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San Antonio, Texas CELEBRATES CULINARY ART Book 1 ~ Summer 2017

The Margarita, San Antonio’s Iconic Cocktail




an Antonio, the river city, has a culinary heritage spanning 11,000 years. The early presence of indigenous people, affirmed by burned rock middens and ancient mortar holes for grinding corn and chiles, found here in the place they called Yanaguana, establishes our culinary roots. The frontier, where hunter-gatherers harvested pecans and hunted wild game along the river, paved the way for our ranching customs. In 1718, Spanish missionaries chose the river community to create 5 missions and build 15 miles of acequias to irrigate and farm the semi-arid landscape. In 1731, Canary Islanders brought the first millstone. In 1840, German settlers built mills and breweries. The city’s fluid borders allowed many people and food traditions to move through the area, creating a confluence of cultures.

CREATIVE INDUSTRIES AND TOURISM Creative industries are one of the fastest growing sectors of our economy, increasing 12% per year with an impact of $4.3 billion. Our food industry employs 106,970 people (690 head chefs) with 4,600 restaurants (1,619 independent, locally-owned). In 2014, 34.4 million visitors spent $13.6 billion here and that number continues to strengthen. Restaurants and catering captured 51% of tourism revenue. More than 30 farmers markets provide direct sales for Bexar County’s 2,457 farms and ranches with $72.4 million in annual sales. The Culinary Institute of America, Alamo Colleges and The Art Institute offer college culinary programs, graduating new artisans, fueling the industry and making the city an epicenter of innovation and creativity in gastronomy. More than 5,200 students at 40 high schools study in culinary, hospitality, tourism or food science programs. H-E-B, San Antonio’s grocer, the largest privately-held employer in the state, employs 100,000 people.

CULINARY ARTS IN SAN ANTONIO Our city has nationally recognized restaurants, award-winning chefs and restaurants, and wonderful education facilities for the culinary arts, including the Culinary Institute of America, the University of Houston Conrad Hilton School, St. Philips College and The Art Institute. Every year, more culinary programs and opportunities are offered to secondary students as well. The local food movement continues to grow in San Antonio with 30 outdoor farmers markets across the city providing growers, ranchers, urban farmers and artisans more economic opportunities. Many of our top chefs locally source their ingredients. And new laws help cottage industries flourish, adding pathways to success. Sustainable models abound. LocalSprout, a hydroponic urban farm warehoused on the city’s Eastside, was converted into the city’s first food hub, connecting sustainable food to markets for new food producers. The solar-powered Food Hub houses 12 sustainable businesses, grows/sells hydroponic crops, builds gardens and hosts the city’s only indoor farmers market. Our culinary artists regularly give back to the community as well. Almost every chef in this city has supported good works by working for several nonprofits.The Chef Cooperatives, a group of working chefs, host chef-driven, farm-to-table dinners to raise funds for farmers and special causes, like the SA Film Festival.

Above: A Native American meal of Bison and Berries at Mission San Juan prepared by Ms. Gloria Camarillo-Vasquez. (Photo by Angela Covo)



Cover: “Las Fresas Locas” (Photo by Sophie Covo Gonzales)

MEET THE FARMERS 2 Mayor’s Letter of Support 3 National Letters of Support 30 Sandy Oaks Olive Ranch 4 Culinaria 34 Criollo Corriente Beef 5 Farmers Markets for Everyone 36 Urban Farmer LocalSprout 6 Because Hunger Can’t Wait 38 Roots of Change 7 Good Food Award 40 Peaches: The High Tunnel Method 8 Mystery of the Long Horns 42 Talking Tree Farm 9 Local Cheese 44 My Father’s Farm 10 Mobile Mercado 48 Off The Grid with Mesquite Field Farms 11 Farm-to-Table at Rodeo 51 Saving the Bees 12 Arbol de Vida 54 Working Farm at Mission San Juan 13 Viva Health LATIN ROOTS 14 Paella Challenge 16 CIA Latin Conference 58 Latin Roots: La Familia Cortez 18 Salud! Culinary Nights MEET THE CHEFS 19 Gwendolyn Charc Week 20 Future Chefs Compete 62 Puro Corazon, Chef Johnny Hernandez 21 H-E-B Quest 64 Food as Medicine, Chef Elizabeth Johnson 22 Bespoke Produce 66 Celebrating Chef Bruce Auden 23 Underground Supper Club 70 Trendsetter Chef Jason Dady 24 San Antonio Beer Fest 74 Chef Gabriel Ibarra at Cappy’s 25 Local Summer Treats 76 From the Ground Up, Chef Steve McHugh 26 Historical Fiesta San Antonio 80 Sweet Victory, Anne Ng and Jeremy Mandrell 28 SA Food Festivals 82 Tools of the Trade Chef Michael Sohocki 29 Farmers Markets 84 Savoring Sichuan in SA, Kristina Zhao

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CELEBRATING Book 1 ~ Summer 2017

City of San Antonio

City of San Antonio


IVY R. TAYLOR MAYOR October 4, 2017

May 5, 2017

Dear UNESCO Creative Cities Network Selection Committee:

Dear UNESCO Creative Cities Network Selection Committee, I am privileged to write to you today to support the city of San Antonio’s nomination to become a member of the UNESCO Creative Cities Network in the field of Gastronomy. The cultural diversity of our city reflects our historical roots. Our city’s Spanish colonial missions are internationally recognized as a World Heritage Site thanks to UNESCO, and already we are finding ways to preserve and present the food traditions of those settlers and the indigenous populations that assisted them. For example, we have re-established a working farm at the San Juan Mission, utilizing the original acequias for irrigation to cultivate local ingredients in conjunction with the San Antonio Food Bank. The opportunity to participate in the UNESCO Creative Cities Network will allow our creative producers – the chefs, food artisans, farmers, ranchers and food writers – as well as those conducting studies at local research centers, including our universities, hospitals and nonprofits, to share their knowledge and best practices with other cities in the Network. For every resident of San Antonio, membership presents wonderful prospects to further develop international connections with sister cities, to share our culinary arts and innovations globally and to showcase our city as an international destination for gastronomy. San Antonio will also greatly benefit by learning about other member cities’ best practices as we work to become a model of sustainable urban planning. In the last decade, San Antonio’s culinary landscape has grown dramatically with an emphasis on local food, sustainability and programs to support our producers. Our goal to adhere to sustainable urban planning to accommodate San Antonio’s projected growth includes platforms for all the arts and gastronomy in our SA Tomorrow master plan. Our city’s application to become part of the UNESCO Creative Cities Network embodies the work and dedication of many partners and individual stakeholders. We are grateful for the collaborative efforts of this broad spectrum of contributors including multiple municipal agencies like the World Heritage Office and the Office of Historic Preservation, the San Antonio Chamber of Commerce, Edible San Antonio, food producers and culinary professionals like Chef Johnny Hernandez and Chef Elizabeth Johnson. We also deeply appreciate the guidance received from scholars at the University of Texas-San Antonio and the Institute of Texan Cultures, The Culinary Institute of America and all our local universities, the San Antonio Food Bank, nonprofits, professional associations and the U.S. National Commission for UNESCO.


Book 1 ~ Summer 2017

Editors Angela Covo, Frederic Covo Associate Editor Delia Covo Creative Director Sophie Covo Gonzales Design Layout Florence Edwards, Pixel Power Graphics Cover photo Sophie Covo Gonzales “Las Fresas Locas” A Fiesta Margarita At The Fruteria-Botanero by Johnny Hernandez


The local food movement and our enthusiasm for sustainable programs supporting local producers spurred the dramatic evolution of San Antonio's culinary landscape. Our dedication to sustainable urban planning to accommodate San Antonio's projected growth includes platforms for gastronomy and all arts, as well as strategies that pursue resilience and equity in every sector of our city. Our flourishing cultural diversity reflects our heritage. San Antonio's Spanish colonial missions , internationally recognized as a World Heritage Site thanks to UNESCO, inspire our culinary artisans to preserve and practice historic food traditions and to use traditions to innovate culinary art. Our World Heritage Office and the San Antonio Food Bank recently celebrated the new working farm at the San Juan Mission with a dinner prepared by local chefs. The new farm was designed for food production as well as education, and utilizes the original historic acequias for irrigation. Many dedicated partners and individual stakeholders contributed their time and talents to prepare this application. We are grateful for the extraordinary collaborative efforts of this comprehensive spectrum of contributors, which included municipal agencies like the World Heritage Office and the Office of Historic Preservation, local nonprofit organizations such as the San Antonio Chamber of Commerce and many private entities, including Angela and Frederic Covo, founders of Edible San Antonio, and culinary professionals, particularly Chefs Johnny Hernandez and Elizabeth Johnson. We also benefited from the guidance and endorsements of scholars at the University of TexasSan Antonio and the Institute of Texan Cultures, The Culinary Institute of America and The Witte Museum, several professional associations and especially the generous vote of confidence from the U.S. National Commission for UNESCO.

Ron Nirenberg, Mayor

P.O. BOX 839966 • SAN ANTONIO, TX 78283-3966 • TEL 210-207-7107 • FAX 210-207-4168 MAYOR.IVYRTAYLOR@SANANTONIO.GOV


To be accepted as a member of the Creative Cities Network would allow San Antonio to develop international connections with more sister cities, share our culinary arts and innovations globally and introduce the city as an international culinary destination. As a member of the UNESCO Creative Cities Network, San Antonio would benefit by learning from other members' best practices as the city strives to become a center for culinary diplomacy and an international model for sustainable and equitable urban planning.


Mayor Ivy R. Taylor

San Antonio, Texas

As the new mayor of San Antonio, I am writing to add my enthusiastic support for our city's nomination to become a member of the UNESCO Creative Cities Network in the field of Gastronomy. We are committed to full participation in the UNESCO Creative Cities Network, and we are eager and able to make a significant contribution. The designation will allow San Antonio's creative producers - the chefs, food artisans, farmers, ranchers, food writers and photographers, local scientists and researchers to share knowledge and best practices with other cities in the Network.

P.O. BOX 839966 • SAN ANTONIO, TX 78283-3966 • TEL 210-207-7107 • FAX210-207-4168

Contributing Writers Christina Acosta, Elizabeth Allen, Jennifer Beckmann, John Bloodsworth, Amanda Covo, Angela Covo, Alicia Conde, Mark Ellis, Suzanne Taranto Etheredge, Iris Gonzalez, Rocio Guenther, Melissa Guerra, Michael Guerra, John Roussin, Kimberly Suta

Contributing Photographers Jon Alonzo, Nick Barrón, Leandra Blei,Tricia Buchhorn, Fred Covo, Josh Davis, Enrique Guerra, Sophie Covo Gonzales, Louis Gonzales, Iris Gonzalez, Alex Hilmy, Josh Huskin, Adam Kavulic, Carla Ledezma, Scott Martin, Tracey Maurer, Kyle Myron, Victoria Morales, Cotton Ploesser, Annie Ray, Rita Schimpff, Lea Thompson, Brea Woods


ACKNOWLEDGMENTS The application to participate as a member of the UNESCO City of Creativity Network embodies the work and dedication of many partners like the San Antonio Food Bank, individual stakeholders, professional associations and local businesses with scholarly guidance from the University of Texas-San Antonio Center for Cultural Sustainability and the Culinary Institute of America- San Antonio. The task force met weekly, gaining insight from municipal agencies including the World Heritage Office and Offices of Urban Planning, Sustainability, Historic Preservation, MetroHealth and the Department of Arts and Culture. The collaborative effort was spearheaded by Edible San Antonio, Chefs Johnny Hernandez and Elizabeth Johnson and the San Antonio Chamber of Commerce. Edible San Antonio will also be the media partner for this endeavor. Membership to the Network would allow San Antonio to sustain the collaboration, gathering stakeholders together to improve communication, identify new challenges quickly and leverage limited resources, unleashing the potential positive impact of proposed solutions. Homegrown Media, LLC Digital Copyright Notice No part of this publication may be used without prior written permission from Homegrown Media, LLC Please contact © 2017 Homegrown Media, LLC All rights reserved.


CELEBRATING Book 1 ~ Summer 2017

Attn: The  Hon.  Ivy  Taylor   Mayor,  City  of  San  Antonio   City  Hall   100  Military  Plaza   San  Antonio,  TX  78205     Dear  Mayor  Taylor:     The  American  Culinary  Federation,  Inc.  (ACF),  established  in  1929,  is  the  standard  of  excellence   for  chefs  in  North  America.  With  more  than  17,500  members  spanning  more  than  150  chapters   nationwide,  ACF  is  the  leading  culinary  association  offering  educational  resources,  training,   apprenticeship  and  programmatic  accreditation.  In  addition,  ACF  operates  the  most   comprehensive  certification  program  for  chefs  in  the  United  States.     The  Texas  Chefs  Association  –  San  Antonio,  our  local  ACF  chapter,  has  been  a  part  of  San   Antonio’s  culinary  scene  for  more  than  30  years.  The  chapter  supports  chefs  and  foodservice   professionals  and  is  actively  involved  in  the  local  community.     As  home  to  three  culinary  schools:  The  Art  Institute  of  America  -­‐  San  Antonio,  The  Culinary   Institute  of  America  -­‐  San  Antonio  and  St.  Philip’s  College,  the  city  draws  culinary  educators  and   students.       On  behalf  of  ACF,  please  accept  my  support  of  the  nomination  to  recognize  San  Antonio  as  a   UNESCO  City  of  Gastronomy.  The  culinary  scene  in  San  Antonio  offers  a  rich  and  diverse  food   heritage  shaped  by  the  influences  of  Native  Americans,  Spanish,  Germans,  Africans  and   Mexicans.  This  city  has  demonstrated  an  unwavering  commitment  to  preserving  its  heritage,   sharing  traditions  and  celebrating  its  culture.           San  Antonio  has  a  unique  food  identity  that  can  be  attributed  to  its  investment  in  culinary   education,  numerous  cultural  preservation  organizations,  and  economic  development  and   entrepreneurial  initiatives.         Thank  you  for  your  consideration.       Sincerely,  

Thomas Macrina,  CEC,  CCA,  AAC   National  President  

May 15, 2017 The Hon. Ivy R. Taylor Mayor City of San Antonio City Hall 100 Military Plaza San Antonio, TX 78205 Dear Mayor Taylor, I am writing on behalf of The Culinary Institute of America to express our support of the designation of San Antonio, Texas, as a UNESCO City of Gastronomy. As the internationally recognized leader in higher education for the culinary profession the Culinary Institute of America is proud to be a part of San Antonio’s vibrant culture of food and hospitality. San Antonio is home to a thriving and expanding culinary landscape driven by many chefs and food professionals. It is the deep food heritage of the city and its ongoing vitality that encouraged us to establish a campus here. We believe that San Antonio is an excellent candidate for the UNESCO City of Gastronomy designation because it has a unique cuisine that developed from a long and culturally rich history, and a variety of local heritage food ingredients. The city presents a fertile resource to support research activities conducted under the CIA’s Center for Foods of the Americas initiative in which we work to document and disseminate meaningful foodways to inform our understanding of the past and to enrich our diets and culture for the future. With the above in mind, I am pleased to support the designation of San Antonio as a UNESCO City of Gastronomy. San Antonio’s food scene, chefs, and restaurants and institutions deserve our continued attention and the resources associated with such a designation. Thank you for your consideration. Sincerely,

Mark V. Erickson, CMC Provost

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Tex-Mex and Tequila will take center stage on Saturday during the festival. (Photo courtesy Culinaria)



he latest news about the 2017 Culinaria Wine & Food Festival from the nonprofit’s president and CEO, Suzanne Taranto Etheredge. Once upon a time, a homegrown weekend festival headlined the culinary scene in San Antonio, bringing in notable names and rising stars from the city and across the globe. Visitors made their way here to celebrate San Antonio’s cuisine and partake in the festival’s educational yet elegant events, and dedicated locals found a way to make this culinary celebration into something more. Now, seventeen festivals later, we can see how the Culinaria Festival has evolved dramatically from its early beginnings. The mission of Culinaria remains the same – to celebrate our culinary industry through fantastic food, beer, wine and spirits in a weekend packed with delicious events while promoting the city we call home. The last great gathering took place at La Cantera Hill Country Resort (a move the organization made last year) from May 18 to May 21. We always want to keep it interesting, so while many of our most popular events remained in place, guests enjoyed a bit of a cosmetic makeover throughout the weekend. The Becker Luncheon, the Grand Tasting and Burgers, BBQ & Beer are always three popular Culinaria events that continue to be a part of the festival. For the 2017 Culinaria Festival, we added some spectacular components to the Grand Tasting and guests enjoyed more of a competitive spirit at Burgers, BBQ & Beer to spice things up a bit. Bubbles, a crowd favorite, was featured as the Friday night event, but 4


this year, patrons enjoyed some special treasures from the Texas Gulf and the “pearls” found there. During the day on Saturday, many participated in wine, spirit and food seminars. We say participate only because these were interactive seminars, which included tasting opportunities – way more than any class lecture and a chance to learn from top names in the culinary world. Also on Saturday, Culinaria featured some of San Antonio’s best TexMex paired with Tequila for a casual Saturday afternoon event.  There is always something for everyone at Culinaria Wine & Food Festival, the signature event that fueled the growth of this nonprofit organization into so much more than San Antonio’s annual feast. Culinaria hosts the 5k Wine & Beer Run in March, Rambling Rosé in August, Chefs & Cellars in September and the “biggest” of our Culinaria events, San Antonio Restaurant Week in January and August. All these marvelous celebrations of the San Antonio food scene have helped pave the way for our largest undertaking yet, the Culinaria Farm, a project the nonprofit organization has been working on for years. The Farm will feature an array of indoor (and a few outdoor) growing practices to create an epicenter for culinary education and will help teach local visitors and guests from out of town where their food comes from and much more.  Visit our Facebook page at CulinariaSanAntonio for updates or And remember, Eat. Drink. Give. ~ Suzanne Taranto Etheredge

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hef Chuck Hernandez, dear friend, author, mentor and member of Edible SA’s Advisory Board, passed away suddenly in May. The local food champion was on a mission to bring fresh, healthy and local produce to everyone in the city. When the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) funded a grant he requested, the flood gates opened for San Antonio farmers markets, and today, more and more of our markets accept SNAP and WIC. The monthly farmers markets were already open to everyone, but the new grant also allowed the O’liva team to educate and elevate. Chef Hernandez always spread the word about the benefits of eating healthy local foods and, most importantly, accepted Lonestar cards so SNAP recipients could buy fresh produce and foods. “The grant allows us to reach a larger audience, one that is normally targeted by companies who make processed foods, which have a lower price point,” Chef Hernandez explained last year. “This is a great opportunity for us to offer fresh, seasonal foods to a group of people who don’t always have access and would benefit from lowering their health risks.” He made Mercado O’liva mobile and participated in several different markets throughout the month, including markets at Main Plaza, Dignowity Hill and the San Antonio Housing Authority. Chef also independently hosted two monthly pop-ups, one at the Spanish Governor’s Palace courtyard on first Saturdays and one at Mission Marquee Plaza on third Saturdays. He loved to remind everyone that Mercado O’liva was the only movable market at the time in San Antonio.

Nutrition Education Was Essential

“This year a resident nutritionist will be helping demo different foods at the markets, along with other well-known chefs. Our goal is not to tell people how to eat, but give them options on how they can combine ingredients and incorporate them into familiar dishes,” Chef Hernandez said. Mercado O’liva also offered a Gourmet Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) that included local vegetables and local farm-fresh eggs, grass-fed beef and chef-prepared treats like pesto, hummus, baba ghanoush and cookies. He kept the CSA affordable and never required a contractual commitment to make it more accessible. Chef Hernandez deeply appreciated that the City of San Antonio assisted with live entertainment, health screenings and free trees, bringing even more people to the markets, where he could teach them about using fresh ingredients. “It’s been a long road to get the markets to where they are today, but we’ve made some good friends along the way, such as the San Antonio Food Bank. The face of local farmers markets is changing and it’s rewarding to see the progress,” Chef Hernandez said, happily. Thank you, Chef Hernandez, for everything you did to make fresh, local food available to everyone. Today we mourn the loss of one of San Antonio’s greatest chefs. ~ Kimberly Suta and Angela Covo

The late Chef Chuck Hernandez of O’liva Restaurant and Mercado O’liva was on a mission to bring fresh, healthy and local produce to the people of San Antonio. We will always remember you Chef, and continue to champion your cause. (Photo courtesy)

“This is a great opportunity for us to offer fresh, seasonal foods to a group of people who don’t always have access and would benefit from lowering their health risks.” — CHEF CHUCK HERNANDEZ Book 1 - Summer 2017 5

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Legacy Award winner Ms. Silbia Esparza shares the honor with her family at a special presentation at the St. Anthony Hotel in January. (Photo by Angela Covo)



arlier this year at the St. Anthony Hotel, the San Antonio chapter of Les Dames d’Escoffier International (LDEI) honored the very modest executive director of SA Time Dollar Community Connections, Silbia G. Esparza, with their prestigious Legacy Award. Previous recipients include the late Doña Maria de la Luz Treviño of El Mirador and Isabel Sanchez Wong of Lisa’s Mexican Restaurant. “The legacy award recognizes women who are not part of the organization but who have had a profound influence on the San Antonio culinary world,” LDEI chapter President Blanca Aldaco explained. Ms. Aldaco, who brought the nomination to the board, explained why Ms. Esparza was chosen for the esteemed award. “First and foremost, she’s very selfless. She sacrifices every weekend to pick up donated items from the farmers at the Pearl Farmers Market and she’s very passionate about feeding poor people. The chapter voted unanimously that Silbia was the perfect recipient,” she said. For four years, Ms. Esparza has delivered produce donated by farmers to be distributed at Time Dollar on the Westside, where many people are economically disadvantaged and underserved. “We strive to first meet basic needs, primarily through food and then referrals for other types of services that might be needed,” Ms. Esparza said. Under her direction, Time Dollar educates children and adults on multiple levels besides feeding those in need. During the summers, for example, they offer an eight-week gardening workshop for children, where the kids learn about nutrition, plants, growing, harvesting and everything in between. Time Dollar also offers a parent-child class to enhance math skills. “Many moms tell us they feel useless trying to help their children with math, but end up feeling empowered to do more than they ever thought they could do,” Ms. Esparza added. 6


According to the printed announcement, LDEI has had a long and strong relationship with Time Dollar. Chapter members donate time and funds to support a community garden at the organization’s center and members frequently lead workshops on nutrition and cooking subjects. LDEI also served as a catalyst for connecting Time Dollar with farmers, ranchers and food purveyors who donate goods weekly from their Pearl Farmers Market stalls. Those goods are then distributed through Time Dollar’s weekly food pantry.  From April of last year until Dec. 31, she has collected and distributed 4,294 pounds of food at Time Dollar. Mr. and Mrs. Esparza personally handle the bulky market pickups. “My husband and I go every Saturday and Sunday. The farmers are really generous with what they give us,” she beamed. “It’s a great benefit to people that they can enjoy organic, locally grown food that promotes eating healthy and knowing where their food comes from.” Time Dollar provides many services, but their food pantry is, perhaps, the most vital. “Not only does Time Dollar’s food pantry play an important role in that sustenance, Silbia ensures that members of her community learn about basic nutrition, the value of fresh vegetables and fruit and how to prepare healthy meals at home … She and her organization embody the notion that we must help others now, because hunger cannot wait,” Ms. Aldaco added. Ms. Esparza never expected such accolades for doing what she loves. “Actually, I’m surprised and humbled because it’s just something that I do, and it’s not just me. I get help from my husband and all the volunteers at Time Dollar, who make it all possible. That’s why I’m so humbled – I know I stand on the shoulders of many great people.” To learn more and to find out how you can help Time Dollar, visit ~ Kimberly Suta

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hef Stephen Paprocthe Chef Cooperatives, Chef ki’s Texas Black Gold Paprocki leads the nonprofGarlic is a winner – it organization of local chefs and not just in San Antonio. who host pop-up dinners and The San Antonio-based assist in various San Antonio gourmet food manufacturer events to support local farmjust announced that his numers, ranchers, vintners and ber one product, Texas Black other groups in need. Gold Garlic Purée, won the Only 193 winners were seGood Food Award in the panlected from 2,059 companies try category of the national that were vying for the covcompetition. eted Good Food Award. AnAnd that’s a wonderful other local company and past thing, because the Good Food winner, Lori Krieger’s Taste Awards are considered the OsElevated, was named as one cars of the culinary world. of the 291 finalists this year When choosing winners, for their Boozy Cran-Cherry the selection committee evalChutney. The best products uates products for flavor and and brands are chosen not the company’s dedication to just for exquisite flavors but an authentic and responsible also for developing sustainfood system. The organization able local food economies. celebrates the kind of food “This is a huge win for Chef Stephen Paprocki, Michael Simons and Elizabeth Bolger Paprocki of Texas Black Gold we all want to eat, granting its Garlic at the Pearl Farmers Market. (Photo By Angela Covo) us,” Chef Paprocki said. “We’re coveted awards to outstanding already receiving orders from American food producers and around the country. Our bigthe farmers who provide their ingredients. The group honored this year’s gest challenge now is growing enough garlic to keep up with demand.” award recipients at the seventh Good Food Awards Ceremony and MarIt takes months to grow the fresh garlic and another two-month ketplace in San Francisco last month, defining them as “those who push period to ferment it under precise conditions developed by Chef Paptheir industries towards craftsmanship and sustainability while enhanc- rocki to create the unique, delicious and healthful product. The classic ing our agricultural landscape and building strong communities.” ingredient was once only available to top chefs at prohibitive cost, but According to the website, the Good Food Awards named winners in black garlic can now grace everyone’s pantries thanks to Chef Paprocki. 14 categories including beer, cider, charcuterie, cheese, chocolate, cofTexas Black Gold Garlic continues to grow as a popular staple befee, confections, honey, pantry, pickles, preserves, spirits, oil and their cause it also packs very powerful health benefits. It’s become such a newest category, preserved fish, from each of five U.S. regions. The passion for Texas home chef Ramona Werst that she’s decided to write Good Food Awards Seal, found exclusively on winning products, as- a cookbook centered on Texas Black Gold Garlic, with both savory and sures consumers they are purchasing something exceptionally delicious sweet dishes. that also supports sustainability. Texas Black Gold Garlic can be purchased online and at several It’s no surprise Chef Paprocki clinched the award. Not only does his shops around town. Chef Paprocki and his team also sell Texas Black company source solely from local Texas farmers, they also work direct- Gold Garlic at the Pearl Farmers Market and the New Braunfels Farmly with the farmers to ensure the garlic is grown with respect for the ers Market. land and to achieve the highest quality. As president and co-founder of Visit to learn more.

