Katy Milam, Chef & Tatanka Guerrero, Owner / Al Campo, Marfa, TX

“I’m moving to Marfa, I’ve got ten days.”

photo credit: irvianne torremoro

photo credit: irvianne torremoro

Katy Milam moved to Marfa from Los Angeles earlier this year. On a whim, she visited for three days after her good friend, Tatanka Guerrero, asked her to. He offered her a position as chef at Al Campo - the newest restaurant in town. The rest is history.

Katy spent the last 15 years in Los Angeles, working at a company that wasn’t challenging or creative enough. “My soul was dying,” she recalls as talked about her job search - she eventually responded to an ad from a production company that needed help executing workshops. When she interviewed, they admitted that they needed someone that could also cook. Within weeks, it turned into only cooking. It spiraled from there - she started doing catering gigs, productions, doing popups, and everything in between.

photo credit: irvianne torremoro

photo credit: irvianne torremoro

She comes from a long line of Cajuns from New Orleans, so it's no wonder that Katy felt at ease in the kitchen. Most of what she’s known in the kitchen, she learned from her mother and grandmother. The slower pace in Marfa has seeped into her routine, like it does for everyone thats moved there. She enjoys spending her time in the kitchen, perfecting her smoked chicken taco recipe and looking out the window as someone takes their first bite of food. 

As for Tatanka, he’s been in the industry for a bit. He worked the bar scene in Miami, to opened new concepts in Las Vegas, and after an epiphany with his business partner, he found himself in Marfa, enamored by the small town charm and ability to attract expats from all over the world to the remote Texas desert.

photo credit: irvianne torremoro

photo credit: irvianne torremoro

He spent the first three months in Marfa taking it in before breaking ground on the project. The idea of building out their hotel brand, Hotel Bohemio, was perfect for the environment.  “The journey that we are on right now is to become part of the community and to build culture,” he explains. You can tell that the man has put forth so much time and effort into the concept, making the Al Campo space as comfortable as possible. “You build a little bit of that passion every day here,” Tatanka stresses when he talks about the dedication and hard work that his small team has brought.

photo credit: irvianne torremoro

photo credit: irvianne torremoro

These two are prime examples of what you’ll find in Marfa - individuals dedicated to the pursuit of happiness, in the middle of the desert. Marfa’s a carefree place, there’s no such thing as traffic jams, and people have to constantly remind you to slow it down when you’re out there. The community is supportive of endeavors such as Al Campo and open to tourists and weekend warriors alike.

photo credit: irvianne torremoro

photo credit: irvianne torremoro

It’s really a magical oasis smack dab in the midst of West Texas, full of art, creatives, warm greetings, and quirky townspeople.

photo credit: jake pritchard, adventure assist

photo credit: jake pritchard, adventure assist

Roberto Ainslie, General Manager / Olamaie & An Ode to Pre-Shift

“Honestly, it was really happenstance, you know?”

photo credit: moyo oyelola

photo credit: moyo oyelola

Roberto Ainslie hadn’t planned to land in food & beverage. Way back when, “Ro” as he’d rather be called, was in his first semester of graduate school for counseling while doing some art consulting on the side. He met Scott Walker and Chef David Bull of now defunct fine dining establishment, Congress, by way of his childhood friend and chef, Rebecca Meeker. Starting as a server assistant at Second Bar + Kitchen, he eventually worked his way up to managing Congress. After juggling a year and a half of grad school and managing, he was offered a job in New York.

photo credit: moyo oyelola

photo credit: moyo oyelola

A stint at an advertising agency as their events manager then led to Michelin-star Betony in Midtown Manhattan. Though Betony has since closed, Ro lovingly talks about the in’s and out’s of fine dining that he learned at his time there. “Restaurants in New York are super, super intense. I was working here, without exaggeration, eighty-five plus hours a week. Everything we did expanded.” New York can take a lot of you, folks. You don’t have to live there to know that the lifestyle, especially for those that work in the service industry, can be tirelessly draining. But when you hear Ro compare a napkin fold be as important as the garnish of a dish is, you can tell that the man really cares about his work.

