yeah! And they really love the food and that’s really how it started.

Ainsley: So have you been received really well? How’s the community treated you?

KK: It’s been great. I did a lot of market research before opening. I rented out like, two tables for two days during SXSW last year.

Jason: Mmm Hmm

KK: Of course I love everything on the menu but I would say my favorite is definitely the fried pork shoulder which is our staple. It’s because of how we prepare our meat. When it comes to our meat, Haitians are very particular about taste. I also call them the hardest critics because they’re so particular about taste so when I’m cooking I have to- the taste has to be perfect before I serve it because I know the Haitian community no matter where they are-

KK: And um, yeah. I gave out all the food for free. And little sample bowls of like, our rice and with pork shoulder, meatballs, our pink potato salad and everyone loved it, like, we just got such positive feedback. So from that tasting we did several others like, for our vegetarian option.

So I was just like you know, is this what people are really looking for? And I just got such positive feedback and I just went for it and I went for it. So I did a food truck crash course. I attended- I signed up for all the food truck facebook groups and all the entrepreneur workshops here.

Ainsley: You dedicated yourself, that’s awesome! So, now being a chef though, how do you find how to be consistent with the food and banging it out with long lines?

KK: Practice. It’s just been practice, honestly. We’ve always- even growing up we’ve always thrown really big parties at our house; My dad was in like, this political group when I was younger so every Thursday we’d have this huge group of people come over and they would do like, a meeting and my Mom and I would be in the kitchen cooking and preparing food.

Ainsley: Ok, so what is your favorite things? Or do you love everything on the menu?

KK: Of course I love everything on the menu but I would say my favorite is definitely the fried pork shoulder which is our staple. It’s because of how we prepare our meat. When it comes to our meat, Haitians are very particular about taste. I also call them the hardest critics because they’re so particular about taste so when I’m cooking I have to- the taste has to be perfect before I serve it because I know the Haitian community no matter where they are-

Ainsley: Like in your subconscious?

KK: Oh, absolutely! Yes. But the pork shoulder is definitely our staple and we have- you know, like, we have our own way we clean our meat and then you know, we marinate it overnight and we leave it overnight and then after we even broil it we also leave it in the broth overnight so it’s super tender by the time we fry it.

Ainsley: How do you marinate it?

KK: So we make a flavor base. It’s called Epis. We use all organic ingredients, we use red peppers, green peppers, onions, garlic, vinegar, extra virgin olive oil and we use cloves, parsley, cilantro and then some of our seasonings and then we blend it and it’s used for pretty much everything across that we make across the board.

Ainsley: So do you ever use fresh cloves?

KK: Oh yeah. We use fresh cloves, yeah.

Ainsley: How long have you guys been open so far?

KK: We’ve been open since July but we’ve bee a catering business since May.

Ainsley: So where do you guys see yourself going from here?

KK: Well, I for one would first like to get a bigger truck (laughs) A trailer I should say. Um, just so I can have a full kitchen. Um, so the reason, like- for example we offer the mac n’ cheese every other week is because we need an oven and I don’t have an oven here but it would be nice to have a bigger trailer and a full kitchen but I would like to franchise. I’m looking to open one in San Antonio and also Dallas so that would be a long term project but I’m not interested in a brick and mortar. I really want to stay food truck and like-

Ainsley: Stay portable?

KK: And stay portable too because I like to be at the festivals and events and everything.

Ainsley: I got to admit, you are one of the happiest business owners I’ve seen in a while.

KK: Really? (Laughs)

Ainsley: Yeah. You’re just like- it’s like none of it’s really getting to you, that’s great.

KK: No, it’s not. I worked from such an intense job- like all my- honestly, so the lab I worked at I mean I was working sixty-five hours a week. I was working like, fifteen hour days. So this is nothing compared to- you know?

Ainsley: Do you ever feel like you’ve not wasted all that time in research?

KK: Not at all, it’s still a passion of mine. I love cooking, like I still love pathology. I still listen to podcasts of natural medicine and everything just to kind of stay like, up to date with what’s going on. But yeah, I mean… No I don’t feel like I’m losing anything.

Ainsley: Great. That’s really great. Is there any last thing you want to say?

KK: Ummm, Well, I mean, the purpose of opening up the food truck in the first place was to promote and highlight, um, the Haitian culture which is the cuisine because, um, in the media there is such a bad misrepresentation, of- in Haiti it’s always just about poverty or you know, natural disasters happening there and I’m like “Does anyone know the kind of rich culture that we have?” So, I mean from the music to the art on the truck and to keep the dishes authentic I really wanted to bring Haitian food here to promote another side of our culture that people don’t get to see.

Ainsley: I love that. I kind of want to high five you right now.

Ainsley: Do you play music?

KK: I do, I’m about to turn it on. Thank you guys so much!

Ainsley and Jason: Thank you, it’s so nice to meet you.

