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24 of the Best Food-Focused SXSW Panels to Check Out in 2023

Eater’s recommended picks, from unionizing advice to normalizing eating bugs to creating sustainable food systems

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People seated on stage as part of a panel discussion.
A panel at the Future of Food at SXSW 2022.
Future of Food

South by Southwest (SXSW) begins on Friday, March 10, and food programming is featured heavily throughout the conference, which ends on Saturday, March 19. Many of the talks look toward the future and how to mitigate the effects of climate change by altering the ways we approach agriculture and consumption. There are also mentor sessions with leading people in the food business like Jing Gao, founder and CEO of buzzy hot chile crisp company Fly By Jing; discussions about food industry workers unionizing; an appearance from Flamin’ Hot director Eva Longoria, and a keynote speech by José Andrés.

Here, we’ve assembled some of the best panels about the food SXSW has to offer.

Friday, March 10 through Saturday, March 11

Future of Food
8 a.m. to 5 p.m.
SXSW Center, 1400 Lavaca Street, Downtown

Chefs, entrepreneurs, investors and the like will hold panels and demonstrations about what the future of food holds for a world plagued with things like food insecurity and global warming. During the event, attendees will have the opportunity to sample a wide variety of food and drinks. Free and open to the public via Eventbrite registration.


Friday, March 10

Protein Re-Evolution: Cellular, Myco, and Insect Ag
11:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m.
Austin Marriott, 304 East Cesar Chavez Street, Downtown
Waterloo Ballroom 1-2

A midwestern cricket farmer, a fungi-focused chemical engineer, and an investor driving cellular agricultural innovation walk into an SXSW ballroom and share the virtues of transitioning from livestock to alternative proteins.

Unexpected Urban Foraging with @Blackforager
11:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m.
Austin Marriott, 304 East Cesar Chavez Street, Downtown
Waterloo Ballroom 3

Alexis Nikole Nelson, aka @Blackforager, is the inaugural winner of the James Beard Award for Social Media Account. She uses humor as an avenue to educate people about repressed Black and Indigenous food traditions and foraging edible plants. With Nelson’s guidance, you’re much more likely to eat foraged plants and fungi without dying, or worse, taking a very bad trip.

Peak Behind Closed Doors: Union Organizing in Food
2:30 to 3:30 p.m.
Austin Marriott, 304 East Cesar Chavez Street, Downtown
Waterloo Ballroom 3

Much to the chagrin of CEOs and owners, workers in the food and beverage industries are unionizing at higher rates. This session will feature presentations and discussions about the struggles food workers face in their fight for fair wages, protections, and safe work environments.


Saturday, March 11

Featured Speaker: Eva Longoria
11:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m.
Austin Convention Center, 500 Cesar Chavez Street, Downtown
Ballroom E-F

Texas’s own Eva Longoria stops by the Austin Convention Center primarily to chat about being a woman in Hollywood and her feature film directorial debut, Flamin’ Hot, which premieres later in the day. Don’t be surprised if Longoria talks about her other food and drink bonafides like the six-part docuseries about Mexican cuisine, Eva Longoria: Searching For Mexico, set to debut in March on CNN; Casa Del Sol, the luxury sipping tequila she co-founded; or Risa, her recently launched cookware line.

Mushrooms growing.
Mushrooms growing at Smallhold.
Smallhold

Mentor: Andrew Carter (Smallhold)
11:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m.
Hilton Austin, 500 Fourth Street, Downtown
Room 400-402

Mentor sessions are a way to get one-on-one time with industry-leading professionals and innovators. This session features Andrew Carter, co-founder and CEO of Smallhold, a fancy organic mushroom company. You can sign up on the event page by clicking the RSVP button and choosing a time slot. Good luck, spaces are limited and get snatched up quickly.

