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The 30 Best Quotes from SXSW SouthBites Panels, From Danny Meyer, Anthony Bourdain, and More

Plus Alex Stupak, Olamaie, Ramen Tatsu-Ya, and others

Anthony Bourdain with Nathan Thornburgh
Anthony Bourdain with Nathan Thornburgh
Nadia Chaudhury/EATX

SXSW SouthBites is a treasure trove of rich information, where big name chefs, Austin favorites, startups, and scientists gather to talk about the current state of food, and where it is heading. Eater already pinpointed panels of note, which looked at cultural appropriation in the kitchen, where fast casual dining is heading, and what it means to not tip at a bar. Here are the 30 best quotes, in no particular order, from three days of very deep dives into the world of food.

1) Arielle Johnson, head of research at MAD and Noma, on making food research ties more prevalent: "Take a page from the maker movement. There’s a lot of tinkering, a lot of financial rewards—but often, there’s just the pure joy of discovery. Making food is really the original ‘making.’"

2) Alex Stupak, chef at Empellon, on why he thinks his restaurant is controversial: "I got a lot of pushback because people think Mexican cooking is supposed to be cheap. America has some real screwed-up cultural biases."

3) Danny Meyer, CEO of Union Square Hospitality Group, on why the tip elimination works well for bars: "What if the bartender would pay attention to you instead of saying, ‘that’s money, so that’s who I’m going to pay attention, and that’s not money, so that’s not who I’m going to pay attention.’ There’s a huge amount of sexism, racism, and other -isms that go into who gets paid attention to."

4) Andrew Knowlton, deputy editor of Bon Appetit, on Portland’s and Austin’s food scenes: "It’s Never Neverland. People don’t grow up there. Restaurants are stuck in ramen and munchies."

5) Jorge Hernandez, chef de cuisine at Qui, on the case for an Austin food lab to foster community-wide conversations on food topics ranging from sustainability to botany: "The tech sector, the music sector, the studio art sector are important in Austin—for financial and cultural reasons. We want creative food to be given the same credit, facilities, and financial investment."

6) Anthony Bourdain, television host, on filming what he wants to rather than catering to popular opinion: "We know what people like. If we cared about that, every show would be about barbecue."

7) Michael Twitty, food writer, on soul food’s history: "For 300 years, we cooked this shit without a paycheck. You were doing human creativity. And it was extracted from you. Then, we were the help. Then civil rights came. Then gentrification of ideas. There were all these reinventions. And Paula Deen, and others—none of them were our face."

[Photo: Nadia Chaudhury/EATX]

José Andrés. [Photo: Nadia Chaudhury/EATX]

8) Alexis Chong, chef de cuisine of Foreign & Domestic, on coping with tough chefs: "When they start picking on you, you’re integrating into the team unit. You’ve got to keep progressing and moving forward."

9) Stephen Werther, CEO and partner of Bourdain Market, on why food halls are so prevalent now: "It’s a world wide craze about food. Everybody with a piece of real estate in this country [...] believes that food adds value to the rest of their property. So everybody in this room who is in the business, we are given all of our leverage back. We were pushed out, now they need us."

10) Tatsu Aikawa, owner and chef of Ramen Tatsu-Ya, on his goal with his broth: "I want to make liquid crack. It’s addictive. It’ll get into your memories. You think about it all the time."

11) José Andrés, DC chef, on why fruit and vegetables taste better than steak: "Your mouth is inundated by all those amazing flavors from the earth. From the first second to the last moment, the flavor is in the mouth. Do it with a tomato, do it with a pineapple, the flavor lingers. It is something meat is not able to do."

12) Stupak on how stereotypes can limit a cuisine’s benefit to its native chefs: "Some of the greatest lovers of Mexican cuisine are the people who are keeping it in the ghetto. You say authentic tacos cost 89 cents. Do you think the family of the guy who sells you tacos for 89 cents is leading a good life?"

13) Ludo Lefebvre, owner and chef of Petit Trois, on the secret to keeping a reliable staff: "We are trying to hire someone who is 40 years old. I want to hire people who are more settled. If you are a young kid, you are not serious. I cannot take it anymore."

14) Erik Bruner-Yang, chef and owner at Maketto and Toki Underground, on staff dynamics in his kitchens: "The way we get at each other is more visual than verbal. Younger people these days just don’t know how to react to that. We live in buffers."