“We’re already receiving orders from around the country. Our biggest challenge now is growing enough garlic to keep up with demand.” — CHEF STEPHEN PAPROCKI Book 1 - Summer 2017 7

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Texas Longhorn family in South Texas. (Photo by Enrique “Kiko” Guerra)



iving in South Texas, we sometimes take our natural surroundings for granted, but around the world, mesquite trees and cactus are considered the most iconic elements of our landscape. It’s more than a little mind-boggling when you begin to understand that it was cattle that changed our South Texas environment. And ironically, our environment changed the cattle to produce the most iconic bovine in history: the Texas Longhorn. Before the Spanish came to the New World, our part of the Americas was a large, flat plain, full of nomadic indigenous tribes that hunted, gathered and thrived. San Antonio was a meeting place for many tribes, as water was plentiful. The water attracted humans and also deer, rabbits, birds and javelina, providing plenty of opportunities for hunting. Meanwhile in Spain, cattle breeders in various regions bred their herds for different traits. Some cattle were bred for milk, others for meat, and some cattle were bred for ornery temperament and to fight in the bullring. From each port, different types of cattle were selected, placed on ships and brought to the Americas. Once they arrived in the ports of present day Peru and Mexico, the cattle mixed and multiplied. As there were no fences, some cattle became feral and ranged northward. Mesquite beans and tender new cactus pads are still a cow’s favorite lunch, and so along the way the cattle “planted” what was formerly a desert plain. As the wild cattle wandered northward changing the landscape, the cattle themselves began to change also. 8


With longer horns, the cattle could wick away the intense desert heat, and with natural selection, the horns of the wild herds got longer and longer. To facilitate their roaming, their legs became longer, too, and they became leaner. Less body fat and longer legs helped them escape coyotes, snakes and wildcats, which were not threats back in Spain. It is not well understood why the horns of wild cattle in Northern Mexico and South Texas grew so incredibly long, when cattle in similar heat in Spain did not. The Ankole-Watusi cattle of Africa have large, long thick horns, but were not among the breeds brought by the Spanish. (Can you imagine those huge horns on a tiny ship? It just wouldn’t have worked.) Some also think the high levels of minerals in the local water or maybe even the limestone deposits just below the topsoil in our area may have encouraged the horn growth. By the 1920’s, Texas Longhorns were almost extinct. Thanks to several private ranchers and breeders, and later, efforts from the federal government, Texas Longhorns are now enjoying a resurgence in popularity as a breed. In addition to their leaner meat, their iconic profile always inspires a little nostalgic pride in every Texan. ~ Melissa Guerra Editor’s note: Melissa Guerra, founder of Melissa Guerra Latin Kitchen Market at Pearl Brewery, is a foodie and food scholar. She is also an author and James Beard finalist. Visit her blog at

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or local foodie Susan Rigg, River Whey Creamery truly is “a dream come true.” With a little courage and a lot of hope, Chef Rigg turned her world upside down in 2007 to follow that dream. She gave up her 15-yearlong stint as a bookseller to go back to school to study culinary arts at the Culinary Institute of America-Hyde Park. Before she left, she said she dabbled in cooking. But the burgeoning foodie found her stride quickly and as soon as she returned, the new chef founded the local Slow Food chapter, Slow Food South Texas, and worked as chapter president and chief volunteer for the last three years. She spent her time spreading knowledge about why local food and slow food matters. She gave talks to students, organized farm to table dinners, wrote a blog – all with the goal of educating people about the importance of knowing where your food comes from. And her appreciation for local foods didn’t stop there. As a chef, she discovered another passion – for locally made cheese. So she took the time to study some more and apprenticed with our own Chef Luis Morales of Humble House Foods, absorbing the nuances of hard, bleu and soft cheeses, then traveled to California and dedicated herself to the study of all things cheese at Cal Poly San Luis Obispo’s ‘Artisanal Cheese Maker’s Short Course.’ And the founder of Slow Foods South Texas founded River Weigh Creamery, a brand new source for local cheese. Determined to keep it fresh, locally made and locally sourced, the search was on for a wholesome source of raw milk. Now, just 10 months later, Chef

Rigg makes all her cheeses with raw milk from Mill-King Creamery near Waco. What that means to the consumer is that all River Whey Creamery cheeses will be free of hormones, antibiotics and preservatives. “It’s very important to me that everything we produce is connected to the local food movement because of the history of women making cheeses throughout the ages – they made the cheeses according to what was available in the region,” Chef Rigg said. As we write, Chef Rigg is developing the cheeses she will soon sell under her own River Whey Creamery label, and wrapping up the finishing touches on her place in Schertz where she will produce the cheese. But you won’t have to wait too long to savor Chef Rigg’s cheeses. “If everything goes well, we expect to be at the Pearl Farmers Market the first weekend in November,” she added. So far, three delectable-looking cheeses are showcased on the Website: The Welshman, a kind of ‘Caerphilly’ - originally made by the wives of Welsh miners. Expect tangy flavors reminiscent of aged cheddar with a deep, earthy rind. Keystone is River Weigh Creamery’s “cornerstone” cheese finished with a rubdown oflocal Texas olive oil. Chef Riggs describes it as hearty, fulfilling and flavorful. And the third, pictured here, is the Caldera España, Chef Rigg’s version of cheese from northern Spain, but made with local south Texas raw cow’s milk, of course. The creamy cheese is aged for three months then smoked over Texas pecans for superior flavor development. For more info, visit

“It’s very important to me that everything we produce is connected to the local food movement because of the history of women making cheeses throughout the ages” — CHEF RIGG Book 1 - Summer 2017 9

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The San Antonio Food Bank’s Mobile Mercado is on the streets of SA promoting nutrition. (Photo by Christina Acosta)



he San Antonio Food Bank (SAFB) works constantly to provide underserved communities access to healthy food – from SAFB farmers markets that accept SNAP to programs that teach nutrition. But their latest project, Mobile Mercado, will bring fresh food where it’s needed most. The food truck, with its built-in shop and demonstration kitchen, is a veritable “farmacy” for all. Inside, the Mobile Mercado sports a cooler with proteins, dairy products, juices and poultry. Fresh produce including apples, bananas, celery and squash line the shelves. Outside, guests can enjoy chef-prepared meals or learn to use the products they selected from inside. A demo screen allows guests to observe the chef cooking inside the truck. Chef demonstrations highlight healthy cooking techniques – with the hope that the demos will inspire more cooking at home. “In meeting with those communities, the families themselves talked about a mobile market – and the idea was born. The concept of food as medicine amplified the idea that the Mobile Mercado is a ‘farmacy’ on wheels,” SAFB president and CEO Eric Cooper said. “It really sends the message of an apple a day keeps the doctor away. If we can provide families with the right foods, we could have a dramatic impact on the community’s health, specifically the high rates of heart disease, diabetes



and obesity.” While Mobile Mercado is still in its pilot phase, the truck has already made a few pop-up stops, including one on World Diabetes Day on the West Side. At least 20 people went inside to see what the truck had to offer and to get tips about fighting diabetes or how to avoid the disease altogether. Guests also learned that the Mobile Mercado would be visiting University Health System (UHS) family health centers and specialty clinics every month. Mr. Cooper explained that even now, SAFB is taking requests about where the Mobile Mercado should go next. Schools, clinics and churches are at the top of their list as stops to add to the regular schedule they are building. The ultimate goal is to make sure everyone has access to nutritious food and education. “Over the years, people from lower income communities have requested access to healthier groceries. I think that in our minds, we feel that everyone should be granted the right to have healthy groceries,” Mr. Cooper said. “I think this mobile strategy will be one more way for families to get access to healthy foods.” To learn where Mobile Mercado will roll next, visit ~ Christina Acosta

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he San Antonio Stock Show & Rodeo is a nonprofit organization that works to meet the challenge of their mission statement – “A volunteer organization that emphasizes agriculture and education to develop the youth of Texas.” Not only have they funded well over $100 million in scholarships, they also make the grounds a place where kids and their families can have fun and learn at the same time. From Feb. 9 to Feb. 26, enjoy a family excursion to sample ice cream, pet goats and marvel at beehives at the Little Buckaroo Farms display. H-E-B sponsors the farm exhibit to provide children and their families an amazing learning opportunity – how the fruits, vegetables, milk, and honey they buy in a store come from farmers, ranchers, and other food producers. Find the tent in the Family Fair area of the San Antonio Livestock Exposition grounds and enjoy samples from the Southwest dairy product exhibit, a honeybee exhibit, the Bexar County Master Gardener’s booth, an aquaponic display, rainwater harvesting display, a farm animal exhibit and an indoor garden display. “H-E-B is committed to educating our youngest customers in a fun and interactive way and proud to offer H-E-B’s Buckaroo Farms as part of our overall support of the San Antonio Stock Show & Rodeo,” H-E-B Public Affairs Manager Julie Bedingfield said. “The 30,000-square-foot attraction takes families on an agricultural journey of food from the farm and ranch to the kitchen table.” Children’s activities take center stage here. The kids will enjoy various presentations, like an explanation of the butterfly life cycle from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. on Feb. 11 and 12. Name that Veggie takes place 10

From the Junior Livestock Auctions and H-E-B Little Buckaroo Farms to the headlining stars, there’s so much to learn and enjoy at the San Antonio Stock Show & Rodeo. (Photo courtesy SA Rodeo)

a.m. to 1 p.m. from Feb. 18 to Feb. 20. And on Feb. 25 and 26, kids can learn about gardening by potting their own plants. H-E-B will give children treats for completing activities. The exhibit will also introduce visitors to agricultural production, nutrition, horticulture, natural resource conservation and more by “specifically focusing on youth and their families participating in gardening, helping them better understand where their food comes from and the positive benefits of growing and eating more fresh fruits and vegetables,” David Rodriguez, the Texas A&M AgriLife Extension horticulturist for Bexar County and an exhibitor, said. Texas A&M AgriLife selected the Harris Moran 1823 as this year’s Rodeo Tomato, which will be sold at the H-E-B Little Buckaroo Farms tent along with ornamental plants.


If you’re looking for free, Bexar County Master Gardeners Association will be giving away trees, one per household, at 10 a.m. from Feb. 18 to Feb. 25 while supplies last. The association, a volunteer horticulture program of AgriLife Extension, will also be on hand to give free gardening advice. This year marks their debut at the rodeo with several exhibits that show vegetable gardening displays, greenhouse growing and limited-space gardening. San Antonio Parks and Recreation will also be giving away bees. For special offers and to learn more, visit ~ Iris Gonzalez

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his spring and summer, the San Antonio River Foundation (SARF) will bring together the people and cultures of San Antonio to create an enormous, and soon to be iconic, work of public art, under the direction of regional artist, Margarita Cabrera. “I am thrilled that the San Antonio River Foundation is supporting this work,” Ms. Cabrera said. The focus of the project is to celebrate our rich ranching history, deeply entrenched in the history of Mission San Francisco de la Espada, which is now part of San Antonio’s World Heritage Site. There’s no question that the initial efforts of the mission ranches in and around San Antonio, almost three centuries ago, represent the opening chapters of Texas’ ranching legacy. According to the Texas State Historical Association, missionaries and Indians raised livestock at Mission San Francisco’s ranching outpost, El Rancho de las Cabras, from 1731 to 1794 in Floresville, where the ruins and pastures of the original ranch still exist. And Mission San Francisco, part of San Antonio’s World Heritage site, may be the only Spanish colonial mission in the United States still connected to its original ranching operation. To commemorate and celebrate the early ranchers, the community is invited to assist in three ways.



Artist’s rendering of “Árbol de la Vida: Voces de la Tierra.” (Photo courtesy)

The first opportunity is by sharing stories in community charlas or chats, the second, by participating in free ceramic sculpture workshops to help create Ms. Cabrera’s Árbol de la Vida public art installation, and the third is by attending and celebrating our diverse community at the unveiling. Everyone is welcome to share stories which will inspire the shapes and meaning of the 300 clay sculptures that will grace the Mission Espada’s “Árbol de la Vida: Voces de Tierra.” SARF has programmed free ceramic sculpture workshops so that members of the community can create the smaller pieces of art that will “hang” on the Tree, which will stand as a stunning portal reconnecting the Mission to the San Antonio River. The artist and artist facilitators will be at these sessions to help. The community-driven public art project, made by the community for the community, will imbue Ms. Cabrera’s new sculpture with great symbolism and help educate people about San Antonio’s rich and long ranching history. The sculpture will also spotlight the rich natural and cultural environment that surrounds it. There’s still time to get involved and play a role in this art-and-history-in-the-making. Participating is free, but remember, registration is required. To learn more or to register, visit arboldelavidamission.

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erhaps not every single person needs a little push and reminder to think before we eat, but for many of us, it could be a great start. That’s why Mayor Ivy Taylor, Dr. Julie La Barba of CHEF (Culinary Health Education for Families) and Michael Guerra of the San Antonio Food Bank joined Metro Health Director Colleen Bridger at the unveiling of the new ¡Viva Health! campaign and asked every member of the community to commit to “eating well to feel great.” ¡Viva Health! is just a way to stay on track with that commitment – a reminder of sorts to be aware and somewhat on guard about two of the biggest public health threats facing our city today: Type 2 diabetes and obesity. During the announcement, Dr. Bridger explained what prompted their call to action. It turns out that more than a third of Bexar County residents meet the criteria for obesity, many others are overweight (about to be obese) and 11 percent have been diagnosed with diabetes. And the experts think that 11 percent is on the low side – there may be more people walking around with diabetes who just don’t know it yet. What’s more, being overweight is a prime risk factor for diabetes. So, ¡Viva Health! is just a way to help turn things around a bit, a starting point with just three simple guidelines (see the sidebar) to help us notice what we’re eating. Anyone can reverse the trend and get back on track to feeling better. And with all the temptations that come with Fiesta right around the corner, it could be useful to adopt a somewhat narrow focus. There are no special diets or rules. Basically it boils down to eating a little less and making sure you eat at least some fruits and vegetables every day. Skip the soda and choose the water once in a while. The idea here is to keep it simple so we can have a little success – over a few days and then a few weeks, it adds up. “We’re not talking about switching over to alfalfa sprouts and kale, we’re just talking about choosing the corn tortillas over the flour ones,” Dr. La Barba said. The problem isn’t limited to San Antonio, either. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recently projected that the number of Americans with Type 2 diabetes could double or even triple by 2050 unless we make some changes. So more delicious local fruits and veggies, slightly smaller portions, drink a little more water and ¡Viva Health!

¡Viva Health! Eat well, feel great. Drink water, not sugary drinks.

Bebe agua, y no bebidas azucaradas.

For portion control, use a smaller plate.

Para controlar tu porción, utiliza un plato más pequeño.

Fill half your plate with fruits and veggies, every meal, every day.

Llena 1/2 plato con frutas y verduras, durante cada comida, todos los días.

For recipes and tips, visit

Book 1 - Summer 2017 13

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Paella Challenge features classic and contemporary versions of the iconic dish every year. Chef Susana Trilling, her team and Chef Johnny Hernandez show off her paella masterpiece at the sixth Paella Challenge. (Photo by Jon Alonzo)



he spirit of joy at every Paella Challenge is palpable – and the aromas divine. Teams of chefs work side-by-side in a friendly competition to see who will make this season’s award winning paellas, and they do it for a great cause. Join Chef Johnny Hernandez from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. on Sunday, March 26, at Mission County Park for the Eighth Corona Paella Challenge. Funds raised at the event support culinary scholarships through the chef ’s foundation, Kitchen Campus. The wildly popular event will take place at Mission County Park this year to accommodate its growth.



“We are very excited about Paella Challenge’s move to Mission County Park on the Mission Reach of the San Antonio River. The move allows us to continue to grow our event, having been a sold out event for the last three seasons,” Chef Hernandez explained. “The Mission Reach is the perfect backdrop. Where better to celebrate our Spanish food heritage than next to our historical missions?” Paella, a succulent combination of rice, vegetables, meats and mariscos, is classically seasoned with saffron. Considered the culinary union of Spanish, Roman and Arab cultures, it may well have been the dish that helped introduce rice to Spain. (Learn more about the

history of paella in our special feature story in this issue, “Classic Traditions: Fire and Rice … How Paella went Latin,” by paella expert Ana Kinkaid.) Founded and hosted by Chef Hernandez, a strong education advocate, Paella Challenge is a culinary celebration that brings the community together every year. Since the beginning, they’ve raised more than $300,000 for education. “We’ve had such overwhelming support from the local chef community and that makes all the difference … that’s what makes Paella Challenge so special,” Chef Hernandez added. Not only will patrons enjoy San Antonio’s top chef ’s representations of the iconic dish. High school culinary students will also participate, gathering around paella pans and burners, proudly wearing their chef whites and displaying school colors while working alongside star chefs from across the city, the country and Mexico. Chef Hernandez started including students in the program in 2012, introducing the High School Paella Challenge. In 2015, he expanded the program even more by inviting local and surrounding-area high school culinary programs to participate in their own version of the Paella Challenge competition. Each school gets a chance to put their culinary skills to the test – but only one school team will win an all-expense-paid trip to the Culinary Institute of America campus in Hyde Park, New York. The pros get to compete, too, and Paella Challenge has a tough jury who will name winners in the Classical Paella category, and the Contemporary Paella category. Guests and patrons will vote to select the winner for the People’s Choice Award. The day will be filled with live music, dancing and the unique opportunity to enjoy dozens of fabulous interpretations of paella, in all its glory. For tickets and updates, visit Book 1 - Summer 2017 15

san antonio tradition

Hechas a mano. (Photo by Carla Ledezma)



ast October the Culinary Institute of America-San Antonio (CIA) hosted a Center for the Foods of the Americas Conference – a delicious four-day festival celebrating the food and wines of Argentina and Chile. The 2nd Annual Latin Cuisine Summit, ¡Arriba el Sur!, offered extraordinary opportunities and high school students, CIA students, culinary professionals and food enthusiasts enjoyed authentic cuisine and increased their knowledge of native customs and ingredi-



ents used to prepare the food and wines of el Sur, Argentina and Chile. Thanks to Wines of Argentina and Wines of Chile, the spectacular chef line-up included Chef Diego Biondi and Chef Danny Bramson, who shared their expertise on Argentine cuisine and wine. Chef Camila Moreno Barros from Chile presented A Deep Dive into Chilean Coastal Cuisine along with Master Sommelier Fred Dexheimer, who shared his expertise on the great wines of the region.

ARRIBA EL SUR – One day at a time The first day of the conference was devoted to students. In the morning, students from local high schools with culinary programs participated in cooking demonstrations and discussion of the cuisines of Argentina and Chile. In the afternoon, CIA students were in for a treat, as they had the undivided attention of the Summit’s guest chefs and Master Sommelier. The next two days were devoted to the professional conference for culinary industry pros. Everyone attending enjoyed cooking demonstrations and ingredient tastings from the guest and local CIA trained chefs. The program was geared to Food and Beverage professionals, including chefs, restaurateurs and hotel operators. Information and inspiration from the series of cooking demos and discussions with the guest chefs from el Sur was the foundation of a great program for professional development. The Summit had something for everyone. The CIA hosted a sumptuous Gala Dinner at the Nao Latin Gastro Bar featuring Chef Biondi, Chef Bramson and Chef Moreno Barros. The five-course tasting menu was paired with some of the best wines from Argentina and Chile.  On the last day, Saturday, the Latin Cuisine Summit culminated with a full-day festival for the community, complete with free demonstrations at the CIA’s outdoor kitchen where everyone enjoyed the free tastings and mini-wine festival. Enthusiasts had the opportunity to sign up for hands-on classes, demos and workshops which covered desserts and pastries, the proper way to make empanadas or master the art of el asado – and several classes were sold out. This fall, the CIA will present The Latin Cuisine Summit – ¡Arriba el Caribe! – a two-day conference that provides educational programming for industry professionals. The Summit will focus on the culinary heritage and contributions of the Caribbean comprising Cuba, the Dominican Republic and Puerto Rico. On Saturday, the CIA will present The Latin Cuisine Festival – ¡Arriba el Caribe! to share the delicious and unique cuisine of the Caribbean with the public. Visit to learn more.

