You won’t see their names printed in the guide, they aren’t fielding interview questions in front of the TV camera, and some of them aren’t even old enough to drink the wine poured in the grand tasting tent, but this weekend’s Austin Food & Wine Festival couldn’t happen without the student volunteers from the Le Cordon Bleu College of Culinary Arts.
“We want to get these students engaged,” says Steven Loiacono, a chef instructor in Le Cordon Bleu’s catering and banquet division. Loiacono helps coordinate the almost 200 students who are volunteering to help do everything from prepare large quantities of food to serve at some of the big tasting events to assisting chefs on stage during packed demonstrations at the festival’s new venue, Butler Park. (See sidebar with details about this year’s festival.)
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Food & wine weekend
Even if you can’t make it to the festival, there are plenty of food and wine events this weekend to keep you busy.
The largest food event outside the official Food & Wine festival is Live Fire!, a tasting event hosted by the Austin Food & Wine Alliance at 6:30 p.m. Thursday at the Salt Lick Pavilion. More than 15 chefs, including four James Beard nominees, will use live fire to prepare food for guests, who can also choose from more than 30 wine, beer and spirit options. Redd Volkaert will perform. Tickets ($75, with proceeds going to the culinary grants that the alliance gives out every year) and information, including which chefs are serving what dishes, are at austinfoodwinealliance.org.
On Friday, the W Hotel, 200 Lavaca St., will host an interview lounge with the website FoodRepublic.com that will feature live interviews with celebrity chefs from the Austin Food & Wine Festival and comedians in Austin for the Moontower Comedy Festival. Subjects include Andrew Zimmern, Marcus Samuelsson, Graham Elliot, Michael Ian Black, Christina Tosi and Paul Qui. The interviews, which start at 11 a.m. and run through 5:30 p.m., are open to the public as space permits.
Trace in the W Hotel is hosting a Paris-inspired event called Sel Et Gras from 9 p.m. to midnight Saturday at the restaurant at 200 Lavaca St. New executive chef Lawrence Kocurek, pastry chef Janina O’Leary and New York pastry chef Pichet Ong, who is a mentor of O’Leary’s, will serve a menu that features French bistro favorites such as escargot, charcuterie, foie gras mousse doughnuts, quail eggs, caviar, frogs legs with garlic and parsley, beef tartare, salmon tartare cornettes and sweets including éclairs, macaroons, tartes assorties and gateaux. Tickets cost $75, including beer, wine and cocktails from W Hotel libationist Joyce Garrison. Reservations can be made by calling Trace at (512) 542-3626.
Closing out the weekend will be a crawfish boil fundraiser from 1 p.m. to 6 p.m. Sunday at Lenoir, 1807 S. First St. This is the first event from the newly formed Austin Food for Life, a nonprofit from local food and beverage powerhouses Karla Loeb and Brian Stubbs that is dedicated to helping food industry professionals access affordable health care solutions. The crawfish boil will raise money for a former Lenoir employee whose 15-month-old daughter has a rare form of bone cancer. Tickets cost $25 and can be purchased online at lenoirrestaurant.com or at the door.