Two Degrees From Disaster
11:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m.
Austin Convention Center, 500 Cesar Chavez Street, Downtown
Waterloo Ballroom 1-2

Representatives of the United Nations World Food Programme examine solutions to build food security as the world stares down the barrel of irreversible climate change.

Featured Session: An Imminent Shift In The Plant Based Ecosystem
11:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m.
Austin Convention Center, 500 Cesar Chavez Street, Downtown
Ballroom A

Aditi Roy, co-host of the Full Stack Food podcast, is joined by David Chang (Momofuku), Nicolas Jammet (Sweetgreen), and Tyler Huggins (Meati Foods) in a talk about how to provide consumers with innovative foods that are also plant or fungi-based.

Keynote: José Andrés: The Stories We Tell Can Change the World
1:00 to 2:00 p.m.
Austin Convention Center, 500 Cesar Chavez Street, Downtown
Ballroom D

You may know of José Andrés as an A-list chef, but are you familiar with his endeavor World Central Kitchen? The non-profit provides meals during natural disasters. Learn more about World Central Kitchen and emergency nourishment during this keynote.

A man cooking a huge pan of food.
José Andrés cooking paella at a SXSW event in 2017.
Vivien Killilea/Getty Images for PRE Brands

Beyond Vegans: Upcoming Trends in Plant-Based Foods
2:30 to 3:30 p.m.
Austin Marriott, 304 East Cesar Chavez Street, Downtown
Waterloo Ballroom 1-2

Denise Woodard, CEO and founder of allergy-free snack company Partake, connects with the content creator and co-owner of Spoiled Vegans Cafe, Todd Anderson (AKA Turnip Vegan), and Julia Collins of Moonshot Crackers/Planet FWD to forecast trends in the plant-based food space. Eater Austin editor Nadia Chaudhury is moderating the panel.

The Art of Cannabis and Food Pairings
4:00 to 5:00 p.m.
Austin Convention Center, 500 Cesar Chavez Street, Downtown
Room 8A-B-C

Philip Wolf, founder of Cultivating Spirits, a company that’s been doing legal cannabis dinners for close to ten years, talks about how weed and cuisine can be much more than just munchies food. Who knows exactly what they got planned for the 20 minutes in mark.

How We Won! Legislation Cuts Food Waste & Hunger
4:00 to 5:00 p.m.
Austin Marriott, 304 East Cesar Chavez Street, Downtown
Waterloo Ballroom 1-2

In this panel, learn about how the newly passed Food Donation Improvement Act could radically cut food waste and reduce hunger.

From Fashion To Fork: The Future of Food 2028
4:00 to 5:00 p.m.
Austin Marriott, 304 East Cesar Chavez Street, Downtown
Waterloo Ballroom 3

Food futurologist Dr. Morgaine Gaye talks about how food intersects with many aspects of our culture like fashion and design, and explores macro and micro trends we might see in the years ahead.


Sunday, March 12

All Things Food at SXSW
9 a.m. to 7:30 p.m.
Huston-Tillotson University, 900 Chicon Street, East Austin

Nonprofit Food Tank is hosting an entire’s day worth of programming, from panel discussions about sustainability, what the future of meat is, and urban farming (moderating by Eater Austin’s Nadia Chaudhury), plus food and films. RSVP information is available online.

A woman in a dress in front of a sign reading Acne Studios.
Sophia Roe at a Paris Fashion Week event in 2023.
Victor Boyko/Getty Images for Acne Studios

Featured Session: It’s Time We Talked About Food: The Quest to Feed a Hungry World
11:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m.
Hilton Austin, 5000 East Fourth Street, Downtown
Salon H

James Beard Award Media-winning host and chef Sophia Roe and Ami McReynolds, the CEO of Feeding America, discuss solutions for the global hunger crisis.

Futuring Food Systems: A Seat at the Chef’s Table
11:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m.
Austin Marriott, 304 East Cesar Chavez Street, Downtown
Waterloo Ballroom 1-2

Top Black chefs, including Austin’s Tavel Bristol-Joseph and Dallas’s Tiffany Derry, take to the SXSW stage to mull over systemic challenges in the food world, historical ingredients, and opportunities for innovation.