Book 1 - Summer 2017 17

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atrons know that Salud! Culinary Night events at the Witte Museum embrace avant-garde presentations with chef demos and informative discussions that offer unique insights unlike any other dinner series in San Antonio. The upcoming “Bug Dinner, Part Deux” on Tuesday, January 3 continues that tradition. The Bug Dinner, back by popular demand, will feature the culinary talents of Chef Stephen Paprocki, founder of Texas Black Gold Garlic, Chef Chris Cook, Chef Jeff White, Pastry Chef Jenn Riesman of Hotel Emma and the founder of Bug Vivant, Meghan Curry. The team will create a special dinner to showcase the edible possibilities with a variety of insects from Entomo Farms. “If you were blindfolded, you wouldn’t even know you were eating bugs,” Chef Paprocki said. “You’d just say, ‘Wow, this is good.’” According to the chef, eating bugs is nothing new. “Bugs have always been there for us as an alternative form of protein and are a great resource for fighting world hunger,” he explained. He likened edible bugs to sushi in the early 80s when the trend first appeared on American menus. “People were freaking out. ‘I’m not gonna eat raw fish,’ but today, it’s completely mainstream,” he said. Meghan Curry, who founded Bug Vivant, an educational website

(Photo by Leandra Blei)



about edible insects with recipes, agrees. She doesn’t think eating insects is a fad. “The demand for animal protein is growing, but the amount of land and water necessary to produce it [enough to meet the growing demand] isn’t there. Insects are a great alternative because they require much less water, have a shorter generation time and can thrive in crowded conditions,” she explained. During the dinner, Ms. Curry will discuss how insects are being used in kitchens across the globe, as well as their value as a sustainable food source. As the world’s population grows, entrepreneurs like Ms. Curry are working to develop viable options to meet the ever-increasing need. Her company’s mission is to encourage Americans to adopt eating insects to help leverage limited resources. Dinner guests will have the unmatched opportunity to explore the culinary potential of this global delicacy. Each of the four courses will be paired with a different brew from Alamo Beer Co., locally owned and crafted. To complete the program, Dr. Harry Shafer, curator of archaeology at the Witte Museum, will explain how insects played an integral role in the Pecos people’s hunter-gatherer way of life. The Witte Museum hosts Salud! Culinary Nights almost every month. Seating is limited to 60 guests. Visit to see future events and to buy tickets. ~ Kimberly Suta and Angela Covo

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Each plate should have et ready for the at least four meat or fifth edition meat-like items and of Gwendolyn offer two tiers, one at Charc Week, a celebra$12.50 and one at $25. tion of handmade charEach plate must consist cuterie, which will take of at least four meats so place from July 18 to guests will have a good July 24 in San Antonio, idea of what to expect Dallas, Houston and and feel encouraged to Austin. go on a “Charc” tour For the uninitiated, and taste the results. “charcuterie” refers to Giving Back: Again dried, smoked or ferthis year, part of the mented meats like baprogram will include a con, sausages, pâtés or donation to each chef ’s salumi, to name a few. local food bank for each The idea that drove Chef plate sold – $1 for each Sohocki to start Charc $12.50 charc board and Week is pure: to give $2 for each $25 charc local chefs across Texas board. a chance to showcase For Chef Sohocki, the specialized skills and Chef Jeff White of Boiler House works on his charc masterpiece for the 2015 Gwendolyn Charc Week. these rules help convey their knowledge of the (Photo by Sophie Gonzales) that what comes from ancient art of preserving our hands tells our stomeats and to give the ry. It also allows the chefs to reconnect with the art of creating local, public a taste of the real thing. flavorful food and share the bounty. Charc Week restores the intimate Bigger and bolder in 2017, the grand collaboration will include bond between the plate and the palate in a beautiful, savory celebration restaurants from across the state to feature mouthwatering creations like of all things charcuterie. “The entire exercise is academic in nature. There is no competition bacon, ham, pâté, terrines, rillettes, galantines and duck confit. Just a and there are no prizes,” he added. “The sample of Charc Week alumnus include fagoal is to keep the craft alive and to give vorites like Bakery Lorraine, Boiler House, people a chance to taste around. GwendoFOLC, Feast, Rebelle, Kimura, and of lyn Charc Week broadens all our culinary course, Restaurant Gwendolyn. horizons … it’s a living show-and-tell of And there’s still time to get involved – people taking it back.” Chef Sohocki and his team are inviting all Remember to check the Facebook page chefs and restaurants from across the state @GwendolynCharcWeek for updates and to participate with hopes of the week beto see how participating chefs are progresscoming a national trend in 2018. Interesting. ed chefs can email for “My hope is that cooks and diners will more information.  take pictures of the charc plates they experience and post the pictures and descripThe four rules are simple: participants tions to the Facebook page or tag them must have a restaurant where they control in their own,” Chef Sohocki said. “I want the menu, and everything on the plate this to be interactive and a way for serious must be made in-house, including the cooks (and diners) to transcend the job condiments (except for naturally occurring — CHEF MICHAEL SOHOCKI and get to know each other through their components like salt crystals or honey), the appreciation for this special craft.” crackers, and of course, the charcuterie.

“The goal is to keep the craft alive and to give people a chance to taste around. Gwendolyn Charc Week broadens all our culinary horizons … it’s a living show-and-tell of people taking it back.”

Book 1 - Summer 2017 19

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hampion high The Texas ProStart Proschool culinary gram is part of a national students from program to teach kids across the state will culinary skills. Produced be chopping, dicing, by the Texas Restaurant sautéing and simmerAssociation Education ing on March 24 and Foundation (TRAEF), the March 25 at St. Philips industry-based high school College as they vie for a program has two tracks, spot at the eighth Naculinary arts and restaurant tional ProStart Invitamanagement program, tional on April 28-30 and prepares students for in Charleston, S.C. culinary careers. It’s a long hard road “These restaurant manjust to get to the state agement and culinary arts level competition. participants are the future The culinary teams of our industry. They exwill demonstrate knife emplify what is great and skills, develop and price bright about the restaurant a three-course menu, industry in Texas. The level which they prepare Students from John Marshall High School compete at a Texas ProStart culinary meet. (Photo courtesy) of competency and caliber in 60 minutes. Judges of presentations by the stuevaluate the teams on dents is truly extraordinary,” Roger Kaplan, TRA Education Foundation creativity, plate presentation, taste, teamwork, professionalism, and safety Chairman, said. and sanitation. More than 240 Texas high schools currently participate in the program, Management teams must develop and present a business proposal for a which reaches more than 25,000 students annually. In San Antonio, about new restaurant concept that includes a defined concept, supporting menu 12 high schools across the city participate. and marketing plan. Teams prepare a comprehensive written proposal along Only schools that are part of Texas ProStart, an industry-based culinary with a verbal presentation. They are tested on their critical thinking skills by arts and hospitality program and curriculum, can compete. As the philanreacting to potential management challenges. thropic foundation of the Texas Restaurant Association, it is the mission of Only 12 teams get to compete at the state final. The list is still being the Texas Restaurant Association Education Foundation to provide educawhittled down from a total of about 68 high school culinary teams from tional opportunities for restaurant careers in Texas. 50 Texas high schools. The 2017 Texas ProStart Invitational rounds are still For more information, or to volunteer, visit on around the state. cation-foundation.

FIRST FUTURE CHEFS COMPETITION Just a week after Culinary March Madness, the International Culinary School at The Art Institute of San Antonio will host an inaugural “Future Chefs Challenge” for local high school students. The culinary competition takes place on Saturday, April 1, at the Ai San Antonio campus. The Hospitality Educators Association of Texas (HEAT) is sponsoring the competition. The Art Institute’s Culinary Program Chair, Chef Gary Rice, will welcome the competitors and introduce the judges. About 16 to 18 teams will be given a mystery basket of food products and 30 minutes to create a menu. The teams have just 3 hours to prepare the threecourse meal for 4. Students will find a protein, a starch, vegetables and one mystery 20


item in their baskets as they race to make a culinary crowd pleaser. Each team will have access to a six-burner stove, pots, pans and a basic pantry. A floor judge in each kitchen will monitor the students, and students from Ai will be on hand to assist. A panel of local chefs and celebrities determines the winning team. The competition begins at 8 a.m. with the presentation of the rules and ends at 3 p.m. The school will also host an open air market to honor all the sponsors, and an Ai Chef will present a cooking demo on molecular gastronomy. For more information on the event or to get involved, contact Chef Gary Rice at 210-338-7445 or

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Luis and Marsha Morales of Humble House Foods clinched 3rd place last year in the H-E-B Primo Picks Quest Competition. (Photo by Angela Covo)



t’s that time of year again and H-E-B is looking for the next great idea they can help move up the ladder of success. Celebrating local foods and everything Texas, H-E-B is on a quest to find the most creative and mouthwatering, Texas-based food and beverage entrepreneurs for the 2017 H-E-B Primo Picks Quest for Texas Best competition. Interested? Submit the detail of your product online from Wednesday, February 22 through Wednesday, April 5 at  H-E-B’s Business Development Managers determine the top 25 applicants, who will present their products before a panel of judges selected by H-E-B on August 10 and 11, 2017 at the Central Texas Food Bank in Austin. The judges will determine the top four winning products. For the 2017 contest, the Grand Prize winner will receive $25,000, the title of “Texas Best” Primo Pick and placement on store shelves; the first place winner $20,000; the second place winner $15,000; and the third place winner $10,000.


Eligible products must not be available in any other large chain or retailer and the vendors must be willing to sell exclusively to H-E-B. Additionally, Texas-based suppliers must also create, produce or co-pack the products in Texas.   Since 2014, the Quest for Texas Best competition has received more than 1,500 entries from more than 200 Texas towns yielding almost

200 new products on H-E-B store shelves across the state.

2016 Winners

Last year, Chef Julie Albertson took home the Grand Prize title and $25,000 for her Texas Pie Company Original Pie Dough Puck – the secret to making the perfect, homemade pie. Two candidates from San Antonio made the top 25 in the state. Agricultural pioneer Saundra Winokur of Sandy Oaks Olive Orchard was selected as one of the 25 finalists for her innovative Olive Leaf Tea. And Chef Luis Morales of Humble House Foods also placed third in the 2016 competition, taking home $10,000 and the opportunity to be mentored and coached through the process of designing, packaging and branding, and preparing for mass production and placement on H-E-B’s shelves. H-E-B leaders will actively be working to get the word out by visiting local chambers of commerce, small business development organizations and business advocacy groups from Feb. 15 to Mar. 31. Their goals are to raise awareness of the product search and contest, advise potential entrants about product development and best practices for entering their product in the competition. Cities on the tour include Beaumont, Copperas Cove, Corpus Christi, Dallas, Del Rio, Houston, Laredo, McAllen, Round Rock and San Antonio. To register or to learn more, visit Book 1 - Summer 2017 21

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Joe Mendez and Andrew Magallanez work hard to bring delicious specialties to our local chefs. (Photo courtesy)



oe Mendez knows fruit. And vegetables. And most importantly, he has a great eye for what our chefs need and what they can use, sharing discoveries that turn up in starring roles on menus around town. That expertise is something his customers have come to expect – and he certainly has the experience to back it up. He’s been feeding San Antonio for more than half a century now. “My family has always had a presence at the San Antonio Produce Market, and still does,” he explained. Mr. Mendez also knows a thing or two about engineering. After earning a B.S. in electrical engineering at Trinity University, he went right to work for IBM in Austin. It took a few years, but he realized something was missing and decided to come home. He rejoined the family business, Big State Produce, in 1984. By 2000, it was time to pass the torch to the next generation. Mr. Mendez and his brother Roy realized they could take better care of their customers with a new approach, so Mr. Mendez’ brother concentrated on the retail side at Big State Produce while Mr. Mendez launched



Unifresh. His goal was to make sure independent, chef-driven restaurants would get the best service, produce and specialty items they might not even know about yet. Today, local chefs know to call Unifresh when they’re looking for that special ingredient. Unlike full-line distributors who supply national chains, Unifresh provides a broad, eclectic selection of produce to restaurants like Bella on the River and Bliss. “We carry a lot of things that other produce distributors in town don’t carry – at least six varieties of wild mushrooms, edible flowers, living microgreens, miniature vegetables, candy striped beets, the list goes on,” Mr. Mendez said. Besides fresh produce, Unifresh also has a great selection of dried fruits, nuts, oils, vinegars and at least a dozen different cheeses. Whenever they spot something great and unique, like the Hidden Rose Apples with those lovely pink interiors, they make sure to make it available to San Antonio culinary artists. “I love working with the local chefs and having them come down to the warehouse to see the different things they can pick from and see

their eyes light up. I imagine they’re already thinking how they’re going to use it when they’re plating,” he said. While he loves what he’s doing, it’s not easy. Mr. Mendez puts in a 12-hour day that starts at 3 a.m. Together with Laura, his wife of 36 years, and their four grown kids, Roy and Daniel, 32, Andrew, 30 and Madeleine, 27, he’s feels very gratified to be able to employ 26 people. “We work hard, because we have to earn it, every day,” he said. The Unifresh niche is about more than just providing amazing product, it’s about understanding what each of his customers need. “People like Bella, for example, have such a tiny kitchen, they have to buy what they need day to day. Sometimes they just need four ounces of pine nuts or two apples. I don’t say you can’t do that,” Mr. Mendez explained, although he may just regret saying it out loud. “How ever they want to order, I’ll take care of it, because I want to make their jobs easier. I’m at their beck and call.” He is delighted to have a permanent front row seat to the evolution of San Antonio’s culinary scene. “I knew some of the seasoned chefs in town before they were celebrity chefs. I remember taking care of Bruce Auden when he was at Polo’s at the Fairmount Hotel and Mark Bliss when he was at Silo,” he noted. “And I’m so excited about the CIA. I think it’s going to continue to produce talented graduates that will keep these independent kitchens going. The momentum’s there.” To learn more, visit their Facebook page at unifreshinc. Chefs can place orders 24 hours a day at (210) 444-0100. ~ Kimberly Suta



he team at Truckin’ Tomato has come up with an intriguing idea – an underground supper club coined Farm Feast, serving family style chef-driven meals using only local ingredients. Chef Bryan Pape of Deli’ish and now also of Truckin’ Tomato, spearheaded the effort. “The idea is to get people together at a table to enjoy great conversation and great meals based on local ingredients, and to get inspired about eating according to the season,” he said. Each dinner is limited to 25 people. Chef Pape also explained that everything from the guest list, which will include foodies, artists and profes-

sionals from our local culinary scene, to the list of locally sourced ingredients and paired wines, beers and spirits, is carefully curated. “The menu for each feast is seasonal and features a local chef tasked to produce a masterful menu using local ingredients we provide,” Chef Pape said. The first Farm Feast in November took place at 5 Points Local, with Executive Chef Angela Welch at the helm. The multi-course meal included freshly baked biscuits with roasted corn and poblano chowder, braised lamb Wellington with collards, goat cheese stuffed pork chops with bacon-seared spaetzle, and roasted butternut and acorn squash drizzled with house-infused maple sriracha syrup. The meal concluded with a dessert of sweet potato crème brûlée. The most amazing part was the announcement at the end of the meal that everything served, from the biscuits to the spaetzle, was gluten free. Chef Welch kindly shared her biscuit recipe for our readers in this issue (see Cooks Corner.) Each course was perfectly paired with local wine from Pedernales Cellars, beverages crafted by TBA Cocktail Lounge and Pulp Coffee Signature Carajillo Latte. Chef Pape plans to organize these culinary adventures every month. “Guests will be invited to a Farm Feast from the wait list. The pop-up dinner parties will take place monthly and are really designed for our guests to create relationships, friendships and share knowledge from within their industries all while enjoying a bountiful and seasonal meal,” he added. To get on the wait list, email Dinners range in price from $75 to $100 depending on the venue and ingredients. Farm Feast will send back a confirmation that you are on the list, and will give at least a month’s notice when your turn comes up. To learn more about 5 Points Local, visit To learn more about Truckin’ Tomato, which is transitioning to a completely wholesale service, visit Book 1 - Summer 2017 23

little bites



he San Antonio Beer Festival is moving. This year, the 11-year-old celebration of craft beer and local brewers takes place on Saturday, October 15 at it’s new home on the Eastside. The 2016 footprint spans Dignowity and Lockwood Parks and the adjoining Burnet Street to accommodate the breweries, artisans, businesses and attendees. The growing fest needed more space, prompting the move from Maverick Park to the burgeoning area. “With double the footprint, we are planning for more breweries, vendors and guests than ever before. As San Antonio and its neighborhoods grow and develop, so does the San Antonio Beer Festival,” Euclid Media Group Marketing & Events Director Cassandra Yardeni said. Revelers will sample a curated selection of more than 400 beers from more than 150 breweries from around the world. Local microbreweries will pour their creations alongside some of the most prestigious names in the business. Expect plenty of live entertainment, food trucks and interactive booths, too. “I’m excited that the San Antonio Beer Festival is moving into my neighborhood,” Mayor Ivy R. Taylor shared. “Our Dignowity and Lockwood Parks are the perfect spaces for this growing festival and it will help us show off our booming Eastside.” According to organizers, the Festival, founded by Michael Wagner of the Euclid Media Group which publishes the San Antonio Current, works in partnership with the San Antonio Food Bank, the City of San Antonio, the Dignowity Hill Neighborhood Association and City Councilman Alan Warrick (D-2) to increase the event size and experience for local and regional guests and breweries. “I am so pleased that we could get all the parties together to move the Beer Festival to the Eastside. This event will be a welcome addition and 24


Sample more than 400 beers at the 2016 San Antonio Beer Festival. (Photo courtesy)

I have met many residents who are excited to hear about the change,” Councilman Warrick added. Dignowity Hill Neighborhood Association president Brian Dillard agrees. “We are thrilled to host such an amazing event in Dignowity Hill and extremely excited to partner with the [San Antonio Beer Festival] to build on existing momentum across the Eastside. This event is further evidence that the grassroots effort by Eastside residents and PSEast ( to make our parks ‘do more, for more people’ is already succeeding,” he said. Bonus: a portion of the proceeds of the San Antonio Beer Festival benefits the San Antonio Food Bank. “Each year as the Beer Festival grows in size, so does the support for the San Antonio Food Bank,” SAFB President and CEO Eric Cooper said. “We couldn’t be more happy to be the beneficiary of this event to help fight hunger for families in Southwest Texas. Our effort to feed 58,000 people every week would not be possible without partners like the [San Antonio Beer Festival] and their commitment to our community.” As breweries continue to pop up throughout the area, the average San Antonian has become increasingly able to distinguish an American Lager from a Bohemian Pilsner. Lengthy beer lists are a badge of honor for trendy new establishments hoping to set themselves apart from the crowd, catering to a clientele thirsty for new and exotic flavors. “The San Antonio Beer Festival is much more than a one-day festival. Besides being the Alamo City’s original beer fest, we support and promote local breweries, beer-related content, beer events and the community year-round,” Ms. Yardeni noted. “Plus, supporting the San Antonio Beer Festival is supporting the San Antonio Food Bank, so it’s a good thing for everyone involved.” For more information about the festival and to purchase tickets, visit ~ Mark Ellis

Lick Honest Ice Creams debuts Banana Nut Fudge made with Texas-grown bananas. (Photo by Annie Ray)

The ricotta and blackberry gelato is a South Alamode classic everyone should enjoy at least once. (Photo courtesy)

Jenn White created Rosé All Day to honor the work done in SA at Tango of the Vines for the AFE Foundation. (Photo Courtesy)



his is the season we all scream for ice cream, especially in San Antonio. And we have some fantastic LOCAL options to choose from. Every one of these artisans works hard to create perfect flavors, crafting their confections from the heart. The folks from LICK HONEST ICE CREAMS at the Pearl really work hard to keep it local. Co-owner Anthony Sobotik always wanted to experiment with bananas, but until now, they weren’t exactly a local ingredient. Enter Sweet Eats Fruit, a farm in Central Texas that’s been working on growing bananas for a couple of years. As far as we know, it’s the only banana farm in Central Texas and probably the only one in the state. It wasn’t easy to get those bananas going – their first crop failed – but the addition of a greenhouse was the charm and the bananas thrived. The result? The debut of Lick’s latest summer flavor, Banana Nut Fudge, with nuts from Tokio, Texas, of course. Don’t forget to try the Honeyed Peach, when the local peaches run out, there won’t be anymore peach ice cream until next year. To learn more, visit Chef Andrew Gutierrez of SA POPS on N. St. Mary’s is well known for his amazing handcrafted paletas in flavors like pink lemonade, cantaloupe, raspberry hibiscus, pistachio and horchata, to name just a few of his fancier renditions. But the chef travels and studies all over the world to learn everything he can about frozen confections, and his latest summer flavor reflects his deep knowledge and skill. The new Coconut Almond Chip, a premium ice cream made in small batches in the shop, is based on his own love of the iconic Almond Joy – always with a chef-driven twist. Familiar and delicious, the new flavor is sure to be a hit and will be available all summer. Stop by and discover the chef-driven flavors of all the handcrafted ice cream and gelatos. We suggest you bring a little cooler to carry home all the flavors you couldn’t resist. Check SA Pops Facebook page for updates.

On the Northside, ice cream lovers also have it made with BRINDLE’S AWESOME ICE CREAMS, nestled between The Flying Saucer and Half-Price Books at 11255 Huebner. The creativity never ends with Jenn White, the brilliant mind behind all the new flavors and frozen confections. All the ice cream is made in-house, where Mrs. White and her team develop flavors like Rosé All Day (in honor of Tango of the Vines, an annual event that benefits the AFE Foundation), Goat Cheese Ice Cream and The Kick, made with fresh habanero, coconut, pineapple and mint. The ice cream parlor is comfortable, a great place to meet friends and enjoy a Turtle Crumble or scoops of the Goat Cheese Ice Cream with fresh strawberries or maybe even an ice cream sandwich with freshly baked cookies, of course. For a special treat, remember that Brindles caters, which means you can have the best ice cream social with very little effort. To learn more, visit While in Southtown, make sure to get some absolutely authentic Italian gelato at SOUTH ALAMODE PANINI & GELATO COMPANY at the Blue Star Complex. Chef Josh Biffle and his lovely wife Diletta Gallorini just celebrated the two year anniversary of their business, where scratch-made gelato and sorbet are made fresh every day. The couple spent plenty of time in Italy studying and apprenticing to bring the art back home to San Antonio. When in Southtown, we recommend an Alamode classic, Chef Biffle’s proprietary ricotta and blackberry gelato, which he whips up with heavy cream, folding the ingredients in at just the right moment. All the gelato and sorbet here is made fresh daily and it certainly deserves its own hashtag – #RealItalian. Remember at South Alamode you can start out with delicious paninis and espresso and finish up with the gelato or other Italian frozen confections. Learn more at SA Pops Chef Gutierrez’ gelatos are always a special treat, but nothing beats the heat like his flavorful paletas. (Photo by Angela Covo)

Book 1 - Summer 2017 25

classic tradition

Virginia Maverick (later Mrs. Murray Crossette), niece of Ellen Maury Slayden, took part in the 1909 Battle of Flowers Parade as the Duchess of Winter, the year the Order of The Alamo was founded. Ellen Maury Slayden suggested that San Antonio have a flower battle after one she had seen in Valencia, Spain. The first Battle of Flowers Parade took place in 1891. (Photo courtesy)

FIESTA SAN ANTONIO A TASTE OF TRADITION THAT HAS BEEN SERVED UP FOR 125 YEARS BEGAN WITH A “FLOWER BATTLE” BY JOHN BLOODSWORTH It was 125 years ago, April 1891. Ten thousand citizens gathered in front of The Alamo to watch the first battle … spilling onto Houston, St. Mary’s, Main, Commerce and Alamo Streets. But the weapons used for this battle were flowers. Revelers marveled as the parade of flower-adorned carriages, bicycles and horses, some with their legs painted to look like zebras, circled Alamo Plaza. The procession was divided – each going in opposite directions. In passing, merrymakers pelted each other with 26


fresh flowers hand picked from gardens throughout San Antonio and surrounding communities because so many flowers were needed to stage the spectacular event. When an hour had passed, the parade marshal gave the signal for the battle to end and all withdrew. The 1891 celebration proved to be such a success that organizers agreed to repeat the Flower Battle and Parade in 1892. That’s how Fiesta San Antonio began – 125 years ago. The first parade wasn’t easy to organize. For starters, San Antonio

Inspired by the exotic intrigues of the Orient, cousins Mrs. Murray Crossette and Mrs. Glen S. Key reign royally in a flower bedecked rickshaw during the 1907 Battle of Flowers Parade. (Photo courtesy)

woke up to a torrential downpour on April 20, 1891. It was almost a presidential affair that day too, with a visit from President Benjamin Harrison. But the celebration to honor the fallen heroes of the Alamo and Battle of San Jacinto happened anyway, just four days later. Ellen Maury Slayden, the wife of a U.S. Congressman, inspired the tradition. She suggested that San Antonio have a “Flower Battle” modeled after a parade she’d seen one summer in Valencia, Spain. Pursuing their plans, a large group of ladies organized a celebration that to keep Texas history fresh in the minds of future generations. Celebrating Texas women, 2016 parade chairman Anna-Laura Howell Block announced Rosemary Kowalski as the 125th Anniversary parade marshal and Gen. Angela Salinas as honorary grand marshal. “The Battle of Flowers Association is honored to be the founding organization where Fiesta San Antonio began,” Battle of Flowers Association President Lynn Ziegler said. “And this year is our birthday, too. And you can bet your last cascarón that the women of the Battle of Flowers Association are planning parade pageantry that is as big as the great State in which we reside with the theme. Texas Traditions…125 Years!” Today, more than 100 nonprofit organizations participate in the 11-day celebration. The party with a purpose gives nonprofit organizations the opportunity to raise funds for worthy causes with more than 45,000 parade seats sold by charities along the parade route each year. Some 3.5 million partygoers enjoy Fiesta San Antonio. New events and organizations join Fiesta each year, bringing fun and frivolity to the festive celebration that has been is a San Antonio tradition.