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Austin Texas Food by Jason Salas - 4M ago

Heart beating fast, sweat is dripping from your forehead. You wonder if people will like what you are creating. You look at your staff and think is this the right crew? Are these the people I want to go into battle with? Walk into the walk in. Do a final count on everything. Make sure prep is done properly. Ok, we got this. Lets do it. Open the doors! These are thoughts right before you open your doors when you are opening a restaurant. You think about every detail. What will be the first impression from the first customer. Its extremely hard to open a restaurant. Its not easy by any means. I have had the privilege and honor to open many restaurants. This week along with a really good friend. We tried P.Terry’s new concept Taco Ranch. It has taken me a couple of days to think about what I wanted to say. Talking it over Ainsley and having her remind me of why we decided to have the blog we have. I feel that I need to speak the truth of my experience. Not just my own. But those that I have heard from other ” foodies”. Here we go.

When I pulled up to the new Taco Ranch on the corner of Mopac and 290. I thought to myself that this was a beautiful building. Kinda has this modern Taco Bell vibe to it. Which is exactly what they were looking to do. The owners wanted to give it a feel of a 1960’s Taco Bell. Well, they succeeded in doing so. Walking through the glass doors and seeing what they had created I was blown away. Family style seating was really cool to see. You could just tell that this was a new restaurant. This is something that took a lot of love to make. This was someones dream. Sadly, that is where the dream ended. This is where I say ” what were you thinking”? Now I’m not going to be one of those people that just say I had a bad experience and not give any reasons. Oh no! We are going to break it down. From the service, to the food, to the overall experience.

The service. Now, the cashier that we had was ok. Yes, it was the first day. But on the first day you want to have someone who is excited to be there. Someone who is thrilled that you are there. That’s not who we had. Our person seemed confused on what they were doing. The person seemed to just read from a script. I had to tell them to just charge me. They went over our order many times. We ran into a good friend of mine. He also had a bad experience. His person didn’t seem to know much about what he was doing. When opening a restaurant you want to have your best people up front. They are the ones giving the first impression of your business. They are the ones who sale your food. Training is so important. Yes, again first days are tough. But if your cashier isn’t on point it is a dead end. The cashiers control your line. They set the pace for the cooks in the back. If the cooks get over loaded its the cashiers job to explain the menu in detail. Ask how the customer heard of them. You just don’t keep taking orders. It becomes a mad house. That’s exactly what happened. It was a mad house.With time they can figure this out. Its going to take a lot of training.

The Food. I don’t know where to start. I don’t know how to say how I feel. So here it is. WHAT ARE YOU THINKING TACO RANCH??? For months I have read about how P. Terry’s wanted to open this restaurant with fresh ingredients. Tons of flavor and give you an experience of what it was like in the 1960’s with Taco Bell. Lets start with the quesadilla. Ok being honest here. It was like they just heated up a tortilla and took a slice of block cheese and put it inside of it . Closed it and sat it under a heat lamp. There was no color to it. No flavor. Literally just tortilla and cheese. It was the saddest thing I have ever had. Ok, this is AUSTIN,TEXAS bring out the queso. We as Austinites love us some queso. What we received was pretty much Velveeta and Milk. No seasonings. No spice. Just “cheese” and milk. Why would you do that to us? We deserve more. I also ordered a “burrito”. Sigh what I received was a cold lump of tortilla and beans. I don’t think I was asking for much. Please just heat up my food. Taco, the place is called Taco Ranch. Taco is in the name. How do you mess up the taco? I read as many reviews as I could (up to today) and one common comment was the food was cold. I understand that you are trying to push out as many tickets as you can and have a great ticket time. But really? Quality does not need to go out the door. Have pride for what you are doing. Make it sexy, make it fun, make it fun. Yes, its just a taco. But its my taco. I paid the two bucks that you asked for. You told me that it was going to be quality. I expected quality. I also had a chalupa. It fell apart right when I picked it up. I would think not to call it a chalupa.

Overall Experience. To understand where I am coming from you have to understand. Food is my life. I am a chef, a chef consultant, and a food blogger. I have almost two decades of having my life be food. No, that does not mean I have been eating for 20 years. Food has had a huge impact in my life. I do not just eat to fill up. Food is an experience for me. As well as Ainsley. We love the whole experience of sitting down and having an amazing meal. Even if its just pancakes and eggs. Taco Ranch did not do this for me. Yes. I was surprised with how beautiful the actual restaurant was. But you can not open a restaurant and have this low of quality and standards for your food. First days are always hard. Trust me I know. I know what its like to open and have just a line out the door. You have to prepare for anything. This is Austin. We love our food. We love our tacos. If you do not fix things or show that you are trying. This city will break you. Love love love what you do. It will show in your staff. It will show in your food. It will show in your customers smiles. We will come back in a couple of months. Hopefully things will be better. I honestly want you to be successful.

