Slow Food Austin (SFA) is participating in a really fantastic event during South by Southwest (SXSW) with a partnership with the Brooklyn Brewery Mash. Brooklyn Brewery is kicking off an 11-city tour in Austin with concerts, comedy shows, farmers’ market workshops, a variety of parties and more. For more information on specific events and to learn about participation please visit here. We spoke to Chef Roger Chan, a member of the SFA Board, to learn more.
Q: Tell us how you got involved in the culinary world?
A: I’ve got a 5th generation Asian-American chef in my bloodline, so the culinary world is literally in my genes. I first came to Austin in 2000 and was the
Assistant City Manager until 2003. Then, I opened my first food truck, Cravin’s. I decided that Austin has the worst restrictions for mobile food that I decided to close it and will be opening a restaurant soon, Rolling Thunder Cafe, in my 30 foot Airstream motor-home in Jonestown.
Being on the board of SFA, I’ve always subscribed to working with local food. It’s very much in line with being a traditionally-trained French chef.
Q: Why partner with Brooklyn Brewery?
A: We love the opportunity they put together and the chefs are all fantastic. It’s a great opportunity for Austin.
Q: How did the idea come about?
A: Brooklyn Brewery reached out to SFA initially. I’m one of three chefs on the board at SFA and we all agreed that it would be a great collaboration. I was one of the chefs selected to participate and looking forward to it.
Q: Why have this event during SXSW?
A: SXSW is definitely one of our top three biggest Austin functions. Austin is a small city, but we have more functions here than much bigger city- almost every single weekend something big is going on. If you can hold an event during SXSW it’s amazing in terms of the exposure, number of people and opportunities- you simply can’t beat it!
Q: Tell me which events you are most looking forward to?
A: As a Chef I’m most looking forward to meeting other chefs. There’s been a huge push in America recently to really focus in on this fascinating world, just look at all of the food shows. As a French chef in particular, I see how there’s a definite underdeveloped palate in America. I see this as a huge opportunity for us to expand our palette and get exposed to these world class chefs.
A lot of the chefs I came up with in the 70s are now going to mobile food. What Americans think of as exotic, brick and mortar customers are more conservative. But street food they’ll eat almost anything! Strange phenomena. Being as that is, I love it. People are more open minded on the streets and I think we should take our food to the street. I love to support anything that’s going to up the opportunity for people to learn.
Q: What’s coming up next for SFA?
A: We just had a special meeting to discuss things like that. We’ve been contacted from other members and it’s been determined that we are singularly the most active chapter in America, outside of NYC. But, our events are far more accessible and financially reasonable. We reach out a lot, we just had (last night) a chocolate event and we’ll be having another.
We are revamping a lot of our programs as they mature. I think this is a great year for people to discover us and explore us. Of all the boards I sit on, SF is seriously my favorite. Everyone in it is in it for the right reasons. We enjoy each others company and we get the job done. We are all volunteers, but really time well spent.
We are redoing our farm tours to get people familiar to see what it takes to make great good food from scratch. Revamping our fundraiser, we do slow seasons and happy hours every month. In between we may have a film series and other to interact. We minimally have 2-3 events a month. We also get involved wit other food movements, particularly if they align with our values.