The first Fiesta royalty was introduced in 1909 by the Order of the Alamo, who chose the Queen, the Princess and her court. Over the years the number of Fiesta royalty have fluctuated. Today, there are nine crowns designated as official Fiesta royalty. In addition to the

Clarita, Anna and Amelia Wahrmund with a driver at a Battle of Flowers Parade ca. 1895-1900 (Photo courtesy Rita Schimpff)

Queen of the Order of the Alamo, King Antonio, and Rey Feo, other official royalty includes Miss Fiesta San Antonio, dating back to 1949 in conjunction with the Flambeau Parade. The Queen of Soul, Miss San Antonio, The Charro Queen, The Reina de la Feria de las Flores and The Fiesta Teen Queen also reign over Fiesta. And what would Fiesta be without food? From the St Mary’s Oyster Bake to the Taste of New Orleans, savory selections reign supreme. Stroll one of the oldest food extravaganzas during Fiesta - Night In Old San Antonio – and partake of the rite of Fiesta passage with Char-grilled Anticuchos or Maria’s Tortillas slathered with creamy butter and melted cheddar cheese and salsa. Or join your neighbors at The Taste of the Northside for culinary creations from some of the city’s top chefs and restaurants. Savor the flavor of Fiesta San Antonio from April 14 to April 24. Visit to see the schedule of events. It’s a taste of tradition that’s been served up for 125 years. The 2016 Battle of Flowers Parade takes place on Friday, April 22. Purchase tickets online at or in person at the Fiesta Store, 2611 Broadway. Book 1 - Summer 2017 27



San Antonio Cocktail Conference Coffee Festival BAR-B-QUE COOK-OFF & FESTIVAL Cowboy Breakfast Culinaria Restaurant Week


Asian Festival Institute of Texan Cultures San Antonio Stock Show & Rodeo

MARCH • • •

Poteet Strawberry Festival Fiesta San Antonio Taste of Texas, NIOSA, Oyster Bake, Taste of The Northside, Taste of the Heights and more

MAY • • • • •

Culinaria Food & Wine Festival Brews & Blooms Texas Salsa Fest at Hemisfair Soul Food Festival San Antonio Herb Market Basil Fest

Gwendolyn Charc Week

AUGUST Culinaria Restaurant Week SA Whiskey Business SA Film Festival Annual Awards Brunch

• • •

SEPTEMBER Diez y Seis events at Mercado Culinaria Food Truck Fest

• •

Paella Challenge Mardi Gras on N. St. Mary’s San Antonio Flavor



OCTOBER • • • • • • •

San Antonio Beer Festival Dress for Success San Antonio Herb Market Oktoberfest! El Dia de Los Muertos October Latin Conference at Culinary Institute of America October Puerto Rican Festival

NOVEMBER • • • •

Wurstfest in Landa Park Diwali-San Antonio Festival of Lights Luminaria Tango of the Vines



Texas Folk Life Festival San Antonio Tequila, Taco & Cerveza Fest


Tamale! Fest

AN EDIBLE GUIDE TO SAN ANTONIO FARMERS MARKETS MONDAY South Texas Farmers Market Tellez Tamales 1781 S. General McMullen 9 a.m. -- 1 p.m.

TUESDAY SA Food Bank Farmers Market Main Plaza 115 Main Avenue 10 a.m. – 1 p.m. San Antonio Farmers Market Olmos Basin 100 Jackson Keller Road 8 a.m – 1 p.m. South Texas Farmers Market Alamo College (Live Oak) 8300 Pat Booker Road 9 a.m. – 1 p.m.

WEDNESDAY Exit 505 Farmers Market River Star Arts & Event Park 3785 Hwy 27 Kerrville, TX 4 p.m. – 7 p.m. Kerr County Farmers Market 4000 Riverside Drive Kerrville, TX 3 p.m. – 7 p.m. Mid-Week Market LocalSprout Food Hub 503 Chestnut Street 3 p.m. – 7 p.m. San Antonio Farmers Market Leon Valley Community Center 6427 Evers Road 8 a.m. – 1 p.m. South Texas Farmers Market Pica Pica Plaza 910 SE Military Drive 9 a.m. -- 1 p.m.

THURSDAY Cibolo Grange Farmers and Artisans Market 413 N. Main Street Cibolo, TX 2 p.m. – 6 p.m.

Fredericksburg Farmers Market Marktplatz 126 Main Street Fredericksburg, TX 4 p.m. – 7 p.m. SA Food Bank Farmers Market SA Housing Authority 818 S. Flores Street 2nd & 4th Thurs of month 10 a.m. – 1 p.m. South Texas Farmers Market Villages of Westcreek 12395 Military Drive West 9 a.m. -- 1 p.m.

FRIDAY Hill Country Farmers Market St. Andrew’s Lutheran Church 16320 Huebner Road 10 a.m. – 3 p.m. SA Food Bank Farmers Market St. Mary’s University 1 Camino Santa Maria 1st Fri of month 9 a.m. – 12 p.m. San Antonio Farmers Market St. Matthews Recreation Center 11121 Wurzbach Road 8 a.m. – 1 p.m. South Texas Farmers Market Grady’s Bar-B-Que 7400 Bandera Road 9 a.m. – 1 p.m. South Texas Farmers Market Pica Pica Plaza 910 SE Military Drive 9 a.m. – 1 p.m.

SATURDAY Goliad Market Days 231 S. Market Street Goliad, TX 2nd Sat of month 9 a.m. – 4 p.m. Helotes Market Days Old Town Helotes Helotes, TX 1st Sat of month 10 a.m. – 5 p.m.

Hill Country Farmers Market Deerfield 16607 Huebner Road 10 a.m. – 2 p.m.

South Texas Farmers Market Texas Thrift Store 6708 S. Flores Street 9 a.m. – 1 p.m.

Legacy Farmers Market Legacy Shopping Center 18402 US Hwy 281 N 10 a.m. – 3 p.m.

The Farmers Market at the Cibolo Herff Farm 33 Herff Road Boerne, TX 9 a.m. – 1 p.m.

New Braunfels Farm to Market 186 S. Castell Avenue New Braunfels, TX 9 a.m. – 1 p.m. Pearl Farmers Market Pearl Brewery 312 Pearl Parkway 9 a.m. – 1 p.m. SA Food Bank Farmers Market Wheatley Middle School 415 Gabriel Street 1st Sat of month 10 a.m. – 1 p.m. SA Food Bank Farmers Market South San Antonio High School 7535 Barlite Boulevard 2nd Sat of month 10 a.m. – 1 p.m. SA Food Bank Farmers Market Mission Marquee Plaza 3100 Roosevelt Avenue 3rd Sat of month 10 a.m. – 1 p.m. SA Food Bank Farmers Market San Antonio Food Bank 5200 Enrique M. Barrera Pkwy 4th Sat of month 10 a.m. – 1 p.m. San Antonio Farmers Market Olmos Basin 100 Jackson Keller Road 8 a.m. – 1 p.m

SUNDAY 78209 Farmers Market Carousel Court Shopping Center 1800 Nacogdoches Road 10 a.m. – 2 p.m.

Alamo Heights Farmers Market Alamo Quarry Market 255 E. Basse Road 9 a.m. – 1 p.m.

Castle Hills Farm to Market 2195 NW Military Highway Castle Hills, TX 10 a.m. – 2 p.m. FarmArt Market Tobin Center River Walk Plaza 100 Auditorium Circle 2nd Sun of month 12 p.m. – 3 p.m. Hill Country Farmers Market The RIM Shopping Center 17503 La Cantera Parkway 10 a.m. – 3 p.m. Legacy Farmers Market Legacy Shopping Center 18402 US Hwy 281 N 10 a.m. – 3 p.m. Pearl Farmers Market Pearl Brewery 312 Pearl Parkway 10 a.m. – 2 p.m.

Saturday Farmers Market 405 Highway 90 W Castroville, TX 9 a.m. – 2 p.m. Shops at La Cantera Farmers Market Shops at La Cantera 15900 La Cantera Pkwy 10 a.m. – 2 p.m.

Book 1 - Summer 2017 29

Ms. Winokur admires one of her favorite olive trees outside her house.



meet the farmer




herever Sandy Winokur casts an eye, she sees possibilities. Not so much to build businesses or to make a buck – but to make the world a little better for everyone. In that regard, Sandy Oaks Olive Orchard is a labor of love. Almost 20 years ago, in 1997, the owner, founder and operator of the olive orchard wondered if olive trees might grow here. She pondered this thought because she noticed our South Texas soil and climate was comparable to the Mediterranean, where the lovely olive trees thrive. “Well, I thought, if they grow in Greece, the Middle East and in Italy, they would probably grow here,” she said. But time and time again, she was told this would not work in Texas. “So for the next few years, my heart was in my throat almost the whole time,” she shared. No wonder she is one of about eight people who founded the Texas Olive Growers Council years ago. Ms. Winokur, 75 years young, was born in San Antonio and raised in Texas. She comes from a long line of ranchers that started out in Texas in 1842 – and she credits her family, particularly her grandparents, with her pioneering spirit. “They taught me that nothing is impossible and you can always start over,” she said. Ever a student and adventurer, her studies and interests took her all over the world. Ms. Winokur, who is also an educator, earned her B.A. at Austin College, her Master’s at Texas Christian University and her

Ph.D. in developmental psychology at Bowling Green State University in Ohio. It was during graduate school she met and married Dr. Stephen Winokur. Their adventure took them to Chicago first, where she got the chance to study art at The Art Institute of Chicago, something she had always wanted to do. The couple then moved to New York City, and Ms. Winokur continued to pursue her art at great institutions there: the New York Academy of Design, The Arts Students League and the School of Visual Design. Art plays an important role in her life – when her husband passed away in 1988, painting and travel provided great solace. Her work includes amazing pastels, oils and modern collages. In the early 90s, Ms. Winokur went to Italy to study printmaking. And the more she learned about the ancient olive trees with every trip, the more they impressed her. In 1995, she finally returned home to help care for her father. By 1997, she purchased almost 300 acres in Elmendorf, just south of San Antonio. No one was growing olive trees in Texas at that time, but that little fact didn’t daunt her. There were several challenges along the way, however. Just 11 days after she purchased the land, a fire swept away 150 acres. Later, she lost about half of her first planting (more than 200 trees) thanks to a steep learning curve with irrigation systems. “Anything that could go wrong, did, so I realized it was time to build a house,” she said. It turned out to be a good bet, because once she was living there, things went a little more smoothly.

Sandy Oaks’ artisanal soap made from olive oil is part of the skincare line.

Olive aroma oil, one of many artisan products available in the shop

Book 1 - Summer 2017 31



It was still hard to find people who knew how to plant the trees, so Ms. Winokur improvised and hired a fence builder to plant the trees. “I figured he would know how to plant them in straight lines, “she smiled. Today, things are a little different. She employs staff who know the orchard, from the beautiful first mature olive tree they actually found growing on the land called Papa’s Tree, to the gorgeous oak that was struck by lightning only to grow mightier. Her staff knows which trees need picking when, and they can spot a troubled olive tree in a heartbeat. They’ve expanded what they can offer to the public, as well. Sandy Oaks sells trees – that was the first business – then they started the skincare line with Margaret Wolfshol, the olive leaf tea, developed the olive oil jelly, and, finally, of course, the olive oil. The orchard also houses a beautiful wine-tasting room and restaurant with patio that is truly farm-to-table, contains a culinary garden, acres of flowers, and of course, the nursery, where she grows more trees to sell, learn and plant. Ms. Winokur even developed a natural pesticide from essential oils that helped her conquer the leaf cutter that was killing trees. They bottle and sell that too, to help others. “That’s one of the things that sets us apart. What I really did was to look at what the olive tree did for people across the centuries and tried to replicate that,” she explained. The Orchard also offers pop-up dinners with terrific themes, caters weddings and events, and of course, continues its quest for sustainability. Ms. Winokur loves owning land, what she can do with it and the responsibility and stewardship that goes with it. “This is yours after all for just a short period of time,” she said. With that in mind, her goal is Zero Waste.

art equipment. Even the pomace, the leftover paste after the olives are milled, is used to feed the cattle a special treat. Nothing goes to waste. “We’re living what a lot of people talk about – we actually get to live what we preach and we are in the forefront of how we dream farms should be operated,” she said.


September is generally harvest time for the olives. Early harvests were pressed by hand, with an ancient milling stone she brought from Egypt. “That was pretty hard to do,” she admits. Now with a group of advisers, the olives, which must be milled within 24 hours of being picked, are “mulaxed” or crushed with state of the Book 1 - Summer 2017 33

Rancher Marcy Epperson uses her horse to check on cattle at Heritage Lean Beef. (Photo by Cotton Ploesser)



meet the rancher


Black and white Criollo Corriente cow grazes on native grasses. (Photo by Iris Gonzales)



t’s no surprise William and Marcy Epperson were drawn to ranching – they were born into cattle-raising families in the heart of Texas. Ms. Epperson can trace her ranching heritage to a land-owning great-great-grandmother who registered her cattle brand in Gonzales County in the 1840s while Mr. Epperson’s family has been ranching in Edwards County since 1883. More than 100 years later in 1984, Mr. Epperson started ranching himself, raising Brangus for beef, then importing Corriente cattle from Chihuahua, Mexico around 1991 for rodeo events. After the couple married in 2000, Ms. Epperson quit her day job as a local reporter to help her husband with the ranch. Corriente, a kind of Criollo cattle, are naturally insect- and disease-resistant and smaller than the typical 1,250-pound Brangus, with

a maximum size of just 750 pounds. The Criollo Corriente cattle are descended from the Spanish Corriente animals that explorers brought to the Americas in the late 1400s. The Criollo cattle naturalized and, as explained by the Eppersons, are known as “cattle of the country.” Criollo refers to a person or animal born in Spain’s colonies, but of Spanish ancestry – and these cattle, according to the ranchers at Heritage Lean Beef, are completely grass fed.

Discovering treasure on their land

The Eppersons had never eaten any of the Criollo Corriente beef – they were, after all, reserved for rodeo events. Then when one of the bulls broke its leg, they butchered it for the family. “We felt we couldn’t let it go to waste, but we knew we couldn’t take it to market,” Mrs. Epperson explained. They were surprised to discover the naturally leaner Corriente beef had a better flavor and texture than any other beef they’d ever eaten.  “There was much less exterior fat, yet the meat had significant marbling, making it juicy and lean at the same time, much like Wagyu beef,” she said. “It was after eating the bull we thought selling Corriente heifers as grass-finished beef animals might be a good option for our ranch.” And the bonus: They realized how well suited Corriente cattle are for our drought-prone Texas landscape. “They needed little human intervention and could use different types of native forage. Over time, William switched from Brangus to Corriente—now, our cattle are 100 percent grass fed on native pasture,” Ms. Epperson said. Heritage Lean Beef has been selling the Corriente beef since 2010, except in 2011, when the Eppersons had to liquidate more than 75 percent of their herd during the extreme drought conditions.   “We focus on controlling our forage-only land and manage it for grasses – difficult to do in a semi-arid climate. We rotate pastures and practice overall land management, but in the end, it takes rain to grow grass,” she explained.  The husband and wife team continue to run Epperson Ranch full time, along with their two sons, Virgil, 13, and Wendell, 10. Together the family raises cattle and horses, tend sheep and goats raised for meat and the ranch’s natural weed control, and offer native and exotic game hunting.

Ranching sustainably

Heritage Lean’s Corriente cattle are also an Ark of Taste certified breed, the only one in South Texas. In 1996, the International Slow Food organization started the Ark of Taste program (see to certify and preserve traditional food breeds, species and preparation methods in danger of extinction. Certifying the cattle as an Ark of Taste breed helps Heritage Lean Beef highlight cultural and ecological practices of raising naturally adapted cattle in Texas, a smaller breed that the Eppersons point out does not damage the land much when they forage for grasses. Raising Corriente cattle is not only better for the environment in Texas – it helped the Eppersons stay in business. “With the Corriente cattle, we are able to maintain a sustainable ranch program, working towards conservation of native game and habitat while making the business end of the ranch viable,” Mrs. Epperson emphasizes. “Our vision is to ranch as nature intended it.” To learn more, visit Book 1 - Summer 2017 35

meet the urban farmer



ost people think “rural” or “countryside” when the word farm comes up, but Mitch Hagney, CEO and co-founder of LocalSprout, is part of a movement that’s turning that concept upside down. The young farmer, a Trinity University graduate (2013) and a passionate advocate of sustainability, is leading the way with San Antonio’s first urban farm. You can find Mr. Hagney at the Pearl Farmers Market every weekend, selling his deliciously soft, just-harvested kale and herbs. These he grows in the heart of downtown San Antonio in a 40-foot container housed in an empty warehouse. When he runs out of produce at the farmers market, he just runs over to the container-turned-vertical-farm at 503 Chestnut Street and harvests some more. LocalSprout is indeed an innovation … a vertical, hydroponic farm with no tractors or plots of crops. There is no need for pesticides dropped from the sky and Mr. Hagney, while typically casual, has no need to dig trenches to plant his crops. The amiable Mr. Hagney, 24, works hard to do the right thing and build projects aligned with his mission, like his efforts to create a local food hub in the LocalSprout warehouse. “I think industrial agriculture is a problem. It’s not very sustainable, it’s not very resilient, and it’s not very equitable,” he said. And he practices what he preaches. In the 40-foot space of the container on Chestnut Street, Mr. Hagney can grow as much as one can grow in an acre of traditional cropland. But the container takes up only a small part of the warehouse, so LocalSprout expanded last January to include the entire warehouse in its operations – to breathe life into Mr. Hagney’s vision of the local food hub. So far, the idea is working. The warehouse already houses Texas Black Gold Garlic, Truckin’ Tomato, and soon a pickle company, a coffee roaster and a mustard producer. LocalSprout also established a partnership with the San Antonio Food Bank (SAFB) more than a year ago. Mr. Hagney grows much of his produce hydroponically in greenhouses there, and the SAFB gets a quarter of the revenue generated from the project. Stepping into the warehouse, the gleaming container along the back wall radiates pink light from blue and red energy-efficient LEDs that nourish Mr. Hagney’s pride and joy, a soft buttery kale that grows all year long, hydroponically. This style of farming allows plants to grow without soil. “I grow my plants in a rigid vertical structure that is well aerated. Water,



much less than is used in traditional farming, is drip fed to the plants and gathered back up and re-used,” he explained. “The water carries all the fertilizer and required nutrients to the plants.” His goal isn’t just to be different or to stand out for the sake of it. His goal, through LocalSprout, is to change how we do things to make our way of life more sustainable. “The way you actually transform the food system is by making commercial farms better and competitive in the marketplace. This method of farming is sustainable and more productive,” he shared. Mr. Hagney’s stance on climate change is the force that drove the idea to create a sustainable urban farm, a place where plants could thrive without harming or being harmed by the environment. “Climate change will reduce food security for most of the population thanks to extreme weather events and inconsistent seasons, so hydroponic farming can provide a food solution. Most agriculture contributes to climate change thanks to fertilizer run-off and greenhouse gases created in long distance transportation. Hydroponics is local and nonpolluting,” he said. Putting together a model hydroponic farm in the center of a city was no simple task. It took countless attempts passed through the sieve of trial and error until he found a system that worked well enough to allow him to achieve his goal. And while Mr. Hagney doesn’t necessarily do the work of traditional farming, he still has to wear many hats to keep the urban farm going. He’s the electrician who repairs breakdowns on the farm, the marketing agent who insures sales, the agriculturalist in terms of farming innovations, and of course he is the farmer. Mr. Hagney must maintain homeostasis in this non-traditional environment … a careful balance of light, moisture and temperature that hasn’t been accomplished in this city before. And remember, urban farming is not quite the rage … yet. When Mr. Hagney has a question, there’s no handbook or 800-number. He calls on his peers from across the country for advice. “I have learned more through experimentation than any academic theoretical knowledge could ever reach on this subject,” he said. Still, the business is thriving and modernizing the way people get their food. Because Mr. Hagney deeply believes in the mission of LocalSprouts, he is not afraid to innovate or fail. He is prepared and ready to take all the steps required to succeed. “I am not afraid to fail because I know what not to do next time. Ultimately, sustainability is my goal.”