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Foreign and Domestic. The words capture the meaning injected into the dishes. The flavors taste freshly picked from the ground or recently taken from their animal.

I visited before the new owners, Nathan Lemley and Sarah Heard took over. They became intimate with the establishment by working here for two years before taking ownership of the restaurant from Ned. According to Eater he is going to be expanding to Cincinnati, and then Houston, for his future career plans.

With this change in ownership comes a new life and friendly atmosphere to this neighborhood restaurant. We had the pleasure of interviewing Sarah and Nathan to learn how they are honoring Ned’s restaurant baby and how they are going to grow Foreign and Domestic into a new vision. “It really is like having new parents”, they said after asking how the staff was responding to them.

A quick note on the food. The savory maintains its ability to give you a unique bite with every fork while maintaining each layer of the dish. Many restaurants will have delicious sauces, meats, and accouterments that taste delicious when eaten alone but don’t sing into harmony when taken together. Foreign and Domestic has maintained its ability to harmonize meat and field.

The true masterpiece of the meal was the dessert, which I rarely ever say. Each layer had its own flavor and texture. For the Pot de crème it was never too sweet and the creaminess was silky and light. The juniper vibrated across the tongue and the meringue made it sing. The blood orange dark chocolate tart was so dark I could actually taste the chocolate. And it had a red wine gastrique.

Please bring me a bite after you go.

Interview with Nathan Lemley and Sarah Heard When did you two take over the restaurant?

Nathan: Both of us have been here since the 8th of August and Sarah has been working on and off for a year. We officially took over in August. I moved here eight years ago to work here after Houston. I moved from Tony’s. This is “the restaurant” to work for in Houston.

I worked here for three years then left to go run Parkside. One day Ned mentioned wanting to sell the restaurant and go do new stuff so we went from there.
Nathan: I like it being small here because I can see all the tables and diners. It’s awesome. It’s instant gratification.

We can tell people like it because they’re quiet at first and then ask a ton of questions.

Jason brings up how with Steve from Cured we learned that for him it is seeing a table go quiet to know they love the food. For Jason, it is when people’s eyes close.

Nathan: For us, it’s really cool because we have the chefs counter. So we can tell people like it because they’re quiet at first and then ask a ton of questions. Then they tell us they love it. It’s really cool because we can talk to them right there

Ainsley: Do people view you as the Gods of food or do they think they can recreate it at home?

Nathan: A lot of it is really technical. But we do tell them they can cook it at home and it won’t look the same but it will taste really good.

Ainsley: Ok, cool. So, the Houston food scene is considered even better than Austin so how could you reach your peak in Houston and then come to Austin?

Nathan: Austin’s come a long since I’ve moved here, even eight years ago. I just think there’s just more opportunity here, really.

Ainsley: There’s more collaboration, right? Like, the chefs are-

Nathan: Er, it’s getting there, it is getting there. That’s the one thing I found out when I first moved here is that there wasn’t a lot of collaboration. It was just competitive.

Jason: Oh, for sure.

Nathan: Yeah, there wasn’t a lot of cool new restaurants, you know? Just the old staples.

Ainsley: Tacos? And taco food trucks?

(Laughter)

‘Let’s just enjoy the quiet for right now’ but usually one of us will have an idea for a dish or will start talking about and the other one will be like “Hey, this would be awesome!” or “Why don’t you try this!”

Nathan: Yeah. So, now it’s actually really cool, we get to do the festivals and stuff and all the chefs are friends and all of them hang out more like other cities how it should be.

Ainsley: Alright, so between the two of you who usually comes up with the recipes or do you like, converge your heads together? Oh, this is being recorded. Sarah has joined us.

Sarah: Oh. Hi!

(Laughter)

Nathan: We drive the hour back and forth every day and we talk a lot about the restaurant, it’s our mobile office and we talk a lot about food.

Ainsley: Is there a moment where you have to stop and say “Can we talk about something different?”

Sarah: There are definitely days where it’s just silence, ‘let’s just enjoy the quiet for right now’ but usually one of us will have an idea for a dish or will start talking about and the other one will be like “Hey, this would be awesome!” or “Why don’t you try this!”

Ainsley: So how does the process work? Do you guys imagine creating the flavors in your head and almost imagine creating it while talking about it?

Sarah: A lot of times it will come just from seeing something or we are always looking at the cookbooks- gosh right now… Which one did we just get?

Nathan: Eleven Madison Park

Ainsley: We like to look at Flavor Bible.

Sarah: Flavor Bible is a good crutch.

(Laughter)

Nathan: The list of ingredients (in there) is good to make anything.

Sarah: It depends a lot on what we are going for at the time. If we need a vegetarian dish we’ll look at the Book of Greens or the Big Vegetable book. It just depends on what part of the menu we’re working on.

Ainsley: Do you feel like most of the time you don’t even need a recipe book, though?

Sarah: Yeah. Definitely.

