Austin Food & Wine: Jodi Elliott

Austin Food and Wine: pastry chef Jodi Elliott

By the end of this weekend I’ll be craving a big kale salad, but for now – the Austin Food & Wine Festival continues. Here’s a little interview I did with pastry chef Jodi Elliott. Last year, she was named Food & Wine’s People’s Best New Pastry Chef. This year, she’s opening a bakery & dessert bar called Bribery – I can hardly wait! 

Can you tell us a little bit about yourself?

Let’s see – I was born and raised in San Antonio, Texas. I went to the CIA in Hyde Park, NY when I was 19 yrs. old! (15 years ago!) I’ve loved anything and everything sweet from a very young age! I was a picky eater but always adored dessert – I wanted to be a pastry chef before I knew what that was.

I’ve worked in super fancy restaurants and hotels in New York City, London and Portland, Oregon but my favorite dessert is still a brownie sundae! I think dessert brings out the kid in everyone. I feel extremely lucky to bake cookies for a living!

Who inspired you to become a pastry chef and what inspires you now?

My Grandmother. She was a fabulous cook and baker. She taught me everything she knew! I was lucky to find my passion at a very young age.

I’m inspired by so many people and things. I especially love old cookbooks – the spiral bound kind from small Texas towns’ church groups or junior leagues. The recipes are amazing! So creative and fascinating – I love to take old desserts and make them new! I still use many of my Grandmothers recipes today!

Hop over to the Austin Food & Wine Blog for the rest of the interview!

(photos by the talented Aimee Wenske)


Austin Food & Wine: Sandi Reinlie

Austin Food and Wine: Sandi Reinlie pastry chef at Vespaio

The Austin Food & Wine Festival kicks off today. Earlier this week, I had the pleasure of interviewing a few super talented pastry chefs. (I know, I have a tough job). First up: Sandi Reinlie. She is the pastry chef at Vespaio on South Congress, which happens to be one of our favorite Austin restaurants. I just loved the chance to hear about what inspires her!

What (or who) inspired you to become a pastry chef?

It came from two places. My family, especially my grandma Beverly. She loved to bake, which inevitably was passed on to mom and on to me. I have fond memories as a child making blueberry muffins with my mom, and also watching my grandma make strawberry jam using strawberries we picked from their farm. My dad opened and managed several restaurants, and I started working in them at the age of 12 years old. I loved it!

I worked in the music business for 10+ years and became burnt out living on a tour bus. I was at a loss as to what to do. My dear friend Yvette and her daughter, Sophia, had just moved to Austin. I offered to host Sophia’s birthday party at my house and make a cake. She was obsessed with monkeys, so I made her a monkey cake. That was it! I realized I needed to go back to my roots.

Hop over to the Austin Food & Wine Blog for the rest of the interview!

(photos by: Claire McCormack Photography)


spicy kohlrabi noodles

spicy kohlrabi noodles / spicy kohlrabi noodles /

Oh, kohlrabi… I first learned of this alien vegetable years ago when I received my very first CSA box. At the time, I wasn’t adventurous with vegetables so I had no clue what it was and no clue what to do with it. Kohlrabi has seemed to gain some popularity since then – I often see it on restaurant menus – but back then it was barely google-able.

spicy kohlrabi noodles / spicy kohlrabi noodles /

Fast forward to now – it’s one of my favorites. People say it’s similar to broccoli stems, but I think it’s closer to daikon or even jicama. Slice it up into sticks, marinate it a bit, and it makes a great crunchy slaw. I’ve put this exact slaw on tacos, but today I’ve mixed the white kohlrabi sticks with rice noodles.

Slice your kohlrabi so that it’s a similar shape to the rice sticks. You’ll feel like you’re eating a huge bowl of noodles, when, in fact, half of your bowl is all veggie. If you can’t find kohlrabi, you could do a similar thing with cucumbers.

dukkah spiced yogurt dip

dukkah spiced yogurt dip /

I recently contributed this dukkah recipe to Food 52’s Small Batch series. When they first suggested it, I had to look up how to (authentically) make it. It turns out — there’s no one way. The word dukkah literally means “to pound” and it generally consists of hazelnuts, sesame seeds and a few whole dried spices. To me, this was the perfect opportunity to use up the nuts and spices I had just cleaned out of my pantry shelves. (Specifically, the ones that didn’t fit when I transferred them from little bags to little jars).

dukkah spiced yogurt dip /

Along with the hazelnuts I had been hoarding, I toasted and crushed: pistachios, sesame seeds, coriander, dried orange peel and dried cilantro, and dried peppercorns. (Feel free to change up this combination using ingredients you happen to have).

dukkah spiced yogurt dip / dukkah spiced yogurt dip /

It’s a great little spice mix to keep on hand (it’ll keep for awhile!). I sprinkled it over greek yogurt and served it with pita chips. It’s a super delicious snack, not to mention a great make-ahead throw-together appetizer.

romanesco & chickpea salad

romanesco and chickpea salad / romanesco and chickpea salad /

Two things happened on Monday: It was Jack’s birthday and also we won the Saveur Reader’s Choice Best Cooking Blog award! Thank you, thank you, thank you, to all of you who voted for us! As someone who’s not used to winning things, I really didn’t see this coming. I’m shocked and just so flattered.

I realize — I probably should be posting cocktails and cake, but it’s been a heck of a busy week, so today I bring you: Celebration Salad. (Although, stay tuned, I have some yummy birthday carrot cake coming up next week).

But for now, this salad. (Which I think is worth celebrating). It’s fresh, springy, and would be so perfect for easter. I had some gorgeous romanesco, but you could sub cauliflower just as easily. I blanched the romanesco just a bit and tossed it with a lemony dijon dressing along with chickpeas, avocado, eggs, capers and smoked salmon.

Happy Easter!