Mitch Hagney at the LocalSprout warehouse, standing outside the urban farm container. Book 1 - Summer 20173737



meet the urban gardener



ust a short walk east of St. Paul’s Square, there is an oasis in the city landscape called the Roots of Change Community Garden. These days, kale, collard greens, Swiss chard, cabbage, tomatoes, beans, peppers and carrots are thriving under the watchful eye of Brian Gordon and those who join him in the garden on community work days. Mr. Gordon was working with 3 or 4 volunteers when we stopped by to visit. Ariana Fuentes said it was her first time in the garden. “I learned a lot today, enough to start my own garden,” she said. The organic garden is part of a larger organization called the Southwest Workers Union (SWU), which promotes social, economic and environmental justice in San Antonio. With those principles in mind, about 10 years ago the Union fought back when two large diesel tanks were scheduled to be installed next to Sam Houston High School. SWU helped educate Eastside residents about the dangers of the storage tanks and helped develop codes to prevent these problems in the future. Soon after, SWU decided to use its little outdoor space to create an urban community organic garden, Roots of Change. Mr. Gordon explained the idea was to demonstrate what positive alternative change could look like. The new garden was no larger than a backyard with a few raised beds and fruit trees. But it was a promising spot that could provide an educational space and access to fresh, organic produce in an area noted for being a food desert. SWU Executive Director Diana Lopez, who started as an intern at SWU right out of high school, oversaw the new garden. She cultured, developed and maintained the garden program since 2006. But by 2014, with so many responsibilities, she needed help to keep the garden going and hired Mr. Gordon to manage and expand the urban garden. He works at the model project at least 20 hours a week. “I joined the program a little over two years ago as the Food Sovereignty Coordinator,” he said. “From building beds to composting, everything is done organically. We get quite a bit done with little resources.” Slowly, SWU started buying available plots of land adjacent to the property to help expand the garden from the little backyard plot. Today, the space available for gardening is almost a full acre of land, which they are slowly planning out and growing into. Future expansion includes more permaculture designs to host native, regional edi-

ble and medicinal plants. ”We also hope to build an outdoor kitchen to host cooking workshops. At the garden, we work with all community members that take the time to attend the public workdays, where they get to reap the bounty of their hard work – seeds, plants and freshly harvested organic produce. Best of all, they leave with new knowledge at the end of each day,” Mr. Gordon explained. Everyone and anyone is welcome to stop by on community work days. No knowledge or experience is required to participate and many individuals drop by with no knowledge of gardening at all. “That’s our goal, to give people the knowledge, resources and tools they need to manage and maintain their own gardens and build self reliance. Learning how to plant a garden and grow your own food is a giant step toward food independence,” he added. Additionally, because Mr. Gordon believes only in using organic and sustainable methods, community members also adopt a holistic view of the environment. “We hope to empower and educate others. By working in the garden, we all continue to learn more,” he said. Mr. Gordon also works hard to make the Roots of Change garden achieve high grades for sustainability at every level. “We have 220 gallons of rain harvesting ability, and we would love to be able to do more,” he said. The limitation? “We need a new roof, first. Most of the grants don’t cover any of the infrastructure improvements,” he explained. So Mr. Gordon is ever resourceful. Right now they hand water and use Hügelkultur. They fill piles of wood with compost and leaves and cover with about 3” of soil. The roots tap into the top of the soil, while the wood gets spongy and holds water – a practically perfect permaculture design for South Texas. He explained his own knowledge of gardening was pretty slim when he started out. “I spent the two years attending any free or low cost urban agriculture class that I could find within city limits. We are learning as we go along now, too, and we want to excel at using low water, low impact, low cost, energy saving gardening and soil regeneration techniques,” he explained. Everyone is welcome to work in the garden at 1416 E. Commerce every Thursday from 3 p.m. to 6 p.m. and every first Saturday from 1 p.m. to 4 p.m. To learn more, visit their Facebook page and look for Roots of Change Coop.

Brian Gordon pauses in his shed at the Roots of Change Garden.

Book 1 - Summer 2017 39

meet the farmer

Peach farmer Dan Rohrer, owner of Rocky Hill Orchards, president of the Texas Fruit Growers Association and past-president of Hill Country Fruit Council, regularly sells out of peaches at the Fredericksburg Farmers Market.



r. Dan Rohrer, an innovative farmer growing peaches without pesticides in Stonewall, is winning. He and his wife Mary Rohrer live at Rocky Hill Orchards, where he has been growing mostly peaches for 22 years. Even as a grower in Pennsylvania, Mr. Rohrer was very interested in environmental control and sustainable methods. Today, besides employing organic and low-chemical techniques like spraying with hydrogen peroxide, he has been experimenting for some time with high wind tunnels.



“We wanted to try the high tunnel project for tree fruit here in Texas,” Mr. Rohrer said. His hope was to prove that the hoop type structures would protect early blossoms from spring freeze damage and hail. The next step was to demonstrate if the tunnels would help increase production for that part of the season when peaches are in short supply and high priced. And of course, the most impressive result of using the high tunnels is that the system could potentially reduce or eliminate the need for pesticides. “We also planned to observe whether the controlled environment in

a high tunnel will reduce insect and disease pressure, and I believe it does,” he said. To start the project, the growers used a “Chinese protected structure for peach production” as a model because the Chinese have been using the system for decades. They started with several varieties of peaches. “We had blossoms 3 to 4 weeks earlier than in open orchards,” he said. “And faster growth for the trees inside the tunnel.” At Rocky Hill Orchards, we walked past huge patches of wild flowers with Mr. Rohrer’s dog, Andre. The beautiful wild flowers surrounding the high tunnels also serve a practical purpose. They help control pests. “We have such a long growing season, all the way through October, so sometimes we prune in the middle of growing season, and that also helps with pest control,” he said. He also sprays with seaweed if he thinks the peaches could be a little sweeter. On a quick tour through his high wind tunnel, Mr. Rohrer explained he trains the trees growing inside the tunnels into a V shape, so they have 2 primary branches and then form plenty of sub branches. There are about 150 total trees in the wind tunnel, which Mr. Rohrer thinks could produce about 3500 lbs. of peaches. There are a couple of styles of high tunnels, but Mr. Rohrer said the English ones were better suited to fruit trees. “I prefer the Haygrove system, made in England, because it works best with the peach trees,” he explained. “It’s easier to use, and a big benefit is that I can remove the plastic by myself, when needed.” He even developed a rope system that really does make short work of removing the plastic, even for just one person working alone. One of the best outcomes of the wind tunnel project is that they had early results. “The first season after the trees were planted we were able to carry 12 pounds of peaches per tree – on trees that were only one year old. I wanted to prove we could treat trees as a one-year crop,” Mr. Rohrer explained. But it hasn’t worked out for everyone who’s participated in the program. “We’ve had two growers who decided not to continue with it, one didn’t want to remove the plastic in the summer and we ended up with quite an insect problem there,” he said. That’s why his system, which keeps the plastic sheets lose with the ropes on the top, makes such a difference. “Even I can remove the plastic by myself, with 1½ hands,” he smiled as he stretched out his hand, still affected by a recent injury that rendered his right hand weak. The results of all the hard work and experimenting yield a better and bigger bounty for the rest of us. Mr. Rohrer sells his delicious, pesticide-free peaches at the Fredericksburg Farmers Market from 4 pm to 7 pm every Thursday afternoon. To learn more, visit

Mr. Rohrer and Andre enjoy a moment in the sun at the orchard.

The wind tunnels on Mr.Rohrer's property as seen from Hwy 290.

Book 1 - Summer 2017 41

meet the farmer

Sarah and Sylvain enjoy the farm. (Photo by Nick Barrรณn II, 3B Photography)






ust east of San Antonio, in the small town of Converse, newlyweds Sarah and Sylvain Clavieres are growing roots – literally. “We thought about naming it ‘Happy Frenchman Farm’ because he’s always smiling,” Sarah said, laughing. They decided instead on Talking Tree Farm, three acres with a free-range chicken coop, more squash varieties than you can count on one hand and rows upon rows of heirloom tomatoes. The trees may not exactly talk here, but this farm is far from typical. For starters, Sarah stands out among today’s traditional farmer. The 27-year-old is about half the age of the traditional farmer, according to the Texas Department of Agriculture. Sylvain, also younger than the typical South Texas farmer, runs the farm. He’s also French, born and raised, with dreadlocks down to his waist. And he moved to the hot Texas Hill Country just 10 months ago, after spending the last 10 years farming on the beaches of Thailand. “When I brought my family here to visit from France, we were at a Spurs game when a hail storm came,” he said in a French-Thai English accent. “Everything [on the farm] was destroyed, and the joke was ‘Don’t mess with Texas.’” The pair met in Thailand, where Sarah moved from her hometown of San Antonio to teach English after college. While on a weekend camping trip on the beach, she met Sylvain at the small tent rental project he and friends built for visitors. (Sylvain is skilled at carpentry, too.) She kept visiting on the weekends, later switching her schedule to live on the beach during the week and travel into the city only on weekends to teach. It was there that she became a student herself, learning about gardening and sustainable living practices from Sylvain. Later the two opened a nursery with a friend. After three years together in Thailand, they married and moved to San Antonio where family friends presented an opportunity. They invited the couple to live on their land in Converse and build a “food forest,” transforming the land into a small permaculture project, solar powered and totally organic. For this couple, the opportunity offered them the chance to do what they set out to do – leave the world a little better than they found it. “With the right mindset you can go anywhere in the world and create a permaculture landscape,” Sarah explained. “The mindset with a permaculture project is to not fight nature, but to work with it.” In practice, permaculture can be as simple as introducing a praying mantis to destroy a plant-eating pest instead of using a store-bought pesticide. Or, as in Sylvain’s case, creating a worm farm and draining its juice byproduct to use as a natural fertilizer. (Talking Tree Farm’s worm juice is a popular seller at the farmers market.) “We don’t buy anything from outside,” he explained. “I make my

own compost and my own fertilizer. We are doing natural farming here. We definitely don’t put anything in the ground.” And that matters, because sustainable agriculture makes the soil richer, uses less water, and preserves the land for future generations. Talking Tree Farm already boasts three organic, sustainable gardens: the main garden with different styles of raised beds, a summer shade house, a winter green house and solar panels, the market garden with raised beds protected by edible wind breaks and, Sarah’s favorite, the food forest. Armed with lessons from Thai farmers and research from industry greats like Masanobu Fukuoka, Bill Mollison and Geoff Lawton, Sylvain constantly experiments with unique sustainable practices in the main garden, where he currently has three kinds of raised beds: basic raised beds, wicking beds and Hügelkultur beds, which help prevent disease and flooding. The Hügelkultur planting method replicates the natural process of decomposition that occurs on forest floors. Sylvain builds the beds directly on the land, creating mounds of layered wood, sod and compost, which provide a natural weed barrier. As time passes, the wood decomposes, acting like a sponge, soaking up water and producing fungi and nutrients for the plants. As a result, Sylvain claims to water the beds only every two weeks despite the scorching heat. And the soil in the raised beds becomes naturally nutrient rich, perfect for growing delicious vegetables. In the market garden, rows of raised beds are filled with red okra, squash, zucchini, sweet potatoes and cucumbers surrounded by pomegranate and goji berry plants acting as windbreakers to increase production. Just beyond, seedlings grow under a repurposed chicken coop and a reclaimed white picket fence serves as a watermelon terrace. “Everything is recycled three times over,” Paul Bishop, who owns the land, said. On the opposite side of the farm is Sarah’s favorite space, where almond, peach and blueberry branches sway in the breeze and offer shade for a much-needed reprieve from the harsh Texas sun. There, Sylvain created a microclimate for the non-native crops – a food forest with ponds and swells, fruit trees, mushroom logs, alley cropping and perennials. And there’s no need to water, instead Sylvain uses rainwater collected and stored in a man-made ditch in the center. Within eyeshot, a small trailer serves as their home, with an outdoor patio table ready for whatever the season’s bounty brings. “That’s the best feeling, going out and harvesting what we’ll eat for dinner. It’s usually a lot of squash lately,” she said with a laugh. The husband-and-wife team pays particular attention to producing heirloom foods and saving seeds. They’re motivated to keep a variety alive for future generations. “It’s really fun to see so many of our customers surprised because they’ve never seen some of these species before,” Sarah shared. “It’s really fun to be growing species that are rare.” Of course, it’s not just heirlooms they are working to preserve, it’s the art of organic farming – an occupation Sarah said many people their age don’t consider. “We need more local farmers,” she said. “Education is important to inspire people.” That’s why they also offer free permaculture classes at Talking Tree Farm once a month. These days, you can catch up with Sarah and Sylvain selling the farm’s produce, eggs, seeds – and yes, the Talking Tree worm juice – at The People’s Nite Market and the Tobin Art and Farmers Market. For more information about the classes or what they’ll be bringing to market, visit their website at Book 1 - Summer 2017 43

meet the farmer

Pedro and Dayana Schambon in one of the renovated greenhouses filled with sorrel.



f you shop at the Pearl Farmers Market, you’ve likely met Pedro and Dayana Martinez Schambon, who founded My Father’s Farm (MFF), a certified organic farm that sets up shop at the farmers market every weekend. The seasoned farmers were among the very first to sell their produce at the Pearl more than six years ago. “It was only two farmers then. It’s funny to remember that we used to spend a whole Saturday and we were probably making $10 or $20 a 44



PHOTOS BY SOPHIE COVO GONZALES weekend,” he reminisced. But just fifteen years ago, farming was not part of the plan for the Schambon family. The Schambons hail from Colombia, but moved to Florida and became U.S citizens. As a successful real estate agent in Florida, Mr. Schambon felt he was not honoring his faith, and the family embarked with a group on a missionary trip to Haiti, which altered their lives forever.

The rebuilt greenhouses are essential to My Father’s Farm’s operations.

“It changed our hearts,” he said. Soon after, they found themselves building an orphanage for homeless children in Santa Marta, Colombia. In 2006, they left Florida for Texas to participate in the booming real estate market and started farming here as well, using the funds to support the orphanage in Colombia. By 2008, their first Texas farm was certified organic. “How we started farming was so odd. We were buying groceries to feed the kids at the orphanage. We had this beautiful piece of land for the orphanage with a river and perfect weather, and I said to myself, we should be farming,” Mr. Schambon explained. But then in 2010, Mr. Schambon was severely injured and wheelchair-bound for almost two years. Although he lost both properties in the interim, it was not the end for the stalwart farmer with the faith of far more than a single mustard seed. Today, thanks to sheer determination, the successful farming family sells organic produce to H-E-B for distribution to nine Central Market stores in Texas. “The great thing is we have not missed one week. Every single week for the past year we’ve been able to provide organic herbs and produce to Central Market,” he shared. Currently, My Father’s Farm provides Central Market with organically grown collard greens, micro greens, a mix of Italian rapini, French sorrel, spinach, they’re special Juicy Mix 3 and mint, cilantro, parsley and radish. The Schambon family also recently became the proud owners of land they were leasing from Larry Walker of Trekker, who also owns Bob’s Burgers and the Schulz Nursery on Broadway. Mr. Walker doesn’t remember exactly how they met, but notes they’ve been friendly business associates for years. “My Father’s Farm started small, but he’s done a great job of building it. Pedro is a really knowledgeable organic farmer and very true to the word organic. We wanted to help him be successful – maybe this next

Inside, the greenhouses maintain the correct conditions so the organic farmer can grow sustainably year round.

move will help him do that,” Mr. Walker said. Mr. Walker isn’t the only one who speaks highly of the farmer. Chef Stephen Paprocki, president of the Chef Cooperatives in San Antonio, agrees. “He’s helping kids, teaching them how to grow something, and helping people make educated decisions about putting good food into their bodies instead of junk,” Chef Paprocki commented. The Chef Cooperatives was one of the first groups to lend a hand to this independent local farm. “We heard about Pedro and his backstory. Pedro explained that he needed some equipment, so the group selected him to be the beneficiary of a Chef Cooperatives dinner. When we presented him with the check he said, ‘You guys gave me more money than anyone in my entire life.’ Book 1 - Summer 2017 45

Mr. Schambon proudly shares a few leaves of the soft, lemony sorrel.



Now, to see how much his place has grown from the old abandoned greenhouses to the lush and beautiful gardens … it’s just amazing,” Chef Paprocki, who also founded Texas Black Gold Garlic, added. My Father’s Farm is indeed a verdant sight. The new farm, organically certified in 2012, boasts about 100,000 square feet of greenhouses on 53 acres of land. The farm was also awarded a Good Agriculture and Handling Practices certificate from the U.S Department of Agriculture (USDA). “We only farm 10 acres in an open field, so we have plenty of room to grow,” the farmer explained. Besides crops already committed to H-E-B, they grow broccoli rabe, red turnips, Swiss chard and rosemary. The crops, of course, change with the seasons. As we move into summer, he’ll start growing squashes, amaranth and other warm weather crops. Those that already buy from Pedro are almost fanatically dedicated. His micro greens, which are 40 percent more nutritive than fullgrown plants, are very popular at the Pearl Farmers Market. “The chefs love the intensive flavor,” Mr. Schambon noted. “But it was a challenge to fine tune the growing at first with the water requirements, the light.” Thanks to the greenhouses, they are able to grow year-round. “We can protect our crops. It’s a controlled environment, but it’s not 100 percent safe from the elements,” he explained. When it comes to the topic of using organic versus non-organic methods, Mr. Schambon believes the correct path is clear. “We need to be good stewards of the land. We don’t call it dirt. We call it soil because it’s alive – full of microbial life. Organic soil has more nutrients and we have to protect that,” he said. “I went once to visit a conventional farm. Everything was so neat and clean, no insects, the cabbage was so perfectly formed, the soil so sterile. The farmer asked me, what do you think of the farm? I replied, ‘With all due respect, I feel like I’ve entered a cemetery.’” He was very disturbed not to see holes in the leaves or life in the soil. “I didn’t see any insects or weeds. Everything looked perfectly machine-made. If I looked at the soil, there’s probably no microbial life in the soil here. It made me think corporate America will eat us alive,” he added. He’s not terribly hopeful about the future of farming in America. He sees farmers being bought out right and left. He strongly believes the onus should be on the farms using chemicals and GMO’s to inform the public about what’s in their food, but sadly, it’s not. The burden of labeling foods “organic” and “non-GMO” rests on farmers using sustainable methods who grow crops without harmful pesticides and chemicals. But consumers today seem more willing to buy organic. “Hopefully more people will get into organic farming and the price will become more reasonable for consumers,” he said. In the spring, look for more news from the farm as they expand their offerings and ways to bring their organic produce to market. Despite the odds, the farmer’s efforts continue to bear auspicious fruit. Besides revitalizing a work program for those less fortunate to work the land in exchange for fair wages and a bounty of veggies, he also partnered with Robert Maggiani to develop a network of local organic farmers. Mr. Maggiani, a former Marketing Director for Go Texas, garnered a USDA grant to create an organic hub to help smaller farms compete with large commercial farms.

Dayana Schambon introduces daughter Nicole’s chickens. Thanks to a microloan from the USDA, 16-year-old Nicole is well on her way to a successful organic, cage-free egg supply business.

“Lots of farmers don’t have access to the big buyers. As a group or hub, the collective is more attractive because buyers can purchase from just one entity,” Mr. Schambon explained. My Father’s Farm is an active member of the hub. As a licensed organic inspector, Mr. Schambon plans to use his training to help other farmers use organic methods. Today, Mr. Schambon’s influence reaches across the county, but it’s his work ethic that makes a grand impression at home. Their youngest daughter, 16-year-old Nicole, recently ventured into her own agricultural business. Thanks to the USDA Youth Loan Program, she acquired a $5,000 dollar loan to purchase 150 chickens. “I thought it was a perfect opportunity when the FDA started giving loans,” Nicole said. “It was a long time ago when we were just starting out with the farm, and Mom told me to go pick up the eggs. My love of chickens started there.” Perhaps living close to the land and participating in the day-to-day toil of life on the farm also made Nicole aware of the importance of knowing where our food comes from. “The faith they have – moving to Texas and trusting the farm will work, as bi-polar as Texas weather is, has given me a different perspective. Someone planted this 30 to 60 days ago,” she said, pointing to growing greens. “It takes time and work, and it makes me so much more grateful for what my parents put on the table to eat each night,” Nicole said. Mr. Schambon is delighted with his daughter’s entrepreneurial spirit and determination to build something organic and local.

“Instead of going to work for McDonald’s or Burger King, she has her own enterprise of organic eggs. The chickens get all-organic feed plus leftovers [from the farm]. They’re spoiled!” Mr. Schambon laughed. To learn more about My Father’s Farm, visit Chefs seeking a farmer to grow exclusive produce or anyone in need of more information can also contact Mr. Schambon at Book 1 - Summer 2017 47




meet the farmer



hat does a Gulf War vet have in common with fresh water mussels, solar panels and wormwood? They’re all about to find their home just a few miles southeast of San Antonio in Wilson County, where an up-and-coming ranch by the name of Mesquite Field Farm will take the word “sustainability” to the next level. The concept: a 20-acre cattle and chicken ranch totally powered by solar, wind and water that can sustain 20 head of cattle, chickens, a family and gardens.

The Havemanns will collect water and use a well on the farm. Birds that returned to the refurbished property also brought fish to the manmade ponds. LEFT: Doug and Melissa Havemann with their dogs and cattle in the background. They have already selected the site to build their home.

Book 1 - Summer 2017 49

“We’re off the grid here,” Mr. Benito. Mr. Havemann grew up Doug Havemann said proudly. “Go on his family’s farm in Orange look at our meter, it’s at zero.” Grove. Though it never went to Mr. Havemann, a U.S. Army full production, they had a halfveteran-turned-computer-architect acre garden, and Mr. Havemann for Panasonic, is the mastermind raised his own Future Farmers of behind the ambitious project. ToAmerica rabbits and pigs. gether with his wife, Melissa, the And while Mr. Havemann San Antonio resident has literally will be producing cows and been sowing the seeds for what he chickens now, don’t call him a believes will be a farm unlike any rancher, because he’ll insist he’s other. a grass farmer. It took the cou“There’s no book for this. That’s ple six years to nurture the grass the fun of it,” he said. growing across the property. But the initial inspiration and Looking at the land now, you some guidance did start with a would never know cacti and book Mrs. Havemann picked up at mesquite overran it just a few the Las Vegas Airport, Michael Polseasons ago. The Havemanns Doug Havemann brushes “Jack” at Mesquite Field Farm. lan’s “In Defense of Food.” cleared the land, planting 26 na“That’s what got us started on this tive grasses on 16 acres of the land. journey,” she said. They even dug stock tanks to ensure that Mesquite Field Farm would The Havemann’s plan is to produce 24 kilowatts of power — all the always have a water source, regardless of the climate. energy needed to independently run their home and farm operations. “We want to be completely self-sustaining,” Mr. Havemann said. “I At 25 feet, a constant 15-mile per hour wind will keep the three don’t want to buy power from anyone. I don’t want to buy water from wind turbines the Havemanns are installing spinning and producing anyone. I’ve been a lot of places where they didn’t have water. I saw what energy. Already, two green 10-foot wide, 9-foot-tall recycled shipping that did to the people and the animals and the land.” containers serve as mother ship to Mesquite Field Farm’s solar power, One of those places Mr. Havemann is referring to is Iraq, where as well as a temporary place for the Havemanns to hang their hats on his 11-year Army and Army National guard career included serving in weekends. One container is fitted with a wood stove, which will be Operation Desert Storm. There, the Iraqi military called his battalion moved into the house they plan to build on the property. “Steel Rain.” For now at least, the containers look more like small trailers. The His war experiences now motivate his desire to create a self-sustainHavemanns cut windows into them and run lights with energy from the ing — or rather self-reliant — solution for rural living, which is an solar panels that line the rooftop. integral part of Mr. Havemann’s objectives for the farm he is building Water, fish and mussels from scratch. His 6-foot-4-inch stature and booming voice are hard to Energy also comes from hydrodynamic water flow as it runs down miss, but you see a soft side of Mr. Havemann when he’s at the farm. from one pump in the farm’s valley to a second and third one downHavemann’s happy cattle stream from small waterways the Havemanns dredged on the property. “Babe, stop it,” he said to a cow veering off from the herd. He had That’s where the freshwater mussels come in. a bucket of food pellets in one hand, while hand feeding a second cow Mr. Havemann realized the river width is the perfect size for fresh- with the other. water mussel cages. In a perfect symbiotic relationship, the mussels filter “We hand feed exclusively,” Mr. Havemann said. “We want our cows and cool the water as it flows through the cages while they get ideal to have the best life possible from the moment they set foot here to the nutrients to eat. moment they leave.” “I can’t wait to taste them,” Mr. Havemann said about the mussels. In The cattle are rotationally grazed. No chemicals are used on the catthe meantime, birds that visit the ponds bring another food source: fish. tle or on the farmland. And if you’re wondering about those food pel“We have bass thanks to the birds — we never saw birds out here lets, Mr. Havemann will tell you their cattle eat grass “like herbivores when we bought the land. That’s what I’m most proud of right now, were created to eat.” seeing the birds return,” he said, explaining he also enjoys fishing at the Mrs. Havemann said caring for the animals and the land that is like property. therapy to her husband, who suffers from post-traumatic stress disorder Besides raising cattle and chickens, the Havemanns are already dedi- (PTSD) following his time serving overseas. cating an acre of land to grow wormwood for local chef Stephen Paproc“This is the best place for him. War is life or death — and when ki who will use the plant (technically a weed) to make Texas absinthe, a you’re out on this farm, it’s life or death,” Mrs. Havemann said. “You distilled, high-proof alcoholic beverage. You’ll also find two-row Barley either care for the animals and they live or they don’t. It’s about teamon the land, which Mr. Havemann is growing for a local microbrewer. work.”

