Olive & June names Brian Moses new executive chef

Parkside Projects veteran Brian Moses has replaced Justin Rupp as the executive chef at that restaurant group’s Italian concept Olive & June. Moses, who has spent the last two years working as chef de cuisine at Contigo after a stint as chef de partie at Thomas Keller’s French bistro Bouchon in Napa, last worked for Cirkiel at Parkside.

Rupp, who opened Parkside and Backspace with Cirkiel, will stay on with Parkside Projects, working with Cirkiel on the group’s other projects.


What to expect with the new change at the Southern Italian-inspired mid-century treehouse restaurant? Moses will debut his first Sunday family menu this week. The multi-course dinner will include grilled acorn squash agrodolce with goat cheese and pecan pesto; orecchiette with pork belly and mushroom in smoked pork broth; and grilled bluefish with local squash and potato. See the full menu attached to this post. The meal costs $36, and children under 12 eat free.

Austin icon El Azteca closing next week

One of Austin’s oldest Mexican restaurants will serves its final customers next week, as El Azteca (2600 E. Seventh St.) will close after service on September 29. Jorge D. Guerra and Ninfa Guerra founded the restaurant in 1963.

(Eric Webb/American-Statesman)
(Eric Webb/American-Statesman)

The restaurant, known for for its colorful calendars, serves Tex-Mex staples like enchiladas and tacos, and earned a name for itself based on the strength of dishes like juicy cabrito, rich chicken mole and barbacoa de cabeza.

“Barrio restaurants owned by people who had a strong sense of community are (becoming) a thing of the past and that’s a shame. But between the proliferation of chains, the gentrification, increased property values and the aging of long time barrio residents, those kinds of places are difficult to sustain,” former Statesman editorial page editor Arnold Garcia wrote in an email.

Alejandro Escovedo and Anthony Bourdain eat at El Azteca. (Credit: Screen grab from YouTube clip of the Food Network’s “No Reservations.”)

The restaurant has been a cultural touchstone and meeting place for the East Austin community over the decades, and Austin music great Alejandro Escovedo even told Anthony Bourdain that it was the first place he ever dined in Austin. (See that clip from “No Reservations” at the 27-minute mark here.)

The Guerra family has not made public the name of thebuyer.

Austin chef to appear on ‘Chopped’

Annabelle Turner will appear on "Chopped."
Annabelle Turner will appear on “Chopped.”

Vox Table’s executive pastry chef Annabelle Turner is about to put her quick-thinking and cooking skills to the test. The chef will appear as a contestant on the Food Network’s “Chopped” on October 6. The episode will air at 8 p.m.

Turner will compete in an episode entitled “On the Quack Burner,” which will feature mystery ingredients such as duck tongue, seaweed and spicy alcohol and sweet cream in the dessert round. Before coming to Vox, Turner worked at Artz Rib House, Paggi House and Perla’s Seafood & Oyster Bar

Vox Table will air the episode at the restaurant at 1100 S. Lamar Blvd. on October 6 and then feature one of the courses from the show through October 8.



Olivia on South Lamar to close in October

James Holmes at Olivia in 2013. (Deborah Cannon AMERICAN-STATESMAN)
James Holmes at Olivia in 2013. (Deborah Cannon AMERICAN-STATESMAN)

Longtime Austin executive chef James Holmes will close Olivia on October 9. The fine dining restaurant opened in 2008 and was a member of that second wave of farm-to-table restaurants that opened last decade. The restaurant earned a Top 10 Best New Restaurant from Bon Appétit in 2009 and received a glowing review from former Statesman restaurant critic Mike Sutter in 2009. To get a sense of what that stretch of South Lamar looked like when Olivia opened: the restaurant’s neighbor was a newsstand specializing in adult magazines and videos.

The restaurant may have been best known for its Southern comfort weekend brunches, which served corned beef hash, shrimp and grits and, my go-to, the Willie Nelson, a six-ounce chicken fried steak with red-eye gravy, two fried eggs, herb smashed potatoes, served with a green salad and buttermilk dressing.

“Olivia has been here to watch the neighborhood, and Austin, change over the years,” Holmes said. “What I’m most proud of is our loyal neighborhood customers and to have watched our cooks go on to do great things both in Austin and around the country.”