Everybody’s like “What’s it like working with someone you’re dating also?” And it’s like, Well? I think I fell in love with him because we work so well together.

Ainsley: So, when it comes to your background where all did you work before here and who did you find was the most inspiring person?

Sarah: This guy! (Gesturing to Nathan)

Nathan: (Laughs)

Sarah: Yeah, that was a big turning point, but I worked in the Mansion for six years when I was younger, not culinary wise but management-wise the owner, Lisa Hiederman was a huge driving force in my life. To see her and what she was doing and how strong and put together she was was really big for me and we still stay in touch.

Ainsley: That’s awesome.

Sarah: She’s pretty awesome, still a huge part of my life still and then culinary wise, I went from there, worked at a couple of different wedding venues-

Ainsley: Like catering type of work?

Sarah: I did a lot of catering, so I went from the Mansion, which was mostly restaurant work, and then I went into catering but I landed at Parkside and we got hired at the same time.

Ainsley: So did you two find that you had very similar ideas? What made you two decide together to take on this place?

Sarah: For me, I think working with Nathan at Parkside- Everybody’s like “What’s it like working with someone you’re dating also?” And it’s like, Well? I think I fell in love with him because we work so well together. So it was the ‘chicken and the egg’ which one came first but as far as how we want to run things it’s usually really easy being on the same track.

Ainsley: So how do you guys accept that you’re good business partners when you deal with conflict? Do you deal with conflict very well together?

Sarah: We do.

Nathan: (Laughs)

Sarah: We hadn’t dealt with it much until the last couple of months.

Nathan: It’s usually when we’re both tired.

Sarah: I think it’s kind of like when you have a brother or sister and you fight with them and it’s like you get really mad and then all of sudden you’re laughing and it’s so stupid.

Ainsley: But you’re still mad in that moment, you’re like “Everything in me Grrr.”

Sarah: Yeah. (Chuckles)

It’s great to do it with somebody instead of doing it by yourself because that’s how it’s been for the last several years and it’s good to have someone to talk to about anything, bounce ideas off each other

Ainsley: Especially if you see each other so constantly. Do you guys ever go “I need alone time?”

Sarah: We’re never apart anymore. We went from never seeing other because I worked mornings starting at 5 AM and he was working nights. So we went from never seeing each other to working, literally together, twenty-four hours a day except for when I have to go to the grocery store.

Ainsley: Do you almost feel like at some point you guys are becoming the same person?

(Sarah and Nathan both Chuckle)

Sarah: I mean…. I don’t know.

Jason: Do you have kids?

Nathan: She has a five-year-old daughter.

Ainsley: That’s insane you guys keep it all together. You guys are a power couple. Do you ever break free of all of it, do things together to bring that sparkle again?

Nathan: We’ve been going to Justine’s on Friday night for our be “normal” kind of days and be a normal couple.

Ainsley: Do you ever feel that grind, where you just create this fuel together that’s going and going and going?

Nathan: It’s great to do it with somebody instead of doing it by yourself because that’s how it’s been for the last several years and it’s good to have someone to talk to about anything, bounce ideas off each other like, it really helps and then we can split up responsibilities. She’s good at some things, I’m good at other things.

Ainsley: Do you guys have a curing area?

Nathan: No, the health department does not like any of that kind of stuff, it’s kind of a nightmare doing it but we live way far (laughs) so we can do a lot of what we want out there.

Jason: What’s the best thing you have?

Nathan: I like the pork shoulder a lot. Simple slow-cooked pork.

Jason: (to Sarah) How do you balance being a Mom and handling a restaurant?

Sarah: It’s not much balancing. It’s a lot of fumbling and dropping and forgetting things. She is luckily easy going with me and I have the most awesome mom in the world and she watches my daughter for me right now five days a week.

Ainsley: That’s awesome. I feel like other cultures are way more into that. They’re more like “We have a whole family here.”

Sarah: I think it’s great. People have said, “Why don’t you move closer?” And I’m like “Well, I want to live close to my mom so that after I pick my daughter up I can just go home after a long drive.” and then people are like “Well, why don’t you just put her in daycare? Or why don’t you do this?” I, for one, trust my Mom more than anyone I don’t know and for two there aren’t any daycares I know that aren’t sketchy that go ‘till 2 in the morning and daycare would not pick her up from the school either.

Ainsley: She’s probably getting to know her grandma and forming a relationship that lasts forever.

Sarah: I liked the way I turned out so if anyone else is going to raise my daughter I’d want it to be my Mom.

(Laughter)

“I’m going to be more macho and more disgusting and more of a man than they are.” But it didn’t change anything, it just got me through it.

Jason: What advice would you give somebody who wants to be a chef who is a female? I talked to a lot of female chefs and cooks here in Austin and a lot of them say it’s really hard to get the respect to do anything.