Getting back to their roots

The farming lifestyle isn’t foreign to the Havemanns, who have been living in San Antonio proper for 22 years. Mrs. Havemann, who Mr. Havemann calls the Chief Executive Officer, Marketing Department, Ways and Means Committee, Chief Financial Officer and the love of his life, spent time as a child visiting her grandparents’ horse farm in San 50


The Havemanns plan to have veterans work on the land, saying it will help others who also suffer from PTSD. “Veterans are always looking for a way to get away from stress. What stress do you have here?” Mr. Havemann said with a smile. With the country breeze, happy cattle, and fresh water mussels on the way — Mr. Havemann’s point is well made.

Meet the rancher


About one-third of the world’s crop production is dependent on bee pollination. But in recent years, the American honeybee population has been mysteriously declining en masse, threatening our fruit and vegetable supplies, even the crops that feed our cattle. Now, one South Texas husband and wife team are at work to save our food system — one honeybee at a time.


ark Gretchen of Gretchen Bee Ranch recently dubbed 2014 the year of the honey flow. “It’s very unusual for us,” Mr. Gretchen explained, with one hand atop a large round container filled with raw, local honey. There were a dozen identical white barrels stacked up behind him, each one full. “The first rule of beekeeping is you can’t keep control,” he added. “You can manage a hive, but you can’t manage the rain that falls or the flowers that bloom. That’s why you just pray for all the right conditions and some years you get it.” This year, Mr. Gretchen and wife, Thiên, the other half of the Gretchen Bee Ranch, got what they were looking for … a wet spring, continuously blossoming flowers and flowing honey. “We’ve been harvesting heavily since March 1,” Mr. Gretchen said, “a far cry from the intense drought of 2011 when the harvest lasted just two weeks.” The supply that year was very limited, but also especially delicious. “That was the best-tasting honey the ranch ever made, but it was a miniscule amount,” he said. “The only thing that grew then was Mesquite.” It’s not unusual for Mr. Gretchen to know his bees’ diets intimately … he’s the beekeeper on the ranch. Co-founder Thiên

Gretchen, his wife, creates artisanal products from the wax --- nothing at the bee ranch ever goes to waste. “I use the crystallized honey as exfoliate for my skin,” Mrs. Gretchen explained. “Any raw honey you get is a gift and should never be thrown away. Older honey retains its medicinal qualities and can be used as an antiseptic and in all kinds of ways.” From extracting honey to making candles and ornaments and spinning honey into a delectable creamy honey spread, all the work at Gretchen Bee Ranch, and the many bee yards where Mr. Gretchen keeps hives, is done by hand. He travels 300 miles a week throughout the summer to check on his hives spread across South Central Texas. “It’s like diversifying your portfolio,” Mr. Gretchen said. “You don’t want all of your bees in one place.” Mr. and Mrs. Gretchen weren’t thinking about bees when they first met at the San Antonio Central Library in 1997, though. Within four years of their first encounter while both worked at Central Library, the couple tied the knot. Mr. Gretchen was always interested in bees, but at first, it was just a hobby. He remembers his first experiences with his uncle in Burnet County more than 30 years ago, using mostly borrowed equipment. During the summer of ’82, the honey they were able to harvest was terribly bitter because Book 1 - Summer 2017 51



they didn’t know to pull the Sumac crop in time. Such challenges spurred his interest, which grew into a passion fueled by his determination to learn everything he could about the honeybees. Still, it took 20 years working with different local municipalities in and around San Antonio as a Library Director, Director of Community Services, Assistant Library Director and even Asset Management Interim Director, until together, the couple decided it was time for Mr. Gretchen to live his dream and start his new venture. “As you can imagine, the stress level (at work) was rather high and he’s also what I call an over-achiever, giving all he had to the cities. We decided to make a life change while he was still young and wanted to pursue his other interests, including beekeeping and historical research,” Mrs. Gretchen said. She continues to work fulltime a little closer to home and shares every spare minute with her husband and the bee ranch activities. Inside the Bee Ranch Mrs. Gretchen greeted us on a warm Friday afternoon, leading the way to the Honey House, a 2,400-square-foot harvesting and packaging facility behind their home. The Honey House is a dream come true for them that houses most of the bee-keeping and producing undertakings and equipment, like beekeeper protective wear, storage and more. When we arrived, the two were in the Honey House preparing for the Pearl Farmers Market the next morning. The east side of the Honey House opened to a field of tall native grasses, lush and green from the unusual rainfall throughout the spring. Bee colonies lined the side of the building, each housed within a brightly colored Langstroth Hive fashioned after a mid-1850s design, reminiscent of a small chest of drawers. The hives looked out onto the field, grasses dancing in the welcome breeze under a hot June sun. Before examining the bees, we were covered from head to foot in white beekeepers uniforms the ranchers keep for guests. Properly dressed, we walked down a row to the third hive where Mr. Gretchen lit cedar bark shavings inside a small handheld smoker. He explained the cool smoke from cedar shavings doesn’t harm the bees, but calms them for an unknown reason, making them easier to handle and observe. Meanwhile, I did a triple check to ensure the loose net lining covering my face and the thick white jumpsuit was tightly zipped together. I tucked my bare hands into my long sleeves so that not one inch of my skin would be exposed, making sure I was absolutely prepared for the unknown. As the small cloud of smoke floated around the hive, Mr. Gretchen pulled a shelf from within its box home. Unfazed by the disruption, hundreds of bees marched purposefully in every direction across the wooden frame. Each one on a mission predetermined at birth -- jobs the small honeybees would spend the rest of their lives carrying out. Bees adhere to a kind of caste system with workers, drones and the queen. The males, or drones, comprise 10 percent of the colony’s population

and they have one important assignment, to mate with queen bee. The females are the worker bees, and their jobs range from cleaning the hive to gathering food. As we watched the tiny ecosystem before us, a fuzzy newborn made its way out of a honeycomb cell, crawling out one leg at a time. It was a pale yellow and started to walk amidst the sea of fellow bees climbing over and around its fragile body. “Aw, look, her legs are wobbly,” Mrs. Gretchen said. “That’s a brand new bee right there,” Mr. Gretchen said, like a proud father might. “I suspect one of the other bees will come and bring her some food.” Then we spotted her -- the queen bee. Her body was much larger, her wings more pronounced, and with each step the crowd of worker bees moved out of the way. There was no mistaking who was in charge. Her back bore a green paint dot. “Green means 2014 -- I’ve had her less than a year,” Mr. Gretchen said. Born just a few months ago, the young queen will likely live about five years, long after her workers, whose life expectancy is just a few weeks. That is, however, if they don’t succumb to the mysterious force (or, perhaps, combination of forces) decimating 30 percent of America’s honeybees each year … almost twice as many as 20 years ago. Saving the honey bees Mark and Thiên aren’t satisfied with just providing wholesome products from their bee hives and those they strategically place across Texas, they also hope to help replenish the vanishing bees. “Varroa mites, colony collapse disorder and small hive beetles are just three adversaries that imperil bee hives today,” they explained in an email. To remedy this situation, the Gretchens not only strategically place bee yards to help pollinate farms and native plants year-round throughout the region, they also offer bee-keeping classes so others can help the bees too. To that end, every spring they teach the basics of bee keeping with several two-hour, hands-on classes to help others keep bees and help the populations grow. They also provide Queen Bees and help interested parties start hives. Their contribution is essential because the work of the honeybee is critical to our food supply. Besides creating that delicious elixir we call honey, according to the White House, honeybee pollination adds more than $15 billion in value to agricultural crops each year in the United States. “What’s really interesting to me is going to the new bee hives and just the anticipation of what’s going to be new,” Mr. Gretchen said. “You open up the hive to see what will be different. Will they have made more honey? Are they still healthy? I like to go in and be an investigator.” Mrs. Gretchen interjected, “He’s like a little kid.” “It’s like going somewhere you’ve never been,” Mr. Gretchen said. “It’s just really exciting.” For more information about Gretchen Bee Ranch, visit them on Saturday mornings at the Pearl Farmers Market or visit the Website at Book 1 - Summer 2017 53

meet the farmers




working farm at Mission San Juan demonstrates how water has been the lifeblood for this semi-arid portion of Texas for millennia. Indigenous people were attracted to the countless springs that bubbled up through the porous limestone across every corner of the region. The steady water source sustained a vibrant and diverse bio-community and the presence of water originally attracted the Spanish Missionaries to set down roots here. The Missionaries plotted out a series of churches and communities along the banks of the San Antonio River. They understood evangelization had to be backed up by food if their efforts were to take root and grow. Soon, a unique partnership developed: indigenous people taught the missionaries how to forage for local berries, nuts and greens – and the missionaries taught the indigenous people the art of farming by flood irrigation, a technique they learned when they had been “evange-



lized” by the Moors. And thus were born San Antonio’s original grocery stores. Bringing water off the San Antonio River to flood the farms around the missions was no easy task. Even today, it continues to be regarded as a feat of engineering genius. A series of acequias or manmade canals branch from the main river channel and use gravity to flow water to the farms that supported the missions. Then a series of dams along the canals diverted water from the Acequia Madre to the fields in a controlled flood, providing nutrients and life to the otherwise barren landscape. The best example of a working acequia can be found today at Mission San Juan Capistrano, where San Antonio’s original grocery store begins to come back to life. For more than two decades the National Parks Service had been buying up the suertes, tracts of land adjacent to the Mission that were doled out at the time of secularization in 1794. With that land purchase

nearing 100 percent completion, the Parks Service began to implement a plan to bring those farms back to life using the newly repaired acequia. After two years of planning and preparation, the National Parks Service signed an agreement with the San Antonio Food Bank in 2016 to farm Mission San Juan. In the agreement, the Food Bank will maintain and support a 5-acre demonstration farm. This demonstration farm will highlight flood irrigation farming and feature many of the crops and techniques that would have been used 300 years ago at the time of the Mission’s founding. In exchange for leading the demonstration farm, the Food Bank gains access to 45 acres of San Antonio’s original grocery store, nurturing fields that have been fallow for years and once again to be used to feed the community surrounding it. “When the mission was established, these fields were there to feed the people who lived there,” said Mardi Arce, superintendent of the Missions National Historic Park. “To now have them back in production is just a wonderful story in that, yes, it will educate visitors, but it’s also now a resource for local people again.” Mission San Juan Farm is comprised of 50 acres neatly divided into 5-acre tracts. The Food Bank intends to grow the farm 5 acres at a time until it is fully planted by 2020. The first 5 acres planted this spring were oranges of various varieties, a nod to one of the fruits brought to the “new world” by the missionaries. The Food Bank will, of course, continue to use the original acequias as the water source for the farm as it expands into future suertes, with crops like wheat, corn, legumes, beans, squash, potatoes, cantaloupes, watermelons, sugarcane, sorghum, figs, grapes, citrus and more. San Antonio Food Bank’s President and CEO Eric Cooper explains why he believes the farm is an essential operation at the Food Bank. “Part of our strategy is engaging food recipients in the process of

Book 1 - Summer 2017 55

helping us grow and produce food,” Mr. Cooper said. “Getting families out here to learn about where food comes from is a piece of teaching them how to be healthy and self-reliant.” In its new iteration, the working farm at Mission San Juan will play a key role as local culinary leaders join with the city to apply for another UNESCO program, the Creative Cities Network. They are seeking to have San Antonio designated as a City of Gastronomy, which would not only facilitate participation on a global level and the exchange of best practices and ideas, but also establish San Antonio as an international culinary destination. The explosion of a creative and diverse food economy in the region, coupled with this historic working farm already part of a UNESCO World Heritage Site, should make a strong case for the designation. “To be able to use this historic property in a way that can more deeply serve our community is incredibly exciting,” Mr. Cooper added. “It sounds cheesy, but the missions themselves were making a statement about the importance of community and service, so in a way, we’re bringing back that component of the missions.” To learn more about Mission San Juan Farm and the guided tours or opportunities to volunteer, visit

“Getting families out here to learn about where food comes from is a piece of teaching them how to be healthy and self-reliant.” 56


Working Acequia at Mission San Juan (Photo by Angela Covo)

Book 1 - Summer 2017 57

latin roots




OF FOOD AND FAMILY LA FAMILIA CORTEZ RESTAURANTS Editor’s note: In 1941, Pedro Cortez, a young man from Guadalajara, Mexico, found a way to open a tiny eatery in Market Square. As the business grew, he named it Mi Tierra to recapture something familiar, a little piece of home. Today, 75 years later, that little restaurant is a San Antonio icon, a thriving business with more than 600 seats, open 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. As the Cortez family prepares to celebrate that milestone, the 75th anniversary of Mi Tierra, they also find themselves in a transition period, passing the torch from the second generation to the third. According to Cariño Cortez, only 12 percent of family businesses make it from their founding to the third generation. But the strength of La Familia Cortez and their extraordinary restaurant empire is not rooted in a ledger book, it is built on a foundation of hard work, family, love and integrity, all reinforced by shared memories, and of course, fabulous food. Here’s to many more generations for La Familia Cortez Restaurants!



hose of us who’ve ever set foot inside Mi Tierra Café and Bakery in the heart of El Mercado, know the iconic restaurant serves a lot more than hearty Mexican dishes, pan dulce and cocktails. Their friendly staff, romantic strolling troubadours, festive mariachis and colorful décor creates an authentic ambiance that patrons treasure. Now, 75 years later, with four restaurants: Mi Tierra, La Margarita, Pico de Gallo and the latest addition, Viva Villa, La Familia Cortez is poised to continue that tradition.

Early Memories

Chef Cariño Cortez remembers eating at Mi Tierra with her sister Paloma and creating memories, just like other patrons. “We always remember going in and eating with our family in the middle dining room. And we would always get a balloon and the little pink sugar cookies from the bakery,” Chef Cariño said. Similarly, her cousin Angela Cortez, Mi Tierra’s pastry chef, remembers well her mother would often drive them to the restaurant for dinner to see her father, David Cortez, who worked long hours in the family business. “My first memory is around when I was three years old. I remember all of us packing into the car with my brother and sister to go see my dad,” she shared. More than the bustling restaurant itself, she too remembers the employees. “We had some really great people that have passed on. I remember

them more than the restaurant. It’s the people and the food that I most remember.” Pete Cortez, C.O.O. of La Familia Cortez Restaurants, said he’s fortunate to have memories of Mi Tierra that go back even further. “I actually remember Mi Tierra when the street was open and you could park in Produce Row and there was a sidewalk … I remember coming to the restaurant together with my parents and sisters, the jukeboxes in the booths, the trios and the songs they played,” he shared.


More than 75 years ago, family patriarch Pedro Cortez, a Mexican immigrant, lived with his aunt and uncle and worked as a butcher. He didn’t want to leave his home, but after his mother died, his father sent him to San Antonio to live with his aunt and uncle in a traditional home. But all was not lost. Here, he met the love of his life, Cruz Llanes. He also fell under the spell of El Mercado, the outdoor market west of downtown San Antonio, because it reminded him of home. So in 1941, with a $150 loan from his uncle and determined to succeed, he opened the small restaurant with just 3 tables in Market Square, Jamaica Numero 5 Café. Trained as a butcher, Pedro put his skills to work and made traditional Mexican market type food. With his wife’s help and a collection of family recipes, they offered caldo (soups), ceso (beef brain), barbacoa and guisos (stews). The tiny restaurant with menus painted on the wall did well despite a bad economy, war and a recession. By 1951, Pedro and Cruz bought another location in Market Square and Book 1 - Summer 2017 59

named it Mi Tierra Café. The middle dining room of Mi Tierra, with the wooden panels, photographs and restrooms “is where it all started,” Pete explained. Just 4 years after serving their first customer, the restaurant was growing, so they purchased property next door. By the 1960s, the Cortez Family owned the entire square block and built it into what it is today.

A San Antonio Icon

Today, Mi Tierra serves guests round the clock. The ingenious Pedro wanted to keep the doors open longer to serve the farmers who rose early, the laborers who worked late and the partygoers who might need a bite after a night on the town. Patrons gathered there to celebrate important moments. As Angelica puts it, “everything happens there under the roof.” Star power often visits the restaurant that never closes, including former presidents Bill Clinton and George W. Bush. Angelica recalls when Vice President George H.W. Bush visited. “I remember all the energy and flurry and the Secret Service coming in. I was a little, little girl, but I just remember everybody getting all excited about it. It was so special,” she said. Sometimes celebrities stop by incognito, like Tiger Woods, who



dined in the restaurant six times unnoticed. Pete knows he received the same exceptional service as everyone else. “We’re not here to cater just to the rich, to the tourists, we take a lot of pride in the work that we do here and the processes that we go through to make sure that our food is authentic, fresh and consistent day in and day out,” he said. “We do everything we do de mucho corazón and it’s for everybody.”

A family affair

They know family-owned businesses rarely survive from founder to third generation. “We recognize that Mi Tierra, La Margarita, Pico de Gallo and now Viva Villa have really been a blessing from God,” Pete said. But it’s no secret that working together can be challenging. “It’s tricky,” Angelica admits, “but we respect each other’s opinions and talents.” One year, after the holidays, the restaurant was so busy, staff had no time to take the Christmas lights down. Christmas lights in July were so popular, they decided to leave them up. Over the years, Deborah Cortez, a third generation member, began incorporating them everywhere. “She took it to another level,” said Angelica. Another time, Jorge Cortez, decided to honor his parents with a mural on the wall. “The American Dream” mural started with portraits of family members and evolved into a masterpiece that portrays the Mexican-American story. The famous mural features local and national Latino leaders and celebrities. Pete credits his father Jorge Cortez, whose love for the arts is legendary, as the force behind the mural, aesthetics and cultural implementations throughout the restaurant. “He is sort of like the cultural curator – Chief Cultural Officer of the company, along with [local artist] Jessie Trevino,” he said.

Extended family

The staff at Mi Tierra makes invaluable contributions – and the Cortez family looks for every opportunity to express their deep appreciation. “We really consider them to be family and we talk a lot about this business being family owned and operated, but the operated part really extends to our team members,” Pete said. “It’s sort of like a big family here. We have folks that have been here 45 plus years and still working for us, they’re really part of the legacy and they’re part of the tradition of what our company is today and will be going forward.” Cariño agreed. “Without our 600 plus team members and employees that have been here since my grandfather was here and learned from him, I don’t think Mi Tierra would be quite the same … It’s a unique atmosphere,” she added. Employees here treasure Pedro’s teachings and share his legacy and work ethic to new generations of employees, including the founder’s children and grandchildren. Executive Chef Raul Salazar has worked there 45 years, sometimes side-by-side with Cariño, while sharing the best stories. Or team members like Elida Rodriguez and Manuela S. Ramos, who’ve given customers fabulous service for more than 30 years.

Beyond Mi Tierra

Pedro Cortez touched lives. Through his business or relentless commitment to community service, people remember him as hard working and full of integrity. “His work ethic is something that I’ve always tried to emulate. I

don’t think anybody will ever work as hard as he did, I don’t think that’s possible,” Pete said. Pedro’s unyielding work ethic went beyond the walls of Mi Tierra. When the city wanted to tear down El Mercado in the 1960s, he fought to preserve this important part of San Antonio’s Hispanic culture and succeeded. Since 1951, the restaurant has been open every single day and only closed briefly on two occasions due to deaths in the family. Pete, 19 at the time and Angelica just 7, remember the emotional toll when their grandfather passed away in 1984. Everyone was mourning and wished to pay their respects. So the family decided to close a few hours for the services, only to realize “nobody had a key to the door,” explained Angelica. “We never closed the restaurant before, not even for a minute.” A group of San Antonio Police officers volunteered to stand guard so everyone could go to the funeral. “The community stepped up to help us mourn,” she said. Pedro’s legacy is safe in the hearts of his family, who continue his work with the restaurants and community projects.

75 and many more …

The third generation is already looking ahead to safeguard that legacy. Expect to see a broader use of technology. Already, Mi Tierra’s website will add an interactive mural, “The American Dream” and Cariño and Angelica are working on another project to honor their grandmother. The future is bright for the family, with 75 years of business to back them up. Still, the younger generation feels they still have a lot to learn. “Whether that’s making more restaurants or preserving our recipes through our cookbook, there’s just a lot that we can do,” Cariño said. You can be sure that for the next 75 years, they will share what they learned from Pedro Cortez at Mi Tierra, so eloquently expressed by Cariño: “Every meal we serve is an opportunity to make a memory for someone.” Join La Familia Cortez to kickoff the celebration starting at 11 a.m on Thursday, September 15 at Marketsquare. For more information and updates, visit Book 1 - Summer 2017 61

meet the chef

CHEF JOHNNY HERNANDEZ “Food is my life!”






hef Johnny Hernandez is a culinary visionary – he can’t help it. He loves to create and he dreams about how a restaurant will look. The friendly chef is a grand success today, the epitome of the American Dream, but it didn’t happen overnight. He studied and worked diligently for years to build his enterprise, and part of the winning formula is that he truly loves what he does. Born and raised in San Antonio, the chef credits his father, Johnny Hernandez, Sr. for the passion that drives him. “I love the business. I grew up in it,” he explained. “I was attracted to it at a very young age and I loved working with my hands.” He remembers being about 5 years old and taking naps under the tables in his father’s kitchen at the family restaurant, Johnny’s Cafeteria on the Westside. “Mom ran the front, Dad cooked. People just loved his food … the business came to him,” Chef Johnny recalled. “As a little boy I said I was going to open a catering business.” He would prepare a dish, proudly bring it to a table, and say, “Look what I made!” And no matter what he created, they would smile and enjoy it – or at least act as if they did. “It was a great feeling to make people happy,” he said, smiling. As he grew older, Chef Hernandez would work with his Dad, learning about cooking and catering. When he graduated from John F. Kennedy High School, he followed his father’s wishes and studied at the Culinary Institute of America at Hyde Park. It wasn’t easy to get there either – the young chef-to-be drove all the way from San Antonio to New York, and when he finally got there, it took him two more days just to find the school. “But it was worth it,” he said, smiling. He graduated in 1989, and after successful stints working in resorts in Las Vegas and California he yearned to come home. His first entrepreneurial venture was True Flavors Catering, established in San Antonio in 1994. “When it was time to start the catering business, we found a great place to land,” he said. A friend had a restaurant with an extra kitchen and needed help.