15) Michael Fojtasek, co-executive chef of Olamaie, on why he refers to his mother while cooking: "My mother’s influence, she helps us with perspective. In order for food to have soul, it needs to have perspective."

[Photo: Nadia Chaudhury/EATX]

Danny Meyer. [Photo: Nadia Chaudhury/EATX]

16) Sarah Simmons, founder, executive chef, owner, and CEO of City Grit Hospitality Group, on inequality: "Until the problem’s resolved, the solution is to be nice, and fair, and treat everyone with equality. Hire good people. Treat them well."

17) Susana Querejazu, head pastry chef of Barley Swine and Odd Duck, on food’s ties to culture: "Old-school techniques like nixtamalization are still around because they have benefits other than flavor. They hold up because of their health benefits. They essentially created a culture because people were able to thrive on these products."

18) Sara Kramer, owner and chef of Madcapra, on New York City’s changing influence: "New York is a figurehead; most of the media’s there. But because of globalization and social media, New York isn’t the center of the food world anymore."

19) Eli Kirshtein, executive chef of The Luminary, on his vision of equal rights: "I want people to not be concerned about the optics of who they are."

20) Matt McCallister, owner and executive chef of FT33 in Dallas, on design details he considers: "‘Which way should the stemware face?’ Or, ‘If they’ve already licked the fork, like ate off it, we’re leaving it on the table.’ Those conversations go down."

21) Bourdain on whether food will be able to ease racial tension: "The short answer is no, unfortunately. If the situation is such that the possibility of even sitting down, breaking bread, and sharing a meal does not exist, there is no hope at all."

22) Andrés on what fast food means today: "Fast food is not only about the food anymore [...] I love the people promote cheap eats, but you have to make a profit. We cannot give you cheap food at the expense of giving you bad food at the expense of not paying the employees right."

23) Andrea Slonecker, recipe editor of Kinfolk, on the centrality of visual appeal: "We eat with our eyes as much as our mouths."

24) Kara Chiles, editorial director at Whole Foods Market, on the art and science of adopting trends: "You don’t want to chase a trend. If you force it, it’s going to show through."

25) Enrique Olvera, chef of Pujol and Cosme, on the best way to eat an oyster: "Raw, on the beach, with a beer next to it."

26) Chloe Coscarelli, chef of By Chloe, on food consumer preferences today: "The bar is being raised every single day in terms of what people put in their mouths. Just because a food is healthy doesn’t mean it gets to be bland or uninspired."

27) Tyson Cole, owner and executive chef of Uchi and Uchiko, on eliminating tipping: "I don’t think we’re ready in Texas to take tips away. That’s socialism, communism. And wait staff like performing and getting huge tips. But a hybrid system where they can make more and make tips [could work]."

28) Shaheen Sadeghi, president and CEO of Lab Holding, on why people will pay more for a cup of coffee than cheap jeans: "That cup of coffee had what we call social equity, it has intrinsic value, because the time that she sits there and enjoys that cup of coffee with her boyfriend has a greater value than her wearing her $7.99 jeans."

29) Virginia Willis, cookbook author, on veering away from the preciousness of Southern cooking: "Southern food specifically doesn’t belong in a museum, and it really doesn’t have to be in the very stained hands of grandmothers."

30) Andrew Zimmern, television host, on a good development plan: "Instead of a city, statewide, or national jobs program that create economic development in places that need it most...If we’re going to start over with that kind of thinking, shouldn’t we have a global jobs bill? A global economic development approach? [...[ When you think about the problems that can be solved by just giving people the sprinkle of dignity and respect that a job gives is actually what first attracted me to Hampton Creek."

Odd Duck

939 South 2nd Street, , WI 53204 (414) 763-5881 Visit Website


1610 San Antonio Street, , TX 78701 (512) 474-2796 Visit Website


1801 Post Oak Boulevard, , TX 77056 (713) 522-4808 Visit Website

Shake Shack [Austin]

1100 South Lamar Boulevard, Austin, Texas 78704 Visit Website

Foreign & Domestic

306 East 53rd Street, , TX 78751 (512) 459-1010

Barley Swine [Closed]

2024 South Lamar Boulevard, Austin, TX 78704 Visit Website

Uchi [Austin]

801 South Lamar Boulevard, Austin, Texas 78704 Visit Website

Qui [Closed]

1600 E 6th St, Austin, TX 78702 (512) 436-9626 Visit Website