Sarah: It is but I think a lot of girls think that when they start getting it, when it’s hard and when it starts coming at them, it’s easier to be goofy and silly and be like, accepting of it and think “It’s fine, I’ve got a tough spin” but you can’t do that and I’m not going to say anything because I did that too. I was seventeen and I was just like “I’m going to be more macho and more disgusting and more of a man than they are.” But it didn’t change anything, it just got me through it.

I’m kind of mentoring a girl in town right now and she’s nineteen and she’s a girl and it’s- almost every time we sit down and talk it’s “Ok what happened? How did you handle it? How do you think I should have handled it?” I don’t want her to lash out about or get pissed off about it. It is something you just have to deal with but at the same time shouldn’t be accepting of it.

Ainsley: Do you think in the future, like, right now it seems like emotions are a bad thing to have. Do you think in the future people will start to respect those who see it as something to use?

Sarah: I think it is coming about. I’m definitely seeing it more. I know Daniella is leading that. I think she might take it a little overboard. The hugging and kissing on the cheek and that kind of stuff but we keep a pretty balanced kitchen and I’m like “I know you’re having a hard day but I’m going to need you to just focus right now.”

Ainsley: But there’s still an understanding, like, saying gender to gender there’s a huge difference but I think in a lot of ways females are more emotionally capable of seeing things very quickly like noticing why someone’s..

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Franklin BBQ is a place where dreams come true. It is a place that is known all over the world. Aaron Franklin is a James Beard Award winner, and has gained acclaim from magazines and websites all over the world. Aaron Franklin is the best at what he does. But that is not what this article is about. I thought I would tell the true story behind what makes Franklin BBQ the best in the world. This article is about the staff of Franklin BBQ.

One thing that you should know about the crew at Franklin’s is this. They are some of the BEST people you will ever meet. Period. Now I know that everyone has their faults. No one is perfect. For you to really understand why I wanted to write about this then let us start from the top. Aaron is a man you would never think is the best in the world at what he does. Looking at him you would never know that. Somewhat tall. Short beard. Little beer gut, and black rimmed glasses. He’s plain in some ways. But that is what makes him great.  He is a genius at what he does. He does it so effortlessly. What you don’t see from other media outlets or from bloggers is that Aaron cares so much about his employees. He leads by example. He never called himself the best or someone worth the respect he is given. He has always just been humble about it all. He has shown that to his staff. They are the same way. They care about what they do. They know they are the best. But they will not tell you.

Let’s start with Benji. If you have ever been to Franklin’s and stood in the line waiting for a gift from the meat Gods then you have seen Benji. Not a small man by any comparison, but he is one of the nicest humans you will ever meet. Aaron got it right with this one. Benji is one of those men you see and just want to hug and say thank you to. Not for the BBQ or for that extra piece of meat, but because he is who he is. The world is a better place because he is in it. He makes everyone happy by treating you like family.  You are there to share in the experience that he is trying to give you. It shows in the front of the house just how much of an impact he has on the employees. They get it. They all get it.

Braun. Okay this is probably a name you have never heard of when it comes to Franklin BBQ. Braun is a man that doesn’t look for the lime light. He doesn’t want to be the face. But I will tell you this. You love Braun. I love Braun. We all love Braun.  Braun is the back of the house. Braun is the reason why we have amazing meat everyday. Leading the BOH to strive for greatness everyday. He is arguably one of the best pit masters in the world. The way that he is able to look at meat, to touch it, to smell it. It’s life changing. It’s not like you have or ever will see it. Talent like Brauns isn’t always appreciated, but it should be. On behalf of us the lovers of meat and sauce. I say thank you.

Now we can talk about how amazing the food is there. But I think it’s important that we also focus on the reason why we love this place. There is something to be said about going to a place where you stand in line for five hours just to get a pound a meat. I mean think about it. If you go to a restaurant, sit down for five minutes and a server hasn’t reached out to you, you get pretty upset. But at Franklin’s you wait 5 hours and you are like, “This is the best day ever.” How could that be? Well it has a lot to do with the friendly faces that you look at when you reach the order counter. The secret to Franklin’s success is not the food. It’s the staff. It’s person cutting your meat. The guy asking you about your sides. The lovely face that takes your money. Aaron and Stacy sure do know how to hire the best possible people you can think of.  That’s what makes it so special.

Sorry if you thought I was going to give you the secret recipe to their success. But its simple. Find good people who make you look good. Add in juicy meat and amazing sauce, and you have the recipe to success. Franklin’s is still in the rebuilding stage. I was lucky enough to hear about what they have planned, but the secret is safe with me. All I can say is stand in line. Enjoy the gift from the meat from the meat Gods and don’t forget to tip.


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Divine cream meets Italian technique, and the only true scratch made ice cream in Austin.