“We were there until 1998, growing and taking on more and more business,” Chef Johnny explained. Today the Chef, 45, says his life is driven by different projects. He purchased Casa Hernan in 2010 as an event space for True Colors, and some weekends there are pop-up brunches there. That was followed by La Gloria at the Pearl, which opened to rave reviews across the country, and then The Fruteria on South Flores. “La Gloria – so much thought, so many struggles –it was a long time coming… y nos costo,” Chef Hernandez said. More opportunities followed, as Chef Hernandez expanded both restaurants to the San Antonio International Airport, and built another Fruteria in Houston. “The future is constantly evolving,” he explained. “When we were catering, I would get to create, but it was just for that event. “El Machito” has a life and personality.” Chef Johnny is about to open “El Machito” at the Quarry. And another La Gloria will open soon on the far

northwest side. “There are things you set out to do, and then opportunities pop up, and everything changes again,” he explained. “What I want to work on now are things that will ensure we are well managed.” His main goal was always to be the expert in Mexican cuisine, which he is. He truly enjoys sharing information about the food, beverages and culture. “We have our own tortilla factory here in San Antonio – all stone ground. That was a step I wanted to take to establish our authority,” he said. Next on the Chef ’s agenda are a couple of books, one about Mexican Hospitality and the other about experiencing food and culture. His advice to aspiring chefs? To make sure they are doing what they love (this career can be very demanding) and to study. What he is most proud of is how he and his family are able to give back, particularly scholarship funding. It’s impossible to list all his accomplishments or convey how highly esteemed he is in our city. But we can report the San Antonio Convention & Visitors Bureau bestowed their highest award on the Chef: El Con Corazon Award 2013. To learn more visit

“Mom ran the front, Dad cooked. People just loved his food … the business came to him. As a little boy I said I was going to open a catering business.” — Chef Johnny Hernandez Book 1 - Summer 2017 63

Meet the chef

Chef Elizabeth Johnson outside her new digs.






One educational highlight was a dish that included lime, pickled hef Elizabeth Johnson never starts her menu with a salad. Through her new company, Pharm Table, the Culinary Insti- ginger & honey, Wagyu beef and celery leche de tigre. The chef extute of America alum shares her research about how different plained the rationale behind serving the food in a particular order and including certain combinations. foods influence the digestive process. For example, she started with ginger, which fuels the digestive sys“I always start my meals with a soup,” Chef Johnson explained. “If we start with a salad, the body has to work harder to break things down tem in our bodies. In the dish, a little bit of salt and coconut alongside the ginger and honey yielded a sweet and salty flavor profile. She due to the raw nature of the ingredients.” A champion of anti-inflammatory foods, the chef ’s motto is to make explained, step by step, the correct order to eat in order to maximize natural foods taste great, prepared so that the nourishing values are still the benefit: dip the ginger in the local Texas honey and chew it twenintact. She also serves local sprouted ingredients because they are regen- ty times. According to Chef Johnson, the mix of salty and sweet with the textural component of the coconut is a common medical tradition erative and encourage easy digestion. from India, where they believe in “The focus is on digestion, starting meals by activating all the it’s not about calories,” she addsenses. After the initial taste, the ed. chef instructed the guests to pierce Chef Johnson conducted a the skewer into the Wagyu beef demonstration for young women and drink the milk. visiting San Antonio from Mexi“The combination of all the co and across the U.S. who came flavors opens the mouth, ‘abre la to participate in the first Women boca,’” the bilingual chef, who lived Ambassadors Forum in 2015. The in both Mexico and Honduras, leadership conference teaches how emphasized. “In this season of heat to plan projects for the betterment and fire, it’s all about cooling the of their communities. Many of body down.” the delegates elected to focus on The whole foods restaurant also female health and Chef Johnson offers workshops on ayurvedic eatprovided them with information ing, ayurvedic diets, clean eating, about food processes and how to detoxing with good food, yoga, live life as naturally as possible. and more. “If you feel like a million bucks For more information, visit on the inside, then you will look like a million bucks on the outChef Elizabeth Johnson discusses the importance of living and eating naturally for ~ Rocio Guenther side,” she told them. optimal health. (Photo by Bria Woods)

“The focus is on digestion, it’s not about calories.” — CHEF ELIZABETH JOHNSON

Book 1 - Summer 2017 65

Restaurant with a view: Chef Auden sits on the balcony at Biga on the Banks in the heart of downtown San Antonio. (Photo by Tricia Buchhorn)



meet the chef



ruce Auden doesn’t take credit for anything. The unassuming owner and chef of Biga on the Banks is quick to give the nod for his restaurant’s success to the input of partners and employees. “If I had known we’d be doing the business we’re doing now, it would have scared me to death,” Chef Auden said. Note the sentence structure: “I” would be afraid … “we” are a success. Biga partners and employees are just as quick to return the admiration for the hard-working chef who helmed the restaurant through two iterations and more than 20 years. And Biga on the Banks has been one of the unquestionable best in the city with national notice from the start. “He’s never been a prima donna,” longtime friend and business partner Perny Shea said. Ms. Shea became a partner in 2000, when Restaurant Biga moved from the cozy old house in Tobin Hill. And while he’s been nominated for the James Beard award multiple times, Chef Auden is not a celebrity-style chef -- he’ll never have a fussy restaurant. Biga doesn’t seem like a kid restaurant, but for all its elegance it also does not radiate fuss. “And he loves it when people bring their kids,” Ms. Shea said. Chef Auden, 59, came to the U.S. from England as a teenager because he was into blues and soul music. He worked as a country club busboy to finance his stay. That parlayed into kitchen work, he said. Well, sort of. Upon further questioning, the chef acknowledged being invited to enter a management-training program at Northmoor Country Club in Highland Park, Illinois. “I came over for a work-vacation in the summer and was asked to come back for the management program, which was in the winter, so

the only job they had for me was as a night watchman. That was when TVs actually shut down at night, so I saw lots of those many-colored stripe screens,” he said. “It wasn’t planned. Nothing in my life is planned.”

Locust Street

The original Biga, started in an old house in 1991, quickly rose to national prominence. Chef Auden had already garnered notice with his work establishing Polo’s at the Fairmount, where he capitalized on the growing interest in Southwestern cuisine and helped create a market for locally sourced ingredients. And people loved Biga, which reliably put forth beautiful food in an elegant old house stocked with used equipment and secondhand tables and chairs. It was comfortable, friendly and delicious. Restaurant Biga and LocuStreet Bakery – launched by his wife and artisan bread baker Debra Auden – developed a faithful clientele at the Tobin Hill location. “We were at Locust Street for nine years,” Chef Auden said. “We lived above the restaurant. We moved the bakery. We kept having kids. Things got harder and harder.” In part because of that growing family – they have four kids, Berean, 21, Andrea 17, Miciah, 15 and Tristan, 12 – it was tough to run a profitable small restaurant. “We didn’t make a penny. We didn’t make any money,” he said. So Auden created a new, sleek, Riverwalk version of Biga with partners Perny Shea, Peter Selig and Don Thomas in 2000. The new kitchen’s limitations sent them in new directions. Because

“It’s a rush when the guests are happy and laughing, they’re not analyzing their food, they’re enjoying it, the kitchen’s working. It’s an orchestra.” Book 1 - Summer 2017 67

Chef Auden prepared “Curry braised Wagyu shortrib with roasted cauliflower, red hot pepper and pea shoots” at the San Antonio James Beard Foundation dinner. (Photo by Kyle Miron)

they wanted to use all those beautiful windows for dining space, the designers set the kitchen toward the center. The long and narrow space wraps around an elevator column, denying the team a traditional layout, but providing them an opportunity to create a separate kitchen setup on each end. That facilitated private dining, now an important part of the business. Modern and sleek, the space retains warmth in its colors and the organic shapes Chef Auden likes, such as the screens of curving dried gourds that separate the dining area from the bar. They lost other favorite details, like a wood-burning oven that couldn’t be used in the new location. “We have a smoker, but it’s just not the same,” he said. Some of the faithful clientele were unhappy with the changes in location, style and menu. “They didn’t want to come downtown, they didn’t like the feel of the new restaurant, or its openness, its noise,” he said. But many stayed, and many more new customers claimed Biga as their 68


own, both from San Antonio and from other cities.

Biga on the Banks, 2014

One early autumn evening when the restaurant was just gearing up, late afternoon sunlight streaked the polished concrete floors. More light reflected off the San Antonio River, shimmering liquid across the ceiling’s barrel vaults. Servers starting their shifts murmured together. From the back of the house, the knock and noise of a kitchen tuning up drifted out on warm, doughy smells from the bakery. That bread would accompany a menu ranging from apple-smoked salmon nachos to brothy lentil and mushroom soup with truffle crema to butter- and sake-poached Texas redfish with ginger scallion puree and coconut ceviche. But what kind of restaurant is it, really? Very New American Cuisine? Contemporary Regional Fine Dining with Asian and Southwestern influences and an emphasis on local? “I still don’t know what we are,” he said. Some favorites stay on the menu a long time, but seasons are an influence. The chefs have a lot of input. And then there’s the voice of the people. Private dining drives the menu to some extent. If special requests work out work well,

Modern and sleek, the space retains warmth in its colors and the organic shapes Chef Auden likes, such as the screens of curving dried gourds that separate the dining area from the bar. (Photo by Tricia Buchhorn)

they might be incorporated into the restaurant menu. “We have package menus, but we will do what they want,” the chef explained. “If they want San Antonio Tex-Mex food because they’re (visiting) here, we’ll do it.” Fran Lebowitz quipped critically about the current cultural obsession with food, “I do not consider eating to be a field of ideology and scholarship, unlike everyone else.” Everyone but Bruce Auden. The chef was an early adopter of buying local when he opened Polo’s at the Fairmount Hotel to rave reviews in 1985. Eating local always made sense to him, from the days his family tended a council plot in North London. But at the mention of his pioneering influence for San Antonio gourmands, foodies and locavores, he sighed. “I don’t understand this ‘foodie’ thing,” he said, shaking his head. “People live and breathe food. Food should be good and interesting, but it’s not everything.” Tall and thin, he said he can “go days without eating” when stressed. But don’t mistake that for indifference. The low-key chef is the restaurant’s executive artist. “The creative is always Bruce,” Ms. Shea said. “However I write a contract for an event, it always turns out better than I could have imagined. If I plan a game dinner it always turns out to have great detail and complexity.” That complexity is evident in items like chicken-fried oysters on squid ink linguini and baby iceberg lettuce salad, where the flavors are rich but balanced, and ingredients are local when possible, but not at the expense of the menu.

For Ms. Shea, who previously managed several restaurants in San Antonio, that took some adjustment. “I was used to events where you put three things on a plate and send it out. With Bruce there’s always at least eight things on a plate.” A loyal staff meets the challenges created by such complexity -- Biga has remarkably low turnover for a restaurant. Many have been there for years, some dating to pre-Riverwalk days. But there’s only so far you can go in someone else’s kitchen, he said, so it’s a given a lot of good chefs will move on. And Chef Auden has mentored some of San Antonio’s best. No wonder the hard-working, eclectic chef is highly esteemed by colleagues and patrons alike. Biga not only raised the bar for fine dining in San Antonio, but also seeded the city with many top chefs, like Mark Bliss, Luis Colon, Zach Lutton, Timothy Rattray and others. Just like Chef Auden doesn’t quite know what sort of restaurant he has, he doesn’t have a formula for keeping good staff either, except that he tries to pay well and elicit input. One longtime employee said his personality creates an atmosphere that is genuinely friendly, which encourages a friendly bond among the staff. Ms. Shea said she trusts the chef implicitly and their different strengths are integrated in a shared vision. For Chef Auden, the best restaurant is where everyone works together well. “You can tell what the front of the house is like from the kitchen, and also if you’re eating you can tell what the kitchen is like,” he explained. And – the reason he stayed in restaurants – it’s fun. “It’s a rush when the guests are happy and laughing, they’re not analyzing their food, they’re enjoying it, the kitchen’s working. It’s an orchestra.” Book 1 - Summer 2017 69



meet the chef



Chef Jason Dady builds his next venture at 520 Grayson – the Schuck Shack. (Photo by Louis Gonzales)

hef Jason Dady didn’t take time out for an interview so much as he worked it in. While he talked, his eyes scanned Tre Trattoria’s wooden outdoor deck, the long tables, the trees, the weather. He paused to ask a server to look in a storeroom for more tiki lamps. “After all this rain there’s going to be more bugs,” he said. The chef was preparing a fundraising dinner for the Dietert Center (DC), a senior and community center in Kerrville. It was the fifth year he’d done the fundraiser with the center, but the first time in San Antonio, and he wanted it to be fun. It would be a lovely night for the guests who came by chartered bus to enjoy Tre Trattoria’s low-key elegance, nestled back from Broadway and flanked by river-bottom trees. “He’s been absolutely great to work with,” DC Executive Director Tina Woods said. “I’ve worked with chefs who were, for lack of a better word, prima donnas. Jason’s all about the food. He’s gotten to know our kitchen staff really well.” He’s gotten to know more than that. The DC fundraisers included one in which Hill Country Youth Ranch teens acted as servers. A couple were interested in culinary careers, Ms. Woods said, so she asked the chef if they could work with him in the kitchen. “He said, ‘Absolutely. Tell them to be here at noon.’ Chef Jason Dady lends his support at the He suited them up and they San Antonio Cocktail Conference. (Photo by worked right next to him. He Sophie Covo) Book 1 - Summer 2017 71

Signature Roasted Golden Beets from Chef Dady’s latest project, Tre Enoteca. (Photo by Lea Thompson)

was really inspiring to them and so encouraging,” Ms. Woods added. It’s not the sort of urban-core-trendy event that a chef of Jason Dady’s stature could easily headline – like Culinaria Festival Week or the San Antonio Cocktail Conference (SACC), where he offered to be one of the prizes in the live chef auction for the second year in a row. This past January, the celebrity chefs were in such high demand, they offered to do two dinners to stop the bidding war. One of the winners, Ms. Elizabeth Morales, was delighted the bidding stopped just before hitting her limit. She won the auction the year before, and was thrilled with the effort and care Chef Dady and the other top chefs put into the private dinner. “We came to win again and teamed up with a group of friends. Our experience last year was phenomenal. The chefs and mixologist worked so hard to create an amazing experience,” Ms. Morales said. “Chef Jason was having fun and the camaraderie and collaboration between the chefs was just remarkable.” The chef garnered a fair share of crowd reaction to the huevos rancheros deviled eggs he produced for SACC this year, where comments ranged from desire to envy punctuated with expletives. Chefs can be like that. He chuckled at the thought. In a showcase like SACC, “a lot of chefs tend to do something for other chefs,” he said. “I wanted to do something people could eat right there that would stay in their minds.” He paused the interview to holler at a waiter, “You cannot have my Goo Goo Cluster.” Back to the huevos rancheros deviled eggs. “My whole cooking philosophy is acid and salt,” Chef Dady said. “The eggs hit every component in the palate, and then you have the little chips for texture.” 72


With that kind of approach to cooking and creating, it’s no surprise Chef Dady, 38, is raising three small children with an outsized appreciation for food. To get the five-year-old out of bed one day he told him to make French toast for the other two. The 8-year-old is a chocoholic. The 10-year-old requested a complete roast pig for her fifth birthday, and now “is very excited that Daddy’s opening up a place where she can get oysters.” That would be the Shuck Shack at 520 E. Grayson St. Chef Dady sees it as a place to get fresh oysters, seafood, beer, wine and a little family time at the Shack’s playground. And he is a family man, after all. The Chef married his college sweetheart, Crystal Zachry Dady, 17 years ago. He explained this was truly a family affair. “My business partners are all family: my wife, my brother (Jake) and my wife’s father,” he said. The Shuck Shack’s opening comes on the heels of Tre Enoteca’s at 555 Bitters, where he serves wood-fired pizzas and fresh semolina pasta made in-house. Stack those ventures on top of The Lodge at Castle Hills, Two Bros. BBQ Market, Tre Trattoria, Tre downtown, B&D Icehouse, Duk Truck, Umai Mi and Bin 555 (the first two concepts at 555 Bitters) and it’s clear this chef is a trendsetter willing to forge new ground. “It takes more guts to do what you believe, even if it means closing a successful restaurant,” he said. “Fourteen years goes by in the blink of an eye.” The chef who started the first small plates restaurant in SA (Bin 555), also buys local and supports local farmers. For special events, he purchases pork from South Texas Heritage Pork and regularly uses other local sources, like JBG Organic and Vital Farms. “Buying from a farmer isn’t supporting local – as a chef you want to

help drive customers to them as well. It keeps us seasonal and connected to our food, and local keeps the money here,” he said. “San Antonio is our home and we love being here.” His all-consuming business deals with new situations arising at every turn on a busy night. There are suppliers and permits and events and staff and payroll and leases and kitchen drains. Keeping all those moving parts in line means thinking through several steps in several directions at once. And Chef Dady can do that. “I’m not very good at enjoying the moment, because I’m always thinking three moments ahead,” he said. He relies on the 5 P’s: proper planning prevents poor performance. Well, six. He added another p-word for emphasis. But proper planning is a lot of work. “Sometimes you wish you only had one restaurant,” he said. Then he’ll see an irresistible opportunity for another. Like a food truck. Or a Shuck Shack. It gives him more flexibility with staff as well – if someone wants more shifts, he doesn’t have to lose them to another restaurateur. “We built a company with a great and loyal staff. If you can’t build a loyal team, it’s a reflection on you, not them,” he said. In the kitchen at Tre Trattoria, he pointed out which chefs had been there the longest and who was newly learning to balance family and work. He’s intimately aware of his restaurants’ inner life while changing the outward shape of his business, moving from north of Loop 410 with The Lodge toward more urban core dining. The Texas Tech grad has experienced the restaurant industry on every level. Still, he strives to keep it all in perspective.

Chef Jason Dady with author Terry Thompson-Anderson and photographer Sandy Wilson at the Pearl. (Photo by F. Covo)

“I used to be the young punk. Now I’m the old guy,” Chef Dady said. “With five plus a food truck, there’s no such thing as balance – but having a great marriage, working together to be good parents, that’s what’s important. We work hard and we play hard. At the end of the day, I’m most proud of building a family.”

Book 1 - Summer 2017 73

Chef Ibarra with his chicken, Thelma.



meet the chef




few weeks ago on June 9, Chef Gabriel Ibarra was enjoying his vacation and jogging near his house when his cell phone rang – and he decided to answer. “I saw it was work and I was on vacation. And the rule is: don’t call me unless the restaurant’s on fire,” he explained. “So I answered the phone, and my sous chef was on the other end saying ‘the restaurant’s on fire!” Chef Ibarra, executive chef at Cappy’s, did not believe him. “I thought he was kidding – then I saw the billowing smoke. My first reaction? Sad and helpless,” he said. But that didn’t last long. This chef has the word “PERSEVERE” tattooed across his chest. “I’m a worker, it’s just what I like to do – I’ll work the line, side by side with my cooks. So now this is happening, and we’re all here,” he explained. “We’re like family here.” Facebook posts during the last few weeks showed dramatic progress at the iconic restaurant … and pictures of the chef attacking the cement with a jackhammer (“really hard work, the next day every muscle in my body was aching”). “We are all doing everything we can to open as fast as possible. When we started, there were just 3 or 4 guys bringing cement in with wheelbarrows, so we pitched in. Everything hurt. Then this gentleman, about 70 years old and working harder than anyone else, asked who I was. I answered, ‘Soy el cocinero” (I am the cook). I was so inspired by this man – all my aches and pains faded away into nothing as I watched him work without a complaint,” the chef shared. Chef Ibarra has been working at Cappy’s for more than 10 years, but the Johnson & Wales-Miami alum remembers well how it all started. “I had a single mom and I started cooking. We would always eat casseroles – they were gross,” he said. Then he discovered Julia Childs (“Best after school show ever!”) and even though he loved to cook, things didn’t always work out. “I was very young when I started cooking a lot. By the time I was 11 or 12, I burned down our kitchen – and I learned that day that water and hot oil don’t mix,” Chef Ibarra said. Chef Ibarra is friendly, relaxed and grounded. He loves vinyl records

and shops very effectively at local thrift stores. It’s also true that he is a “worker.” In his own kitchen, there is a beautiful floor to ceiling wall where he and his partner Lori keep all the fruits and vegetables they preserve by canning. He keeps chickens in his backyard along with his buddy, a sweet white dog named Falcor. There’s also a pet rabbit and a couple of ducks, and everyone gets along. The chef also grows all kinds of veggies in his yard, and is slowly sowing a small orchard of all different fruit trees. We even found a tall, healthy, producing banana plant. Of course, everything is organic. Besides the strong work ethic, most charming is Chef Ibarra’s sense of wonder, which is still intact … and his sincere appreciation for all things local. Cappy’s and Cappyccino’s are pretty high volume, with about 500 to 600 covers a day at both restaurants – the kind of volume that makes it difficult to source locally. What’s more, Chef Ibarra explained that Saturday and Sundays are his busiest days at Cappy’s, so he can’t often make it to the Farmers Market. But with the support of the Lawton family, he is committed to getting as much as he can locally. “So Fernando from 9-1 Farms delivers fresh produce three times a week, we work with South Texas Heritage Pork and the steaks come from Allen Bros,” he explained. Chef Ibarra is also a hunter, but he conscientiously honors every part of the animal, “hoof to mouth.” And his favorite thing to cook and eat? “Some might say it’s crazy, but what I love to make and eat is sushi,” he said. “And cooking outdoors on a wood fire.” Growing up on the Southside here in San Antonio and later in the tougher neighborhoods of Miami where his family moved when he was 7 years old, Chef Ibarra is proud of his success so far. He remembers when he first applied to work at Cappy’s Restaurant. “It was a three-day interview with the entire family. It was intimidating at the time, but now I understand,” he said. “And you know what I’m most proud of? What I’ve accomplished while I’m at Cappy’s.” Cappy Lawton agrees. “For the 41 years I’ve been in the restaurant business, Gabriel is one of the greatest chefs I’ve worked with, and I believe it’s been about 11 years.”

