In the South By Southwest food smoking competition, The Austin Smoke Experiment, hosted by the Brooklyn Brewery, Austinites are encouraged to test their cooking chops by exploring the limits of smoking.
“Contestants can smoke anything and everything. In addition to brisket and chicken, we have people smoking chocolate, chowder, lamb, cherries and pork belly,” said Theo Peck, co-founder of the Food Experiments, which are held annually in different cities around the country.
On March 10, the Brooklyn Brewery is bringing the Food Experiments back to Austin for the third year in a row. Nick Suarez, co-founder of the Food Experiments, said Austin offers a variety of food that is different from other cities’.
“It’s an amazing city. It’s young, full of energy, has exciting, creative and unique food, all while still retaining its Texas attitude,” Suarez said. “Year after year, we return to Austin and are always excited about its local culinary heritages. It’s always a pleasure eating some of the best smoked meat in the world.”
Claudia Alarcon, a returning judge for The Austin Smoke Experiment, said Austin has such delicious food thanks to the growing diversity of Austin chefs.
“The Food Experiments are a super fun way to challenge regular home cooks to come up with extraordinary dishes,” Alarcon said. “It’s always great to see how diverse and well-thought out the dishes are.”
Peck said this challenging aspect of the experiments is what makes them special. He anticipates Austin contestants will play and experiment with the smoked food.
“Anyone who thinks Austin is only about BBQ, tacos and trucks is missing the totality of the food scene,” Peck said. “There is so much great food to discover that we can keep coming back for three more years, at least, and still cannot cover it all.”
Stacy Franklin, co-owner of Franklin’s Barbecue and a judge at The Austin Smoke Experiment, said she is looking for creative chefs and well-cooked foods in the competing dishes.
“Taste is the most important thing to me. Smoky meats should be tender, and fats should be rendered,” Franklin said. “I’m also interested to see what other foods will be smoked, besides meats. It takes a really special chef to pair different flavors together successfully. I’m really hoping someone makes a crazy smoked dessert.”
As well as blending flavors and mixing spices during the experiments, Peck said a good chef is made of other qualities.
“Organization, taste, sense of humor and confidence make the best chefs and the best contestants,” Peck said.
In addition to the competing chefs, The Austin Smoke Experiment is open to anyone who wants to taste the smoked foods and watch the culinary glory unfold.
Suarez said the winner of the experiment will be the person who creates the perfect bite utilizing the theme of smoked foods while infusing presentation, taste and creativity in their dish.
“The Food Experiments are more than just cook-offs. They’re one part beer-infused competition, one part eating frenzy and three parts crazy culinary showdown,” Suarez said. “But at the end of the day, always the best dish wins.”