People get so amazed that it tastes like watermelon, and I’m like yeah, that’s because it is

We love seeing how people’s backgrounds blend into food. Matthew Lee started in technology and then said to the heck with tech with all of its little bits and bites. He was sick of reinventing the wheel just to be ahead of the curve. “None of those apps will exist in six months. Facebook will even be gone in ten years. This, you can actually make. You can touch it, feel, throw, smell and eat it. You can’t with technology. You can use real ingredients with real products and at the end of the day you can see people’s reactions.” When Lee came to Teo after Italy it was after hanging out with chefs all of his life. Lee eventually trained in Florence. From his travels and gelato mentoring he learned that the better the ingredients, the sweeter the ending.  “If you have bad ingredients you can only be so good. It’s amazing how many ingredients are used to create one flavor. People get so amazed that it tastes like watermelon, and I’m like yeah, that’s because it is.” Now he uses that technology background for the math of ice cream. To account for the water (even in fruit) and the acidity, influences the entire product and turns Teo into the art and science of ice cream.

Out of 500 products that got submitted at HEB’s best awards Teo took the number one spot. People believed that they had something. Then the top 60 gelato makers were brought together in Chicago and Teo was number one yet again. What they did to make it consistently brilliant was by having three flavors and constantly tasting them. The science and ingredients conquered the contest yet again. Knowing when to add which ingredient to where the texture forms one perfect moment.

Making Their Own Base

How do you compete with Amy’s?

The big difference is that Teo make their base. The other ice cream shops buy theirs.  “For me it’s like they’re saying I make the best chicken soup but the stock is Swanson’s.” I contest that at least Lick uses Mill-King, but Jerry says “It isn’t even grass-fed. I was one of the first to use Mill-King six years ago and the quality is so inconsistent. We use Texas farms and try to source locally for all ingredients.” I was annoyingly shocked at this news. Then folded to Google confirming that Mill-King does not claim grass-fed. Because they make their base Teo can make anything, even bacon ice cream.

Lee would even say ice cream shots have too much fat in their products and so they have to add more sugar. It’s like adding butter to a baked potato and you keep adding bacon and cheese until you can’t taste the potato.

Words can only speak so loudly so we go in and taste the ice cream.

The real pecans. The true flavors. Everything is creamy, pure and layered with flavor. Like a small bite dish from Uchi.

It’s real. Go taste ice cream’s reality.


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Co-written by Jason Salas and Ainsley Daschofsky

The interview started by saying how humbled we were to be sitting down with Chef Steve Mchugh of Cured. Chef Mchugh is a man that you want to know. A man to meet before you die, or at least try his food. In the interview, Mchugh divulged that he hopes the food speaks so loudly for him that he doesn’t even have to be at the restaurant. You taste his mind even if he is nowhere near you. For Jason, he is someone you want to aspire to be like as a chef. We knew that this couldn’t be just any type of interview. It had to be from our hearts. It had to have passion and respect for the man we were sitting with. We were nervous. Ainsley and I were ready. This one was going to matter.

Instantly we fell deeper as expectations met reality when we walked through the door and were greeted by a meat curing chamber.

Cured was a restaurant that we came across while on a weekend trip to San Antonio by saying to Ainsley “Hey I want to go somewhere that isn’t Mexican.” It has been the main cuisine from the bits of life Jason’s spent there. Ainsley consulted the Google Gods for farm to fork options and found the reviews of a restaurant called Cured. Aged meat and an Uber away and that is when the love started. A song without bad romance. Instantly we fell deeper as expectations met reality when walked through the door and were greeted by a meat curing chamber. After an eye closing first bite we decided that we wouldn’t take any picture. As food bloggers that’s saying goodbye to 67+ likes of Internet love. But we wanted the experience to be just for us. We are so satisfied with it being just our memories. It was the best meal we ever had. Well that was until today. But we’ll talk about that later. This interview was one that we were not sure we could get. Chef McHugh is a very busy person. He is up for a James Beard award right now. A high demand human some would say. So for us to be able to sit down with him for an hour and nineteen minutes was a feeling of making it as food bloggers. Only a couple parts of the interview will be touched on in this post and the full interview will be posted separately. This post is about seeing Chef Mchugh as a person and then as a chef. Listen to the interview to get the full story. This will be a two part post. Once again, it was truly an honor to interview Chef McHugh, chef to chef. This will be one we remember for the rest of our lives.

He was taught that you worked for what you have.

Steve McHugh grew up in Wisconsin on a dairy farm with his family. At a young age he was taught the value of work. He was taught that you worked for what you have. His mother was a doctor and taught him to care for everyone. No matter if they had money or not. With seven boys in his family there was plenty of work to be done on the farm from mowing the grass to picking the weeds from the garden. He joked about his brother strangling the chickens for fun. It’s just what they did as kids on a farm in Wisconsin. At fourteen he was old enough to get a work permit so he got a job washing dishes at youth camp. He spoke about how much fun it was to be in a kitchen with high school kids, guys in their 20’s and being part of a kitchen. It was the coolest thing. He was offered cigarettes and listened to rock music with the guys, “It was fun just being a dishwasher with them.”

