Austin Food & Wine Festival: New events, a slew of new faces and a ticketing change

Hugh Acheson holds his Braised Lamb taco at the Austin Food and Wine Festival's Rock Your Taco event at Republic Square Park on Saturday, April 25, 2015.
Hugh Acheson holds his Braised Lamb taco at the Austin Food and Wine Festival’s Rock Your Taco event at Republic Square Park on Saturday, April 25, 2015.

The fifth annual Austin Food & Wine Festival will feature a couple of new events and a host of new faces when it takes over Auditorium Shores and Republic Square Park on April 22-24. There will also be a new/old look to ticketing for the festival that features dozens of tastings, book signings, demonstrations and interactive discussions.

Two new events will help bookend the festival, with a separately ticketed Social Hour, featuring Austin mixologists Justin Lavenue and Dennis Gobis of the Roosevelt Room, taking place at the Madison on Friday night, and a Sunday gospel brunch featuring pedal steel great Robert Randolph and the Voices of Greater Cavalry Gospel Choir at Auditorium Shores.

In addition to welcoming returning chefs like Tyson Cole of Uchi and David Bull of Second Bar + Kitchen, the festival will see a flood of new talent from around the state and country. Friday night’s Taste of Texas event at Republic Square Park will welcome familiar faces Steve McHugh of Cured in San Antonio and Tatsu Aikawa of Austin’s Ramen Tatsu-ya, as well as newcomers Matt Blake of Bolsa in Dallas, Mary Cuclis of Indian restaurant Pondicheri in Houston and pastry chef Susan Querejazu of Barley Swine and Odd Duck.

The daytime events Saturday and Sunday include the popular fire pit cooking demonstrations from chefs like Barley Swine’s Bryce Gilmore and Qui’s Paul Qui, and the chef showcases both days will include food from veterans Todd Duplechan (Lenoir) and Rick Lopez (La Condesa), as well as bites form first-timers Frank Mnuk (Geraldine’s), Tim Lane (Burn), Nicholas Yanes of Juniper and many more.

Rock Your Taco, one of the festival’s most popular events each year, will take place Saturday night, with talented chefs from Texas and across the country trying to outdo each other with inventive tacos. Reigning champion Tim Love (Lonesome Dove) will defend his crown against a group that includes two-time winner Cole and impressive Rock Your Taco rookies like Jimmy Bannos and Jimmy Banos Jr. of the Purple Pig in Chicago, Jon Shook and Vinny Dotolo of Trois Mec in Los Angeles, and Seamus Mullen of Containers at Mondrian London.

Ticketing will revert to the format of the first few years, as the festival has eliminated a la carte ticketing options for the Friday and Saturday night events at Republic Square Park. The Weekender pass ($250) gives attendees access to the Saturday and Sunday events, tastings and live fire demos at Auditorium Shores, including the Gospel Brunch, while the $625 All-In badge gives festival goers admission to all day and night events, as well as an opportunity to participate in chef Love’s rowdy and popular hands-on grilling demos one of the weekend days. Tickets for the Social Hour and Thursday night’s unofficial kick-off dinner, Feast Under the Stars, must be purchased separately. Tickets are on sale at

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