This interview was first published in CultureMap Austin.
People who truly love food love not only to eat it, but to talk about it extensively as well. And on Wednesday, “Delectable Austin: Food Trailers, Farmers Markets & Fine Dining,” a Texas Exes Austin Professionals event open to the public, will offer attendees a glimpse into the minds of some of Austin’s foremost foodies.
Longtime Texas Monthly food editor Pat Sharpe will moderate a panel consisting of Mason Arnold, founder and CEO of Greenling; Laura Anderson, co-owner of Bananarchy; Davis Tucker, restaurateur and man behind NXNW and Red’s Porch; Neil Fuselier, general manager of The RK Group; and Hannah Calvert, founder of Supper Underground.
Oh yes, and fabulous food—cooked up by the RK Group, naturally—will be served.
In the spirit of the event, we caught up with two of the panelists, Hannah Calvert and Neil Fuselier, to talk about the Austin food scene—past, present and future—their favorite food trends, and more.
Describe your favorite Austin food memory.
Hannah Calvert: In October 2006, after only a few months in existence, Supper Underground hosted a special four-course feast with food from Flip Happy Crepes. The dinner was held at Floribunda, an amazing nursery and landscaping business on South Lamar with all kinds of magical things like grass covered “couches” on the property. It was a clear night and everyone seemed to be glowing as they ate at a long table under the stars. I remember thinking that evening that Supper Underground might just turn into something…
Neil Fuselier: Visiting First Thursday on South Congress for my first time is my favorite food memory. I was walking down the street when I suddenly inhaled these aromas of deliciousness. I knew I had to follow the sweet smells to their origin. When arriving at the location, a line of trailers on the side of the road, I began to try everything and anything I could fit in my stomach.
When it comes to food, what makes Austin special?
HC: Austin’s food scene is a lot like our cultural identity as a city—it’s accessible and dynamic. Our food scene is evolving all the time, attracting top talent from around the country, but many of the best restaurants in town are totally affordable and without pretense.
NF: Austin is a mecca of amazing food. Since moving here, I have never had a hard time deciding where to eat or what looks good. Austin has anything and everything you could ever want, which is what makes it so unique and incredible. Around every corner there is a different restaurant or street vendor offering an array of foods from different parts of the world.
In terms of food trends, how does Austin compare to other parts of the country? Are we ahead, behind, or do we create trends?
HC: We’ve led some trends, like food trucks and pop-up restaurants, but we’ve been slower to adopt others, like gastropubs. I think Austin’s unique approach to food trends, and sometimes distinct lack of “food trendiness,” suits most Austinites just fine.
NF: When compared to other parts of the country, Austin has proven to be ahead of the times. We do not specialize in just one category of food, but have everything one could ever ask for.
What new trends will dominate the Austin food scene in the next year?
HC: I’m not great with predictions, but I see more fried chicken in our future…
NF: Comfort food, petite plates, family-style serving, and deconstructed food. In the catering world, more of our custumers have been asking for game meats as well as action stations.
Photos courtesy Texas Exes Career Services