The culinary industry is one of the last industries that you don’t have to have a degree. You can work your way up and become the chef.

Chef Steve has spent most of his life being in a kitchen. There was one year that he did leave for college. Still working in the kitchen Chef Steve studied music theory. He played the saxophone and went to school on a scholarship. One thing that Chef Steve realized is that going to school wasn’t for him. He didn’t make the best grades or care too much for music theory. He knew he wanted to create. While home with his family his father suggested that he go to culinary school. Being from a small town in Wisconsin he had never really met a chef. He worked for guys that called themselves chefs, but they were not real chefs. Then his dad started to buy the New York Times. In the Wednesday edition there were recipes and articles about chefs. Steve loved reading them. Steve went to culinary school at CIA in Hyde Park New York. The landscape was familiar. Dairy farms and grass everywhere made Steve feel at home. As someone who didn’t do well in high school or college he was surprised to be doing so well in culinary school. He found it easy. This was something that I could relate to with Chef Steve. For me growing up school was hard for me. I didn’t make good grades. I was never anywhere near that top of my class. Then suddenly we have that ability to create something. And do it daily. Ainsley jokes how cool it is that we get to do that. As a writer she writes things that people can read, but that they can’t eat. We as chefs create something that people can consume and enjoy. Chef Steve jokes that we just need them to keep coming back. One thing that he brought up is that the culinary industry is one of the last industries that you don’t have to have a degree. You can work your way up and become the chef. It just takes hard work Being a chef gives people like Chef Steve and I hope. It gives people without a degree to be the best chef in the world.

Steve jokingly said that Brown was the very first chef he was ever afraid of. There are just some people that you do not want to disappoint.

Chef Steve started his career in New Orleans by first working under Chef Stanley Jackson. He was one of those guys that just appreciated hard work. Taking Chef Steve under his wing he showed him how to make jambalaya, etouffee and how to fry a turkey. Afterwards he worked under Chef Chris Brown in many different restaurants. Steve jokingly said that Brown was the very first chef he was ever afraid of. There are just some people that you do not want to disappoint. Kind of like a parent. You just have that much respect for them. McHugh saw Brown as a mentor even though they weren’t far off in age. The respect level was just that high. He recalled a time when he overslept and he was so scared to return to work. We watched him shake a bit at the memory. Mchugh became the yes chef no chef person that day. Afraid to look up, he just kept his head down and cooked. After many other restaurants and owners McHugh found himself working for John Bess starting in 2003.

“No one at the French Laundry comes off the line and says man that was fun. This is hard work.”

John Bess was a person who McHugh saw as someone that outworked him. Which is really hard to do. As chefs we pride ourselves on work ethic. Jason is also someone that is at the restaurant hours before anyone else. McHugh shares the same passion. At this time John Bess only had two restaurants. Later on with McHugh, they were able to continue the growth and make it nine restaurants. Gaining  pride working with John Bess lead to their team winning the James Beard Award, using that confidence as fuel. Then later he aired on Iron Chef. McHugh felt like he was part of this succes. McHugh tells his crew all the time that this is hard work. “No one at the French Laundry comes off the line and says man that was fun. This is hard work.” It’s intense being in the kitchen with McHugh. Not much laughing goes one. But one thing that is for sure is that everyone is happy. You can see it in their faces.

McHugh walked around the restaurant and pointed out that the base of the tables needed to be cleaned. It is things like this that makes going to Cured an experience you want to remember again and again.

We talked about the importance of having a perfect shift. Ainsley asked how much MgHugh thought perfection mattered in the kitchen. McHugh answered by saying that with Bess he would walk into the restaurant and look intently around for things he knew Bess would find. McHugh thought of it like a game. Bess would look around. He would find a chive cut incorrectly. He then would say “Chefs, what is wrong with this chive?” Then show them all how to properly cut a chive. For McHugh, he promises every customer when they come in that they will have a good time. On the day of the interview McHugh walked around the restaurant and pointed out that the base of the tables needed to be cleaned. It is things like this that makes going to Cured an experience you want to remember again and again. Pride is something that McHugh took from John Bess.

One of the best pieces of advice that Jason was ever given was from Aaron Franklin. Treat every restaurant like it is your own. This is something that he will never forget. Jason asked McHugh the same question. “What is the best advice that John Bess has ever given you?” McHugh took a deep breathe and painted a picture for us. McHugh recalled whenever there was something wrong at the restaurant he would gather all of the chefs together and said, “If you don’t care how do you expect all of the cooks to care. Why would you spend so much time platting and making the perfect plate just to throw it in the pass?”

Sitting down with a McHugh was one of the best experiences of my career. Not only to learn more about the person, but mostly to learn more about what kind of chef and man I want to be. Humility and compassion are things you won’t first see when you walk into Cured. But take a closer look, and you will see it everywhere.

