With restaurants operating limited hours — or closing temporarily altogether to help diminish the spread of COVID-19 — many Austin chefs may have found themselves with a bit of extra time to cook and bake for themselves at home. Eater checked in with eight Austin chefs to find out what they have been cooking for themselves and their families during this stressful time.
The following answers have been lightly edited for clarity and length.
Executive Chef Jo Chan of Pretty American Restaurant Eberly
“I was craving pizza last week, so I made this red pie using sourdough and my cast iron. It was the longest I’d waited for a pizza since it took the dough 48 hours to be ready, but it was worth it in the end. This is a play off Marc Vetri’s from his cookbook Mastering Pizza that came out last year. It was absolutely delicious and I made a chunky tomato sauce that I cooked down with anchovy paste and a lot of garlic. Maybe 20 cloves were in my passata [a red sauce]. It was hard to get my home oven at the highest temperature (took an hour and a half to get up to 550 degrees), but once it was at that high heat, it only took six minutes to cook. This was about the same amount of time it took me to eat it as well.”
Executive Chef Andre Molina of Funky Wine Bar and Restaurant Aviary Wine + Kitchen
“I love supporting the community and my friends, so I definitely have gotten down on Comedor’s Assembly Kitchen, Suerte’s suadero taco kits, and Barley Swine’s family meals.
“But lately, I have been making food that is quick and easy to execute, like rice dishes, different pasta dishes, salads, and sandwiches. By making food on my off days, I can be prepared for almost anything I might be in the mood for, like herbed pestos, chimichurris, even a quick-roasted red sauce for any type of dried or handmade pasta. Or making a good buttery plain rice in the beginning of the week, and transforming that rice into chicken sausage ‘gumbo’ and rice, vegetable curry and rice, arroz con pollo, or one of my favorite things to make: fried rice.”
Executive Chef and Owner Michael Fojtasek of Refined Southern Restaurant Olamaie
“I’m trying to imagine our little family is going to a different type of restaurant most nights at home. We’ve done a burger joint, a taco shop, fried chicken, pizza, Chinese, and plenty of Italian. I feel really fortunate to be able to replicate some of the foods we love to eat out. Dining at or from restaurants is a huge part of our lives.”
Executive Chef Maribel Rivero of Peruvian Restaurant Yuyo and Online Cooking School Cocina Maribel
“It’s back to basics for me. And that includes beans. I love them. Chalupas is my go-to alway. Lightly brushed corn tortillas with oil and baked, puree of pinto beans, my mom’s tomato salsa mixed with a queso fundido, shredded lettuce, fresh chopped tomatoes, topped with avocado slices.”
Co-Owners Chef Edgar Rico and Operations Director Sara Mardanbigi of Beloved Taco Spot Nixta Taqueria
“Edgar’s been making a lot of pasta — carbonara, cacio e pepe, beet pesto with ricotta to name a few. Since he’s constantly cooking at the restaurant, this is a simplistic way to get rid of some pantry staples or things you’ve had sitting in your fridge/freezer to make something tasty in a short amount of time.” (As told by Mardanbigi)
Executive Chef and Partner Max Snyder of Hill Country-Focused Pitchfork Pretty
“My wife Jennifer and I share cooking duties. She is actually a far superior cook. We’ve been enjoying a weekly farm share from our friend Becky at VRDNT Farm in Bastrop. We eat rice almost every day, and I’ll usually throw a few whole root vegetables in the rice cooker, then slice them up after and marinate them with whatever we have on hand. We’re cooking for two small children, so we keep it pretty simple. We make pizza probably once a week and occasionally we’ll break out the imperia pasta maker and make some noodles, but more often than not dinner consists of: rice, veggies, salad, and an omelette if we’re lucky.”
Executive Chef and Co-Owner Iliana de la Vega of Oaxacan Restaurant El Naranjo
“A few dishes stand ou:, a beef salad called salpicón: cooked shredded beef, diced cooked potatoes, shredded lettuce, diced onion, chile serrano, tomatoes, avocado, chopped cilantro with a simple lime olive oil dried Oaxacan oregano vinaigrette. We serve it mostly for lunch with tostadas. For a long time, we have baked our bread, so we keep doing that, but something I normally avoid is cookies. Well, I have indulged myself and baked a few batches.”
Executive Chef Damien Brockway of Award-Winning Hill Country Brewery Jester King
“I’m currently in love with a venison laab we’ve been making with sticky rice and garden greens. My wife and children are Thai, so we eat a lot of Thai food. It’s ground venison sourced locally, seasoned with fish sauce, garlic, chili pequin from our garden, toasted rice, and cilantro stems. We serve it with Swiss chard and or cabbage leaves from the garden, alongside sticky rice.”
Co-Owners Gladys Benitez and Elena Sanguinetti of South American Cafe Cafe Nenaí
“My mom and I have been having fun opening cookbooks and experimenting with things we have never made before. She has been making a lot of traditional meals that would nourish me as a child. Her delicious lentil soup always made my immune system feel strong and healthy. On Easter, we opened a recipe book and made a twist of the regular lasagna with salmon. We started growing a vegetable and herb garden to make our food fresh. We have been also experimenting with vegan food. And adding garlic to almost everything. It’s been really fun.” (As told by Benitez)
Chef and Owner Sonya Cote of farm restaurant Eden East and East Side American Restaurant Hillside Farmacy
“Mostly, I have been cooking big one-pot meals at home to feed our farmer household that helps them sustain during the day and then eat for lunch. I have been working at home on large pickling projects, putting whatever is reaching the end of the season (carrots, beets, onions, and now cucumbers) into the fermentation crock and freezing stocks for future use. Last night, I simmered a nice piece of bone-in pork shoulder from Peaceful Pork with sungold tomatoes, dried mushroom, leeks, onion, purple daikon, parsley, and mint, and served it with mashed Kennebec potatoes. I try to utilize vegetable parts and scraps left over from our markets to maximize the use of product at home.”