Eventually, he made his way back to Austin in 2014, working at some wonderful Austin restaurants: Jeffrey’s, opening Gardner, Boiler Nine, and now landing at Olamaie. I had the opportunity to witness Ro at work at this James Beard award-winning restaurant, during pre-shift. 

photo credit: moyo oyelola

photo credit: moyo oyelola

photo credit: moyo oyelola

photo credit: moyo oyelola

photo credit: moyo oyelola 

photo credit: moyo oyelola 

So, here’s the thing about pre-shift in restaurants. You know how before the big game, the team and coach get together to go over their game plan? This is the equivalent for the restaurant industry (sorry I tried to throw a sports reference in there when I know hardly anything about sports but I’m sure you feel me). Back in the day, when I worked in restaurant kitchens in Vegas, I’d try and eavesdrop on pre-shift talk from the front of the house managers and servers, because I was always intrigued by this daily ritual before service.

photo credit: moyo oyelola

photo credit: moyo oyelola

photo credit: moyo oyelola

photo credit: moyo oyelola

photo credit: moyo oyelola

photo credit: moyo oyelola

photo credit: moyo oyelola

photo credit: moyo oyelola

photo credit: moyo oyelola

photo credit: moyo oyelola

While I watched Ro in the midst of pre-shift, his staff so attentive, Chef Michael Fojtasek also at the helm of this meeting, it was all overwhelmingly inspiring. They went through the motions, what was available on the menu, new ingredients and rotating wines on their menu, and answered each other’s questions. Literally, you could have picked my jaw up off the floor because this is it, y’all!

photo credit: moyo oyelola

photo credit: moyo oyelola

This is Southern fine dining at its best in Austin, Texas. Locals love to gloat on how casual it is here and that we aren’t stuffy like them Yankees up in New York or those Californians in San Francisco but if you aren’t looking too closely, you may just miss a fine dining experience that is offered by some of the most dedicated professionals in the food & beverage industry.  

photo credit: moyo oyelola

photo credit: moyo oyelola

They ended their pre-shift with a word of the day, as Ro asked one of the sous chefs for a suggestion. “How about ‘welcome’? Since we have a new team member, I’m back in town, and it just seems appropriate.” On the count of three, the whole team shouted “Welcome!” in unison and broke for what I’m sure was a wonderful dinner service.

photo credit: moyo oyelola

photo credit: moyo oyelola

Thanks Ro, and thanks to the team at Olamaie, for making it known that there are some amazingly dedicated folks in our industry. 

SALO Series x Flavor & Bounty at Space 24 Twenty

Summer’s arrived in Austin and what better way is there to kick off the season than with a Filipino pop-up dinner?! A couple weeks ago, Yana Gilbuena of SALO Series came back to town and we threw INIT: A Filpino Summer Feast. This menu was an homage to our culture’s hot weather food full of whole fish, pickled vegetables, and plenty of that bright, green rice she’s known for!

photo credit: benjamin garrett

photo credit: benjamin garrett

photo credit: benjamin garrett

photo credit: benjamin garrett

photo credit: benjamin garrett

photo credit: benjamin garrett

photo credit: benjamin garrett

photo credit: benjamin garrett

photo credit: benjamin garrett

photo credit: benjamin garrett

photo credit: benjamin garrett

photo credit: benjamin garrett

photo credit: benjamin garrett

photo credit: benjamin garrett

photo credit: benjamin garrett

photo credit: benjamin garrett

photo credit: benjamin garrett

photo credit: benjamin garrett

photo credit: benjamin garrett

photo credit: benjamin garrett

photo credit: benjamin garrett

photo credit: benjamin garrett

photo credit: benjamin garrett

photo credit: benjamin garrett

photo credit: benjamin garrett

photo credit: benjamin garrett

photo credit: benjamin garrett

photo credit: benjamin garrett

photo credit: benjamin garrett

photo credit: benjamin garrett

photo credit: benjamin garrett

photo credit: benjamin garrett

photo credit: benjamin garrett

photo credit: benjamin garrett

photo credit: benjamin garrett

photo credit: benjamin garrett

photo credit: benjamin garrett

photo credit: benjamin garrett

Thanks so much to Space 24 Twenty, Topo Chico, Chameleon Cold Brew, Tito’s Vodka, and all of our wonderful friends that helped out that night. Biggest thank you to Benjamin Garrett for capturing the night. <3

Tessa Halstead, Chocolatier & Owner / Chocolaterie Tessa

To say that I have a sweet tooth is an understatement. Basically, walking into Chocolaterie Tessa’s space in North Austin is a dream come true. You’re usually greeted by Tessa Halstead, second generation chocolatier and owner, in a bright room which showcases her award-winning confectioneries, accompanied with the sweet smell of chocolates  being made right behind the counter.

photo credit: moyo oyelola

photo credit: moyo oyelola

photo credit: moyo oyelola

photo credit: moyo oyelola

Tessa comes from a family of chocolatiers, working with her father since she was fourteen. His chocolate shop started in 1983 and while she put the idea of chocolate making aside during college to pursue a career in corporate America, she found that chocolate has always been her calling. Her father had retired and she decided to pursue chocolate making with the start of her business in 2012. One of the machines she uses in her shop is her dad’s original that was housed in his shop thirty years ago. It made its way back into the family after they found it at an auction in Dallas and is now helping crank out more delicious goodies from Tessa.

