I need to talk about our new Chef. Yep. You heard that here first - new Chef. You know him, you love him - his name is Josh Williams.
A few months ago, in the wake of Chef Kenny's departure for greener pastures, Josh Williams stalwartly volunteered to step up, not specifically as Chef at the time, but rather as kitchen manager - a title generally reserved for some sweaty dude in a dirty apron. This thankless job typically involves ordering produce, posting work schedules, cleaning the walk-in cooler, and getting bitched at for anything and everything that goes wrong - you know, keeping tabs on the dirty details while the creative types with the tweezers poking out of their starched chef's coats take all the credit.
Previously, Josh served as the jack-of-all-trades mainstay on our management team. He was instrumental in building our coffee program, and he's been money when it comes to making sure we avoid shortcuts, and stay focused on bringing in the best of everything - ingredients, equipment, people, you name it.
Last week was an emotional overload for me and many folks I know. But in truth, the entire year has felt rather stunningly charged and I've found it very difficult to write at all. The riff that I usually employ for this column involves weaving current events in with the comings and goings at Texas French Bread in a way that I hope comes across as lighthearted or even a bit silly, but that eventually winds its way around to a message illustrating our core values of inclusiveness and community. This year, it seems that everything has taken on a kind of political third rail quality that doesn't have much to offer in the lighthearted silliness department.
I've always believed that politics are about the art of the possible. As adults in a free country, we have little choice other than to face up to difficult challenges, choosing among wildly imperfect options with no guarantees of success. Anyone talking about simple and obvious right answers to such hard questions has either never held a position of leadership and responsibility, or they're...more
I'm writing today to provide some additional details regarding our upcoming prix fixe dinner with Jester King Brewery, which is this Monday, October 24, at 6:30 pm.
But as I sit here today pondering the connections between bread and beer - brewing and bakery fermentation - it occurs to me that I really say far too little in these emails about our bakery and the folks on our overnight crew who produce a staggering variety of high quality bread and pastries. They do amazing work at crazy hours of the night, 365 nights a year.
Please forgive the non sequitur. Anyway - where was I again? Oh yeah, next Monday night we're overjoyed to be doing a special dinner featuring...more
Late July. I borrow the beat up brown Suburban from Laurence, load up The Tessa and her friend Dottie the Labradoodle (instagram's dottielange), and Ilana and I head northeast. Ilana and Dottie are bound for Northampton, MA, where they grew up. Tess and I are making for the coast of Maine where Laurence and Judy have summered in recent years.
Two weeks in, the bright colors, daily venue changes, and fresh experiences of the trip begin to seem almost normal - not the break from routine realities of daily life that they actually are. And a host of fresh, sensory memories try to arrange themselves into something of a pattern...
Long hours on the road. Tessa snores away, wedged between my bicycle, the two cases of wine Betty chose for my trip, the galvanized garbage pail filled...more
photograph above from Domaine de la Tournelle website
If you came by to see us last week you may have noticed that someone's missing - that's right y'all, Murph Willcott actually took a vacation.
The day before he left, as I packed up a box (okay, two boxes) of wine for him to bring along, Murph reminded me that his last proper vacation was over three years ago, when he went to France for a writer's retreat. He was sort of wide-eyed, disbelieving, as if the notion that he could actually leave town again for a while was a surreal proposition. I reminded him, it's only a few weeks. He's on the road now, headed up to meet his family on the East coast with Tessa in tow, stopping off at adorable farm-to-table restaurants with interesting wine lists and dog friendly patios (... sounds familiar) along the way.
To ease our current woe in missing the big guy, we're eagerly anticipating the return of our beloved manager/handyman/barista/grill cook Josh, who's been wining and dining in Jura and cycling through the forests of Alsace...more
photograph above by Chelsea Laine Francis
As I mentioned in my previous email, I recently had the great pleasure of once again speaking with Mark Rashap on his wine focused radio show, Another Bottle Down, which airs on KOOP radio (91.7 FM) at 1pm on Tuesday afternoons. If you missed it and you're interested in listening to our conversation, you can access a podcast of the show here.
Mark and I had what for me was a fascinating exchange regarding the overlap between wine making, bread baking and cooking. We began by focusing on sourcing pristine ingredients as the prerequisite for pretty much everything that follows. We then moved into a discussion regarding the degree of...more
The heat of summer is upon us. It's July again. And you know what that means -Bastille Day is coming.
OH DEAR GOD, that has a sort of Stark-like "Winter is coming" ring to it, I fear. I know I've written about last summer's Bastille Day festivities a couple of times already, but seriously - that particular evening's service seemed, at the time, almost as traumatic for your faithful scribe (me) as I imagine the original Bastille Day might have been for those who suffered through it.
Around this time last year, Whitney had recently signed on as our in-house media director and dutifully set up a Facebook event page a few days prior announcing that we would feature $7 rosé, $7 mussels, and $7 frites on the big night.
Seemed like a safe enough plan,...more
Graduation weekend is behind us, but I've been meaning to give a shout out to one of our most interesting new wholesale partners.
This spring we had an opportunity to make hot dog buns as a pilot program for Austin ISD schools. We started a couple of months ago, delivering what I think are some pretty tasty (and nutritious) whole wheat buns to AISD's high schools. They serve them with a nitrite/anitbiotic free turkey dog.
Sounds better than anything we had back in my days at Austin High. In fairness, I was only there a semester and I don't really remember that much about it. I may not have ever set foot in the cafeteria (I was kind of a food snob, who'd have thought).
I definitely remember my years as a border at St. Stephens though - the awfulness of the food served there in the 1970s is the stuff of legend - definitely no nitrite free turkey dogs on freshly, locally baked whole wheat buns.
I mention this because it's been great work. Making real, healthy food for the kids in our public school system strikes all of us over...more
I'm interrupting your regular broadcast of TFB news as told by our owner, Murph Willcott. You see, today is Murph's birthday, so it seemed only fitting to turn the tables on his narration and contemplate on our own daily interactions with him as fearless leader of the restaurant - and Tessa as princess of the realm. Sorry, Murph, it has to be done. Please don't fire me.
I moved to Austin about six years ago and got my first job in town at TFB, waiting tables for the then-BYOB dinner service. Everyone was figuring the whole dinner thing out - Hall Sheriff was still a server buying golf clubs on eBay mid-service; Josh Williams made sandwiches during the day when he wasn't traveling; Ben Decherd helped me reach all the high shelves and kept the jokes comin'; Jess was a shy, behind-the-scenes backwaiter; Dan Freeman was just starting as a line cook; and Betty, well she was being exactly as charming as she is today. Eventually I moved onto other things, but after a few years I returned to Texas French Bread, much like Hall, Josh, Ben and Betty did...more
As anybody who knows me will attest, I love memes. The dumber (and/or generally more offensive) they are, the harder I laugh. Recently I saw a great one about "raw" food. It showed a half-eaten roll of cookie dough with a caption that said, "who knew the raw food diet could be so delicious?" I loved this.
Anyway - this got me thinking about raw food. You know, I can't say I'm particularly a fan of the idea. I mean, there's a reason cooking and human civilization evolved hand in hand, right? I'm no nutritionist, but I do question whether you can actually eat kale if it's not sautéed in extra-virgin olive oil with a big handful of coarse chopped garlic - just saying.
Now, one of the first things I learned how to "cook" was technically a raw food... wait - actually, now that I think about it, the very first thing I learned to cook was macaroni and cheese - Kraft macaroni & cheese in the blue box to be precise. It had that silver foil pouch full of a really sharp, grainy, cheese powder (seriously, cheese powder? I could totally...more