Book 1 - Summer 2017 75



meet the chef



he beautiful restaurant at the heart of The Pearl was not designed stepping into a room as if stepping onto a stage, new arrivals enter into a for the exquisite 111-year-old building that holds it. Instead it somewhat enclosed space, protecting them from the eyes of already-setwas conceived as a menu by two people, nurtured into a concept tled patrons until they’ve gotten their bearings and know where they are by a team, then formed within the brick walls as they themselves were going to go. When greeted by a host, there are no physical barriers to divide the two. restored. “I don’t have a podium in my house,” Chef McHugh said. “It was really organic,” Chef Steve McHugh said. “I never imagined The only barrier is the massive meat case that stands directly this as a final outcome.” across from the front door, filled with hanging cured legs of ham and A quick description of Cured is that it’s a chic-but-welcoming place to links of sausages, cold and clear with glass on the front and glass on the eat carved out of a former administration building, serving hand-crafted rear, behind which stands the bar. The nine-foot-high and 11-foot-wide and hand-cured foods that come from local farms and making a practice case was suggested by Jett Butler of branding company FÖDA and exeof using the whole animal. cuted by architect Jonathan Card of Urbanist Design. But with all of its formative processes and thoughtfully interactive “But no matter what we designed, no matter how cool, it always elements of people and place, Cured may more aptly be described as an looked like a deli case,” Mr. Card said. “It was Jett who said we should organism than a business. go big or go home.” First, as with anything, came conception. That led to the monumental meat case concept, which Mr. Card’s “The food drives everything else,” he said. “My wife Sylvia and I startgroup designed and fabricated. The team is ed to write a menu of fun stuff and things also working on a meat case design to be inthat I was passionate about.” corporated into the bar. His passion had been put to practice “It’s the result of a collaboration, instead for years opening restaurants for Chef of everybody working alone in their silos,” John Besh in New Orleans, then moving Mr. Card added. to San Antonio to start Lüke for him in 2010. He and Sylvia met in New OrleWHAT’S IN A NAME? ans at Storyville District, began dating 15 Another important collaborative piece years ago and married nine years ago. was the branding, which FÖDA led, but “We pretty much came up togetheveryone fueled.  er and have a great mutual respect,” Mrs. “How easy is it to find on the Internet? McHugh said. “We were always dreaming Not only locally, but regionally, and nation-- what if we had a restaurant? What kind ally,” Mr. Card said. of restaurant would it be? It was always a His idea was a play on words: company. fantasy of what we grew up on ... and how It’s the company you keep, it’s the compawe want to feel when we enter a restauny coming for dinner, it’s the company that rant.” operated out of the former administration That feeling, for the McHughs, is of building.  being home. And when you come home, “Jett was concerned that it wouldn’t cut she explained, the first question you are through the crowd in internet searches,” Mr. asked when you walk in the door is “Did Card said.  you eat?” And Mr. Butler’s suggestion turned out That welcoming attitude is reflected to be another play on words that, while emin many details at Cured, but one Steve pirically impressive, was even more personMcHugh notes is designed to happen the Steve and Sylvia McHugh worked as a team from the beginning. al. moment you walk in the door. Instead of Book 1 - Summer 2017 77

Chef McHugh’s signature charcuterie case stands directly across from the front door, filled with hanging cured legs of ham and links of sausages. (Photo by Scott Martin)

At the time they were about to move to San Antonio from New Orleans, Chef McHugh was diagnosed with lymphoma. The McHughs decided to make the move anyway. “We knew he’d get good care here,” Ms. McHugh said. “And we knew we could feel sorry for ourselves about it or we could move forward and beat it. He’s a strong guy and I think I’m just stubborn.” Chef McHugh was able to beat the disease and the experience further clarified his vision. “We kind of got our life back,” he said. “We got lucky. We said ‘let’s do something for ourselves.’” And for others. The chef ’s gratitude for the science that saved his life spurred a charitable gift program at the restaurant. That means that medical research receives a fair amount of the roughly $4,500 charcuterie plate dollars reserved for charity each quarter. But Chef McHugh chooses a new recipient each quarter. “We didn’t just want to focus on cancer, or blood cancers,” he said. A recent recipient, for example, is The St. Bernard Project, founded in New Orleans to help people rebuild after Hurricane Katrina and expanding to serve communities hit by natural disasters in places like Joplin, Missouri and Staten Island, New York.  The cured chef making the cured foods and serving people in a wel78


coming atmosphere to make them feel cured, giving a dollar from each charcuterie plate to charity to help with research and relief so others could be cured, seemed to everyone, once the idea was uttered, so obvious that each wondered why he or she had not thought of it. And while they’re quick to credit Mr. Butler with the name, there are plenty of cases in which the individual team members couldn’t tell you who first thought of what.  “There are so many pieces that I honestly cannot tell you whose idea it was,” Mr. Card said. “All those pieces add up to something cohesive.”


Cured is the pearl, as it were, of The Pearl, the resoundingly successful mixed-use redevelopment of the former brewery, anchored by the Culinary Institute of America’s San Antonio campus and home to some of the city’s most cutting-edge cuisine. The McHughs’ comfort-inspired dream menu has a foundation of hand-cured regional foods, be they hams or blueberries. The charcuterie menu offers an array of shareables, including whipped pork butter and duck and date sausage, and the menu changes according to what’s locally available. “I grew up on a farm and I wanted to be a friend of the farmer,” Chef McHugh said. “So how do you do that? You buy the whole animal. A farmer’s not running a pork-belly farm. Head, hocks, liver, heart – it

“If only we could do it that way more often,” Mr. Card said, “To have all the team members come in at once, even the contractor. It was a rare opportunity.” It was Mr. Goldsbury who insisted that the original foundation not be obscured, Chef McHugh said, so the expansion both connects to the original building and is distinct from it, while glass panels in the floor keep the foundation exposed. And despite the transformation of the space around them into a busy hive of multi-story retail and apartment buildings, a serene square of green grass reserves the space in front of the building as a place one SERENDIPITY can pause and take a breath. Not long after their arrival in San “With the detailing that it alAntonio, when much of The Pearl ready had, we could have overdewas still under construction, Steve signed it,” Chef McHugh explained. and Sylvia passed the boarded-up, Instead of adding many details, fenced-off administration buildthey tried to pay close attention to ing, and Steve recalls Sylvia saying, each one. The kitchen, built into “What a beautiful building. That the tightly dictated expansion, was would make a great restaurant.” designed with the menu in mind: Sylvia remembers it, too. “How do we build the beets, where “We were in town on a site visdo we store them when they’re raw, it for Lüke. We went to the Liberty where to put in the dehydrator?”  Bar to eat and then we took a little The feel and use of the dining walk around,” she said. “We saw this Chef Mc Hugh prepares his famous Pork Gumbo. space was carefully considered, from small little building, all boarded up. the USB ports available at the tables It was just a shell. I said, ‘Couldn’t -- a modern nod to the custom of you imagine something nice there, people bringing their newspapers to and wouldn’t it be nice if it was read in the old brasseries -- to what ours?’” diners see when they look up from So when Chef McHugh went their phones, their food, their comto look at what Mr. Goldsbury had panions. recommended, they handed him a “I’ve sat in every single chair in hard hat.  this restaurant,” to make sure all had “The entire area was under coninteresting views, whether out to the struction. It was all trucks and tracroom or out one of the tall windows tors and noise and dust,” he said. He to the vibrant scenes around them. walked into the shell and gazed at “The vault, the bar, the case -- are all the exposed brick with layers of tar, Chef McHugh’s Pork Gumbo is the perfect holiday treat. great focal points.” the old company safe with layers of The collaboration continues with both McHughs partnering with paint, the tall windows and the battered floors. “I was just enamored,” McHugh said. “I worked in old buildings in Steve’s brother, the company accountant. Chef McHugh oversees the menu and Ms. McHugh manages operations. New Orleans. There’s a soul to a building that’s an amazing feeling.” “I’m basically the mother of the building,” Ms. McHugh said. “I do He took photos, which he still keeps on his phone, and he showed the hiring and firing, I’m the assistant to the accountant and to Steve and them to his wife.  to every single person here.” “She said, ‘Oh my God!’ I said, ‘I know, right?’” And that sense of collaboration extends to staff, Chef McHugh explained. PUTTING IT ALL “I spend more time here than I do at my house,” he said. “I want to TOGETHER hire people I want to be around.” The administration building, Chef McHugh said, is special to Kit While Cured qualifies as high-end dining, the chef wants guests to Goldsbury, so he kept a close hand in its redevelopment into Cured. want to come back around any old time. “He wanted to see everything. Plans, chairs, bar, everything,” the chef “I tell people I don’t care if you’re in a swimsuit or a three-piece suit,” said. he said. “Repeat business is the most important business.” The McHughs, Mr. Goldsbury, Mr. Card, Mr. Butler and others colLearn more at laborated throughout the creation.  all costs money. So it became a question of ‘How do we sell what we’re buying?’ We let the cooler dictate what goes on the menu.” When he was negotiating for a location at The Pearl, he prepared a meal from his dream menu for Pearl owner/developer Kit Goldsbury. “I wasn’t going to go in there empty-handed,” he said, “and they weren’t just going to hand me a restaurant.” Mr. Goldsbury ate his food. Then he told the chef his concept seemed like a good fit for the administration building. 

Book 1 - Summer 2017 79

meet the chefs






ood is the physical manifestation of love. It nourishes our bodies as love nourishes our souls. It takes multiple symbolic forms and is integral in important life rituals. Lovers feed one another chocolate-dipped strawberries. Mothers nurse their children. Family and friends bring comfort food when someone is ill or has died. Weddings have their toasts and feasts. Anne Ng and Jeremy Mandrell have Bakery Lorraine. The chefs began the bakery as a weekly farmers market booth, opened a brick and mortar on Grayson Street in 2011 and later opened the flagship pastry shop at The Pearl. It is a Place with a capital P, a local favorite high on Travel and Leisure’s list of the country’s best bakeries. And yet when Ms. Ng and Mr. Mandrell first moved to San Antonio it was for the purpose, theoretically, of getting out of the restaurant business for good. Both came to the food industry in a roundabout way. Anne, whose degree is in biochemistry, did a lot of work in food manufacturing, and then studied at the International School for Culinary and Hotel Management in Manila. “Really it was just for fun,” she said. Jeremy, a medic in the U.S. Navy, grew up on a farm in Iowa where his grandmother baked and pickled and filled the house with delicious aromas. After the Navy, he studied at the International Culinary School at The Art Institute of California in San Diego. Not much later, the two pastry chefs met while working the overnight shift at Bouchon in the Napa Valley. He was impressed by the young woman who chose a place, stepped off a bus, found lodgings and settled in. She, however, was interested primarily in the work – at first. Actually, Anne fell in love with Jeremy the same way she came around to baking – a little at a time, but completely. “I was focused,” she said. “I wanted it all,” he said. “The work and the cute girl.” His persistence paid off. After working together for a time in the grueling restaurant business in California, the two decided to move to San Antonio for work at Rackspace. “We were growing up and getting real jobs,” Ms. Ng said. Mr. Mandrell moved here first, and Ms. Ng followed, doing some restaurant work as well before starting at Rackspace also. They mostly baked at home. They brought stuff in to share at Rackspace. It wasn’t enough. Thus they started a new venture, Bakery Lorraine, opening on Sundays at the Quarry Farmers and Ranchers Market. And life became grueling again – full-time jobs all week and long weekends of nonstop baking, setup, selling and breakdown, with very little sleep. “We’d be up for 48 hours straight on market weekends, but we still had our regular jobs,” Anne said. “On top of that, we made desserts for Bliss.” “Eventually, I was like, ‘Mark, you have to get a pastry chef,’” Mr. Mandrell said. They were exhausted, and they were compelled. They decided to set up shop. “I think it’s a testament to how cooks need to cook and need to feed people,” he added. That need, plus love, equals passion. And they love to create together. Along with the scientific discipline of baking, the classic precision of a croissant, and the delicately flavored signature macarons that are known and desired by many, they co-create new dishes and delight in

the pleasures they give customers. One of their favorites is the grapefruit tiramisu. “A friend gave us some beautiful grapefruit from her family’s orchard in the Valley,” Mr. Mandrell said. “We felt like it was our job not to mess up this beautiful fruit.” They paired the grapefruit with vanilla mascarpone and grapefruit-syrup-soaked ladyfingers, topping it with grapefruit supremes: “a very simple and refreshing dessert that is true to the grapefruit.” Being your own boss means you get to make what you want. But it also means taking responsibility for every critique. As owners, one of the things they’ve had to learn to digest is the critical online review. It grates on Mr. Mandrell that they don’t get an opportunity to address a problem before it is laid bare – with varying degrees of accuracy – to the world. “I wish people would just reach out, shoot me an email,” he said. But he also sees it from both sides now. And there’s a story behind that. “Back when we were in the Bay Area I had saved up enough money to take Anne to Manresa,” Mr. Mandrell said. Manresa is an expensive restaurant that has earned three Michelin stars for its meticulous attention to flavor. Considering the price and the expectations, they weren’t completely happy with the experience. They gave what they considered a fair review. That led, in their world, to certain inter-chef diplomatic issues, and required some repairs on their part – another important life lesson, they said. But it also led to another dinner at Manresa. Mr. Mandrell, by this time, had moved to San Antonio, so Ms. Ng took his mother, Christe Mandrell. The exquisite meal was a gorgeous experience for the two women. It was also a revelation to the mother of the chef. “I would have to say that was a turning point for me,” Mrs. Mandrell said. She appreciated fine dining, but up to that point, “I just thought it was ridiculous that anyone would pay that much for a meal.” She found the food, the ambiance, the service – every last detail of the experience at Manresa – was a thing of beauty. “The service was a dance. They set the plates in front of Anne and me simultaneously. It was beautiful,” she explained. “I don’t really have the words for it.” His mother said of the dinner with her son’s girlfriend: “That was a real bond, and it still is. We’ll talk about a certain dish that we had, and our eyes would meet. Someone you know well, you don’t have to say anything. We just look at each other and we remember that moment.” “I think food does that for everyone. Food shows that we love each other,” she added. Mrs. Mandrell and Ms. Ng were already friends before the dinner at Manresa. But now she understands something else, something elemental about the young couple. Mr. Mandrell’s and Ms. Ng’s passion to create delicious food is their bond, a passion they share – they must share – with others. “Before that, she didn’t really get what we do,” Mr. Mandrell said. That love is woven throughout everything that they do, his mother said. “I’ve watched them over the years. They play off of each other really well. I think it adds to their personal life … balancing the flavors of everyday life, the things that have to get done.” That love shines through in their work and is reflected in their humility and gratitude. “We are so lucky, we get to do what we love. And it never would have happened without the great love and support we found in San Antonio,” Anne added. Book 1 - Summer 2017 81



meet the Chef



e met Chef Michael Sohocki at Restaurant Gwendolyn almost three years ago, a week or two after the first issue of Edible San Antonio was published. It was not a chance meeting. He made a formal appointment, and of course, we obliged. The meeting was at Restaurant Gwendolyn. We did not eat there that day. But after the first few minutes, it was abundantly clear that this chef shared our passion for Edible San Antonio’s mission to buy local, eat local, support our local farmers and live sustainably. Chef Sohocki’s first Op-Edible was printed in the second issue, called simply, “Dirt.” I thought I’d quote a line or two, but to fully appreciate its value, you need to read every line. For his second piece, “Blind,” I remember running around a big-box store trying to get a shot of him staring at floor-to-ceiling shelves packed with goods that probably aren’t so good for you, just to properly illustrate his message. He now has a popular column in the magazine we call the Last Bite, where he shares his observations, knowledge and yes, sometimes his angst. Chef Sohocki has accolades galore, is very well educated and extremely well read. He’s a brilliant writer, wonderful cook, chef, teacher and father, too. But the most striking thing about Michael Sohocki is his sincere commitment and thoughtfulness to do things a certain way because it makes sense and because it’s the right thing to do. This is not just my opinion. Chad Carey, a respected restaurateur in San Antonio, agrees. “There’s never been a chef in SA who’s as uncompromising in his methods as Michael. Whether it’s his sourcing of ingredients, or the limitations he imposes on himself on how he cooks, he’s doing things no other chef would ever consider,” he said. “He’s a maniac, but his mania is great for our culinary scene, because he’s a wholly original guy making singular food with conviction and a point of view. Few people have the courage and nerve and work ethic to do that.” Chef Sohocki’s first job as a chef was at The Cove. This is important because Lisa Asvestas, now owner of 5 Points Local and The Cove, was probably the first in town to fully adopt an organic and sustainable approach in her restaurant. She takes full credit for being the one who opened his eyes to the benefits of practicing organic. She remembered he was nervous at the job interview when he first came in. “I was nervous, too,” she said. “I was a cook, he was a trained chef. So I taught him about business and he taught me about the kitchen. And he taught me a lot.” The seed was planted in a fertile mind. After The Cove, Chef Sohocki worked for Chef Andrew Weissman at Le Rêve, Il Sogno Osteria and the Sandbar Oyster Bar. And about 6 years ago, the young chef opened Restaurant Gwendolyn.

Chef Sohocki's Tools of the Trade From the lower left: Hand crank grain mill to grind corn, wheat and barley, the bone saws, hand crank oil extractor. The tool with the white enamel is Aunt Velma, an old fashioned slicer-grinder-grater (it actually belonged to Aunt Velma, Gwendolyn’s sister), and another hand crank grain mill. Moving up toward his head, there is a 100-year-old cast iron sausage stuffer for use with the meat grinder on the other side. The disks are for use in the grinder. The rusty coffee can is a firebox for a cold smoker. Notice the two mortar and pestles, the smaller one made of soapstone. The other is a cast-iron workhorse, Gwendolyn’s hand-powered food processor, also at least 100 years old. The knives, from the top: the meat cleaver, the 10-inch chef knife -- his beater, then his pride and joy: a repurposed Glestain blade with a deer antler handle and redwood scabbard he made himself, and below that, a serrated bread knife. Beneath the knives is a handle for the torchio per pasta (his pasta maker) and the roll-y thing with the spikes? That’s called a docker, used to make even punch holes in dough.

Gwendolyn is named after his grandmother, who was a pig farmer in Oklahoma and very central to the unique concept the chef employs there. And why he asked to be photographed with his tools. At Gwendolyn, everything truly is done the old-fashioned way, as in before the industrial revolution. Chef Sohocki aspires to do everything as it was done in the 1850s in his kitchen at Gwendolyn. Every ingredient is local and of course, perishable, the ever-changing menu sings to the seasons and reflects the day’s bounty. Animals are ordered whole and completely used. And except for the cold room, which he built himself, no electricity is used in Gwendolyn’s kitchen. Patrons of Restaurant Gwendolyn are impressed with the food, which is amazing, partly because Chef Sohocki must be very thoughtful and inventive thanks to the rigorous standards he imposes on himself, and partly because well-executed slow food just tastes better. The tools surrounding the chef are essential to his operation. We at least name some of them in the caption, but for a real explanation, you’ll have to ask him. This is just a brief introduction to the world of Chef Michael Sohocki — stay tuned for more in a future issue. In the meantime, the story of his latest venture, Il Forno, is nicely told in the sidebar. And Kimura, just around the corner from Gwendolyn, reflects much of what he learned during his years in Japan. To learn more about Gwendolyn, which has an à la carte and prix fixe menu, as well as special pricing for early diners, visit Book 1 - Summer 2017 83

meet the restaurateurs

Ancient bridge in Sichuan, China




t took just over a year for Sichuan House, run by Ye Zhao and his daughter Kristina Zhao, to become a word-of-mouth favorite for authentic Chinese food in San Antonio. Tucked away in an unassuming shopping center space, the little restaurant offers an extensive menu of dishes from the Sichuan region in southwestern China. There’s not enough space here to detail the rich culinary history of Sichuan gastronomy and its early reputation for producing hot and fragrant dishes. No time for more than a mention of the 16th century introduction of chiles from the Americas that the cuisine embraced and made its own. But every innovation in layering flavor, every mastering of the skill of hand-forming dozens of graceful savory dumplings, every alliance and twist of history led to a young Sichuanese couple, both scientists, who emigrated to San Antonio in 1990 with their baby daughter. Xiaoying Chang, a neurologist, and Ye Zhao, a chemist, became part of San Antonio’s tiny Chinese community. Dr. Chang began forging her career in the new country, while in a way, Mr. Zhao stayed connected with the old one – and brought it over with him. He began doing import work and in 1997 opened his first store, which became the larger Asia Market in 2002. He did other work as well, like building bigger, better range hoods capable of handling the smoke and steam of Sichuanese cooking. He may have been trained as a chemist, but he loves to cook. Kristina Zhao, now 27, has grown up an American at school, Chinese at home. She has fond memories of the family “potlucks” where her father was never satisfied to provide just one dish, invariably producing a feast. 84


Mr. Zhao and Krisitina talk about the produce at his Asia Market, just up the road from Sichuan House. (Photo by A. Covo)

It was hereditary, Mr. Zhao said. He and his siblings inherited that love from their own father, who taught math, English and physical education – then went home and hosted fabulous dinner parties. “My daddy was a great cook,” Mr. Zhao said. “He would make great meals and parties for many guests.” In turn, Mr. Zhao passed that passion to his daughter, who speaks of Sichuanese food with affection and precision. “For every dish, there is a unique flavor and texture profile,” Ms. Zhao said. “If you put the sugar in first, or if you put the vinegar in first, you would have a different reaction.” The specificity has a ceremonial nature to it, whether it be order of cooking or order of serving. In formal Sichuanese dining, she said, the cold dishes are brought out first to open the appetite, rice comes toward the end of the meal to symbolize the closing of the appetite, while light, clear soups finish it off as a palate cleanser. Sichuan gastronomy is also formally sanctioned as one of the eight great styles of cooking in China. Ms. Zhao explained that Sichuan cooking “is really about the combination of spices and ingredients and use of different cooking methods to achieve dishes with complex flavors and depth.” Which means that while always flavorful, many of the dishes are not spicy or fiery hot. “If money were no object,” she said, she would love to open another restaurant, this time with a formal banquet approach. It took Mr. Zhao a long time to get around to the first one. While enjoying Mr. Zhao’s food, guests would often urge him to open a restaurant, Ms. Zhao recalled. But he was busy building the Asia Market into an integral and competitive part of the local Chinese community. Now in its third location not far from Sichuan House, Asia Market is almost 8,000 square feet. When he moved it to that location in 2014, Mr. Zhao finally stopped making his weekly trips to Houston, leaving around 4:30 a.m., to source inventory and haul it back himself. During that time, Kristina and her younger brother grew up and went off to college. Ms. Zhao graduated from the University of Texas-Austin and moved to Dallas, working in marketing. Then the stars realigned, as they do. Ms. Zhao’s mother got her dream job offer to work in New York at the same time her father finally found the right spot to open his restaurant, in a modest Wurzbach shopping center on the city’s Northwest Side. It was time for Ms. Zhao to go home. With her brother still in school, she helped Dr. Chang make the move to New York and then settled in to run the restaurant with her father, who spends much of his time at the market.

Sichuan House clay pot dish, a traditional cooking method in Sichuan.

It wasn’t an easy transition. They had to move beyond the parent-child relationship they’d had before she lived on her own – “Where are you going, why did you stay out so late, that kind of thing.” It was more than curfews, though. It was building trust in running the family business. Neither of them had run a restaurant before. Ms. Zhao was deeply conscious of the name her father had already built in the Chinese community – if this restaurant was tied to Asia Market, it had better be top notch or the brand would suffer, she said. Mr. Zhao made it clear that he reserves the right to hire the chefs. And at first, she had some trouble getting her ideas accepted. “As the restaurant has taken off and we see returning guests, he started to relax,” Ms. Zhao said. Father and daughter emphasis on authenticity is formed both out of love and respect for the food, and an eye toward educating the public. “We are surrounded by five or six Chinese buffets and countless Chinese takeout places,” Ms. Zhao said. “We have to have something that distinguishes us.” Their chef is distinguished. Mr. Zhao hired Jian Li, who is from Sichuan and formally trained at Sichuan Higher Institute of Cuisine. The men had been “in talks” for several years before the deal was struck, Ms. Zhao explained. But along with the thoroughly authentic Sichuanese dishes, the menu has a section labeled “Americanized Chinese Classics” like sesame chicken and even chicken nuggets “for the little ones.” It’s a small section, something set aside for people who might be uncomfortable with tea-smoked duck or twice-cooked pork belly. Making people comfortable is a big part of Ms. Zhao’s job. Guests are welcome to bring their own wine. As for the menu, she encourages the staff to explain dishes, coaches them on the finer points of server etiquette and spends a lot of time encouraging newbies to dig in to unaccustomed dishes during family-style dining before service. Ms. Zhao explained that in Sichuan, there is a saying that means all the good food is in China, all the good flavor is in Sichuan. “So to simplify that, our motto or our mantra, if you will, is ‘Eat Chinese. Savor Sichuan,’” she said. “We’ve got a lot of culture going on. We’ve got to show it off instead of dousing it in sesame sauce.” Sichuan House is located at 3505 Wurzbach Rd. SATX 78238. To learn more, visit their Facebook page at Book 1 - Summer 2017 85

A session from the 2015 Latin Cuisine Summit at The Culinary Institute of America, San Antonio takes place at outdoor kitchen at the Pearl. The 2017 Summit, ¡Arriba el Caribe! – a two-day conference to provide educational programming for industry professional takes place Oct. 19 and Oct. 20. The Summit will focus on the culinary heritage and contributions of the Caribbean comprising Cuba, the Dominican Republic, and Puerto Rico. (Photo by Darren Abate/CIA)


CELEBRATING Book 1 ~ Summer 2017

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San Antonio Celebrates Culinary Arts  

Embark on a unique culinary journey through San Antonio, Texas.

San Antonio Celebrates Culinary Arts  

Embark on a unique culinary journey through San Antonio, Texas.