photo credit: moyo oyelola

photo credit: moyo oyelola

photo credit: moyo oyelola

photo credit: moyo oyelola

“We stay focused on providing the best ingredients and everything is made fresh, no preservatives and it’s all natural”, Tessa states as she excitedly talks about the farmers and small companies she works with. The shop is filled with chocolate molds, conveyor belts, and smiling employees happily putting together flavors such as her award-winning salted caramel, bourbon pecan, and her Origin line: full of cacao beans from different countries such as the Dominican Republic, Papa New Guinea, Peru, and Ecuador.

photo credit: moyo oyelola

photo credit: moyo oyelola

photo credit: moyo oyelola

photo credit: moyo oyelola

photo credit: moyo oyelola

photo credit: moyo oyelola

photo credit: moyo oyelola

photo credit: moyo oyelola

She and her husband try to take a chocolate-related trip every year for research and development from France to Belgium and everything in between. Tessa’s face lights up every time she talks about chocolate making and the business. “One of things that’s special about chocolates is that people are happy when they come in. They have this person in mind that they want to buy a gift for, or they’re excited to try something new”, she elaborates with a grin ear to ear.  

photo credit: moyo oyelola

photo credit: moyo oyelola

photo credit: moyo oyelola

photo credit: moyo oyelola

Madelyn Kay / Bartender, VOX Table

Madelyn is a firecracker and you know it right off the bat when you meet her.

photo credit: moyo oyelola

photo credit: moyo oyelola

She’s friendly but will call you out when she deems appropriate, which I love about her, like those pesky bottle rockets that light, fizzle, and go off at the least expected time - but they still bring a smile to your face when they do. I actually waited on her the first time we met, at VOX Table. A couple weeks later, to my delight, she was our new bartender! The start of a new woman crush (on my end) was born.

Hailing from Nome, Texas, this good ol’ gal graduated valedictorian from Hardin Jefferson High School with the intentions of attending law school. After her freshman year at the University of Texas, she left the dorms for her own apartment, thus leading to bills that needed to be paid. Her easy fix was a bartending gig on Dirty Sixth, complete with rough, long hours. A two year hiatus from the profession soon followed.

After a summer abroad, she found herself in the profession again. Her concern for her lack of experience almost drove her to walk out of Peché as soon as she entered to apply. “I am not qualified to work here but I’d like to be”, she wrote on her application. They gave her a chance since her determination was obvious.

Kay immediately dove headfirst into craft cocktail bartending, reading Dale Degroff’s The Craft of the Cocktail. Her study habits from college resurfaced with her collection of classic cocktail flashcards, amounting to 108 cocktails she familiarized herself with. Peché was a great stepping stone for her as well as Haddington’s before leaving for Australia in 2013.

Her time spent in Australia, specifically Melbourne, was spent exploring and further honing her skills at bars such as Madame Brussels and Ra Cigar Bar. “I never picked more mint in my life”, Kay recalls, while explaining the concept of batched cocktails at Madame Brussels. The batched cocktail method is an easy way to streamline serving consistent drinks but can be a tedious process in preparation. Melbourne treated her well, though she worked all but one day of the week with late nights at work followed by even later nights of partying (as bartenders and industry folk tend to do). She took some time to backpack through Asia for the latter part of 2014, then found herself back in Australia in 2015, before heading back to Austin.

We love a lot of the same things about Austin and its service industry: the culture and camaraderie being at the top of the list. “The people are amazing in this industry”, Madelyn muses as she mentions her inspirations, most notably her mentor, JR Mocanu, VOX Table’s beverage director.

Upon her return, she settled into the VOX Table family, and readied herself for her third attempt at Speed Rack, which is a national competition for women bartenders. The flashcards made their way back into her studying methods as she explains the competition is less about practicing but more about studying the plethora of Speed Rack classic cocktails. Madelyn won the Texas competition in San Antonio and is competing at the nationals held in Brooklyn, representing Texas along with Elyse Blechman of Houston as wild card.

Madelyn had me over to show me some of the tricks of the trade at VOX Table. This restaurant was home for me for the greater part of last year and I fell in love with every single one of my coworkers, so I keep coming back for more. Kay showed me the ins and outs of a bar: what a jigger is (that fancy looking contraption that measures out ounces), shaker tins, measuring, and especially taste. At 26, she’s well versed in her cocktails, explaining one of her signature drinks.