Next week we will be posting the full interview with McHugh…


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Austin Texas Food by Jason Salas - 4M ago

Monday we are closed. It’s a day that most restaurants are closed. Its a day of rest. A day to regroup. Many service industry workers spend Sunday nights drinking the night away and partying like its a Saturday night. But for some chefs, it’s another long day at the restaurant.

We are the only ones there. Inventory, menu planning, scheduling, cleaning, regrouping. For me, I just took over a small restaurant in north Austin. It has brought the passion back into my life. You see I have spent most of my career behind the stainless steel tables. You would find me on the line or working the service window. Never the one to step out and say this is my food. I was there to make someone else look good. But this time at Royal Jelly I have the opportunity to finally take the main stage. I’m proud of what we are creating. The owner of the restaurant has been great. Young and full of energy and passion. He is someone that wants to grow and do the best job he can do.

First off, I love food. If you have been following Ainsley and I while we are on this journey it is easy to see that we both have a love food that is I guess in some ways frightening. We spend hours everyday just talking food. Ideas, menus, passion, love and where to go next with our lives. Its been fun being a chef and a blogger. Some cooks and chefs look at us funny. They think “whoa she knows a lot about food, or he is actually a chef and knows his stuff”. It has opened a lot of doors for us. But it has also given us the opportunity to talk to other chefs about their passion and why they do what they do. This life is not easy. Trust me it’s not. But I love it. My little girl has told me multiple times that she loves that her daddy is a chef. We cook together and we share a father-daughter bond that way. It’s great.  But I have also heard ” daddy you have to work again, I miss you and want to be with you”. Those are the tough days

It is not easy to walk into a restaurant and say “hey I’m the new guy, and what you are doing is wrong and I am going to change the menu next week”. But this transition has been easy. One thing that I wanted to show with this new menu was love. I wrote a post about a restaurant a couple of months ago that talked about the love they had for their customers. Now I am not a front of the house person. But I wanted to show our customers that I love what I do. I wanted to give the restaurant a feel of ” they know what they are doing, this is love”. Before I created the new menu I must have gone over more than 100 other restaurants menus. Looking at what they had. What they lacked. Or what Austin lacked. I took inspiration from someone who I trust more than anyone. I cooked for their palate. And so far it’s working. I think I have something that is unique. It’s not a menu that you have for yourself. Its small plates to share. I want it to be a place where you can order a couple of plates for you and another person. Enjoy food that is prepared with love. Have great drinks and food. And then do it again next weekend or a couple of times a week.

The Food

When I first had the thoughts of Lamb Meatballs I wasn’t sure how it would go over. Lamb is one of those things that is hit or miss with some people I knew that if I was going to do this I had to showcase the meat. Not the spices or herbs that are in the mix. And I knew for sure that there would be NO mint in the mix. Sorry. Bolognese is a sauce that is near and dear to my heart. I didn’t want to make just a straight ragu sauce. I wanted to tell a story with this sauce. I wanted our customers to take a bite of the sauce and the meatball. Close their eyes and feel the story being told. As you take it in. Feel the sweetness of the tomatoes. The creaminess of the butter. The kick from the garlic. And of course lets not forget the house made creme fraiche that I make just for this dish. It really sets it off. The meatballs are full of juice. You really taste the lamb as it sits in the sauce. Just thinking of it makes me smile. There are other notes that I want you to feel as well. But I want you to figure it out yourself.

Duck Poutine. What can I say? Canada you got it right with this one. There is only a hand full of places in Austin that serve Poutine. So, of course, I had to join the club. One thing that I told myself when creating this dish that if I was going to do this. I had to let the duck shine. I had to give it a ton of flavor. Show it some love. So I decided that I would let the duck marinate for over 24 hours. Really let the meat soak up all the flavors. After it cooks I take all of the juices and make this strong duck gravy. When we first made this dish I remember taking a bite and closing my eyes and thinking ” I may have something here” We finish it off with cheese curds and fresh thyme. We really let the duck be the star of this dish. I am very proud of this one.

Now I do have other menu items that are going to be coming out pretty soon. Over the next couple of months, I will be rolling out different specials. Try my queso. It’s all love.

I know that it’s a little weird to be a chef and a blogger. I try not to promote the restaurant too much here or on our social media. I thought I would do a post of what its like to be a chef and give a little insight into the thought process of creating a menu. And where my mindset was while doing so. I love what I do. It has taken me almost half of my life to realize how talented I really am. For most of my career, I stood in the back and pushed for other people. Now I am pushing for other reasons. For myself, my little girl, my life partner, and family. Being a chef isn’t about the food. Its the whole package. Can they cook? Can they handle stress? How do they handle a bad review? Can they be a showman? Can they live the life? Well, I don’t know all of the answers to these questions for myself. But I know I try. And I hope it shows in my food. It’s Love.


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