After the closure, Holmes, who also owns Lucy’s Fried Chicken, will transition Olivia into a new concept, about which he says he will have details soon.

Olivia is open for dinner Tuesday through Thursday from 5 to 10 p.m. and Friday & Saturday from 5 to 11 p.m. and for brunchon Saturday from 10 a.m.-2:30 p.m. and Sunday from 10 a.m.-4 p.m. thru October 9.




Austin restaurant lands on Condé Nast Traveler’s list of Best Restaurants in the Country

Madai, Norwegian mackerel, salmon belly, and Spanish anchovy (l-r) at Uchi.  (Laura Skelding AMERICAN-STATESMAN) 103015 xl cover
Madai, Norwegian mackerel, salmon belly, and Spanish anchovy (l-r) at Uchi. (Laura Skelding AMERICAN-STATESMAN)
103015 xl cover

Lifestyle magazine Condé Nast Traveler released a list of the Best Restaurants in America, as compiled by its editorial staff. Tyson Cole’s Uchi, which opened on South Lamar Boulevard in 2003, was the only Austin restaurant to make the list.

“Tyson Cole is the patriarch of the Austin food scene, and 13 years in, Uchi is still one of the great Japanese restaurants in the country,” Peter Jon Lindberg wrote.

Uchi wasn’t the only Lone Star State representative on the list. Oxheart and Kim Phat Hu Tieu Nam Vang in Houston also landed spots.

Check out CNT’s full list here.

Tickets for collaborative Make. Eat. Drink. dinner go on sale Wednesday

eatmakeMake. Eat. Drink., a collaboration of chefs and the artists who design and craft dishes found at some of the best restaurants in the country, takes place November 1 at the Hotel St. Cecilia. This year’s event will feature food from Emmer & Rye’s Kevin Fink, Naomi Pomeroy of Beast in Portland and Matt Jennings, the James Beard-nominated chef behind former Food & Wine and Esquire award-winning restaurant Townsman in Boston.

The chefs will prepare a collaborative dinner inspired by a special limited edition collection of dishware made by the evening’s co-host, Austin artist Keith Kreeger. Tickets for the dinner, which cost $300 and go on sale Wednesday at 10 a.m., include dinner, a piece from Kreeger and a signed copy of Pomeroy’s newly released book, “Taste and Technique: Recipes to Elevate Your Home Cooking,” which features one of Kreeger’s dishes on the cover. Proceeds from the annual event benefit Big Medium, a non-profit organization dedicated to supporting and promoting contemporary art in Texas. Tickets for the event will be available at makeeatdrink.com/tickets.

“I have preached for a long time about the importance of the object in the dining experience and the dinners began as a way to illustrate that idea. They have grown into a unique opportunity for talented people from related fields to collaborate and create a one-of-a-kind experience,” Kreeger said.

In addition to his dishware, which you can find at restaurants like Uchi, Kreeger also recently partnered with chef-inspired apparel company Tilit for a ‘Kreeger Apron,’ which can be purchased online.

Check out the video from Palate Films below to get a sense of the inspiration behind Make. Eat. Drink.


<p><a href=”https://vimeo.com/182742785″>MAKE_EAT_DRINK_2016</a&gt; from <a href=”https://vimeo.com/keithkreeger”>keith kreeger</a> on <a href=”https://vimeo.com”>Vimeo</a&gt;.</p>

Chef Grae Nonas, formerly of Olamaie, headed to Minneapolis

Grae Nonas, left, at Olamaie. (Ricardo B. Brazziell AMERICAN-STATESMAN)
Grae Nonas, left, at Olamaie. (Ricardo B. Brazziell AMERICAN-STATESMAN)

Grae Nonas announced last month that he was leaving the Southern fine dining restaurant Olamaie, where he had served as co-executive chef since the restaurant opened. Turns out he is going pretty far. The Minneapolis Star Tribune reported last week that Nonas will serve as the executive chef at Tullibee, a restaurant focused on Nordic cuisine in the Hewing Hotel in Minneapolis. Nonas achieved a lot in a short time at Olamaie. The restaurant was named tops in the city last year by this paper, and it also was a finalist for Best New Restaurant in America from the James Beard Foundation. Nonas, who along with Olamaie chef-owner Michael Fojtasek was named a Best New Chef by Food & Wine magazine last year, earned a Rising Star Chef nomination from the Beard Foundation this year.