The Sprung cocktail is complex, refreshing, and showcases her ability to put together a damn good cocktail. Bols Genever, a Dutch gin, is complimented with bonal, citrus juices, lavender­-lemongrass syrup, and bitters. It starts with a tart bite and ends with a sweetness that’s not too overwhelming, much like Madelyn herself.

photo credit: moyo oyelola

photo credit: moyo oyelola

photo credit: moyo oyelola

photo credit: moyo oyelola

photo credit: moyo oyelola

photo credit: moyo oyelola

photo credit: moyo oyelola

photo credit: moyo oyelola

photo credit: moyo oyelola

photo credit: moyo oyelola

photo credit: moyo oyelola

photo credit: moyo oyelola

photo credit: moyo oyelola

photo credit: moyo oyelola

photo credit: moyo oyelola

photo credit: moyo oyelola

photo credit: moyo oyelola

photo credit: moyo oyelola

Joe Anguiano, Chef / VOX Table

Joe isn’t the typical chef.

photo credit: nicolai mccrary

photo credit: nicolai mccrary

He’s always smiling, which baffles me. Chefs usually have a permanent scowl etched onto their brow but he’s different. I first met Joe while training to open VOX Table last year. I was thrilled to be part of the opening team, which was considered to be Joe’s baby. VOX Table is all-encompassing, mostly due to Joe’s vision of what the dining experience should be. From the environment to the food, the components are experimental yet approachable, which works in a town like Austin.

He’s Los Angeles born and bred, which is something we bond over. His Saturdays weren’t spent in front of the television watching cartoons, he could usually be found at his family’s tortilla factory, where he learned the ins and outs of making fresh tortillas, from production to right off the conveyor belt. He credits his love of the industry to his family, mainly his grandmother and mother. They’ve kept him grounded - you can tell when he adoringly mentions that he still dreams of their homemade tamales and carnitas.

At seventeen, his father passed away on New Year’s Day and he was left to care for the factory, along with his grandmother and uncles. He ran his father’s part of the business but couldn’t keep up with the demand and strain that was put on a teenager and eventually left to take a year off.

He struggled to find what he wanted to pursue. One night he noticed that his apartment was bare bones: just a couch, television, and bed. Yet his kitchen was filled to the brim with tools: knives, glassware, pots, and utensils galore. Cooking is what made sense, it was in his blood.

Joe toyed around with the idea of leaving Los Angeles for San Francisco but instead found himself at the Southern California School of Culinary Arts in Pasadena. Days were long and hard. Ten hour school days were followed by work at local restaurants, all while finding time to socialize. His graduating class consisted of eleven students and only two of them still pursuing a culinary career today.

During this time, Joe was taken with downtown Los Angeles and the solitude found in the early hours, before the local markets opened up. His vigor and enthusiasm when recalling local produce and fish is inspiring. His face lights up, his hand gestures become even more extravagant as he stresses that quality is the most important aspect of selecting ingredients.

Seizing the opportunity while within his grasp, Joe embraced a six month tour in Spain, having worked under chefs such as José Andrés. “It was amazing working in a place with so much natural beauty”, he recalls while warmly reminiscing about vast greenery and numerous meals enjoyed all over Spain and France.

His experience overseas went home with him to Los Angeles, until he and his wife decided to move to Austin in 2011. Joe promised himself that he’d take it easy in Austin and decided not to pursue a job for at least three months. He lasted only one month before the itch to get in the kitchen took over. After a brief stint at Uchi, Joe found himself at Eleven Plates, where he revamped the menu and eventually met Vincent Maguino. Together they collaborated on what is now VOX Table. With a second restaurant in the works, Joe doesn’t have any plans to slow down.

His work ethic shines through his food and you can tell that he cares from the moment that you step foot into the restaurant. Joe is always on the front line, ready for service, while speaking to his cooks of how they can embrace the trade. “To be a chef, you have to be a mentor”, he says with all seriousness. Several of the members of his opening team are still working under him to this day, a true testament to his leadership.

While at VOX Table, Joe always mentioned that I was welcome in the kitchen to relive my glory days, post-culinary school. I took him up on the offer recently, helping him prepare a special for a Friday night. He let me help him with his dish of sea bream, paired with morels and ramps, and topped with a parsley vinaigrette.

photo credit: nicolai mccrary

photo credit: nicolai mccrary

photo credit: nicolai mccrary

photo credit: nicolai mccrary

photo credit: nicolai mccrary

photo credit: nicolai mccrary

photo credit: nicolai mccrary

photo credit: nicolai mccrary

photo credit: nicolai mccrary

photo credit: nicolai mccrary

photo credit: nicolai mccrary

photo credit: nicolai mccrary

photo credit: nicolai mccrary

photo credit: nicolai mccrary

photo credit: nicolai mccrary

photo credit: nicolai mccrary

photo credit: nicolai mccrary

photo credit: nicolai mccrary

photo credit: nicolai mccrary

photo credit: nicolai mccrary

photo credit: nicolai mccrary

photo credit: nicolai mccrary