The Future of Trust Through Food
11:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m.
JW Marriott, 110 Second Street, Downtown
Salon D

Some brands look to increase trust (and revenue) through food and advertising. Is this possible, and if so how? A group of leading voices in the industry analyzes the possibilities.

It Takes Guts: From Ukrainian Refugee to Kefir CEO
2:30 to 3:30 p.m.
Austin Marriott, 304 East Cesar Chavez Street, Downtown
Waterloo Ballroom 3

Julie Smolyansky, CEO of Lifeway Foods, a supplier of Slavic superfood known as kefir, takes you through her journey. Learn how a Ukrainian refugee became the youngest female CEO of a publicly traded company at the age of 27 and get a gut check on the benefits of kefir.

Mentor: Jing Gao (Fly By Jing)
2:30 to 3:45 p.m.
Hilton Austin, 500 Fourth Street, Downtown
Room 400-402

Mentor sessions are a way to get one-on-one time with industry-leading professionals and innovators. This session features Jing Gao, founder and CEO of Fly By Jing, the popular pantry seasonings company. You can sign up on the event page by clicking the RSVP button and choosing a time slot. Good luck, spaces are limited and get snatched up quickly.

A woman at a restaurant dining table outside with lots of food.
Jing Gao.
Fly By Jing

Culture War on Food: How Political Identity is Shaping the Way We Eat
4:00 to 5:00 p.m.
Austin Marriott, 304 East Cesar Chavez Street, Downtown
Waterloo Ballroom 3

It seems like nothing is immune to the culture wars and that includes food. Wunderkeks co-founder Hans Schrei and Snaxshot creator Andrea Hernández share their thoughts on the political climate and how it shapes what we eat and why we eat it.

Reimagining Restaurants: Shaping a Scarce Industry
4:00 to 5:00 p.m.
Austin Marriott, 304 East Cesar Chavez Street, Downtown
Waterloo Ballroom 1-2

The hospitality industry can be a difficult one to find equity. This panel looks at ways to improve resources and reimagine the restaurant structure, with panelists like chef Marcelle Afram of D.C. Palestinian restaurant Shababi Chicken and chef Melissa Miranda of Filipino restaurant Musang.


Monday, March 13

Hunger Games. Who is Winning in our Broken System?
11:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m.
Hilton Austin, 500 Fourth Street, Downtown
Salon B

If Texas has the ninth-largest economy out of fifty states and a $33 billion budget surplus, why do so many Texans go hungry? Representatives of Feeding Texas, WSP USA, and Go Behind the Ballot explore why hunger in the state is persistent and search for solutions on how to fix it.

Brands Shaking Up Alcohol’s Carbon Footprint
4:00 to 5:00 p.m.
Austin Marriott, 304 East Cesar Chavez Street, Downtown
Waller Ballroom A-B

When we talk about the carbon footprint we usually talk about the energy our cars or buildings use and how farming can be changed to make less of an impact, but we rarely think about how much alcohol production is a factor as well. Speakers from BeatBox Beverages, Austin distillery Fierce Whiskers Distillery, and WhistlePig Whiskey divulge how their companies approach sustainability and how others can follow.


Thursday, March 16

Water Is A Right
4:00. to 5:00 p.m.
Austin Convention Center, 500 Cesar Chavez Street, Downtown
Room 10A-B

Join Moses West, founder of AWG Contracting and Water Rescue, a company that can pull water out of thin air (and was recently a great asset in Jackson, Mississippi), and Jonathan “Chaka” Mahone of FAWA (Diversity Awareness and Wellness in Action), for a chat about clean water solutions.

Disclosure: David Chang is producing shows for Hulu in partnership with Vox Media Studios, part of Eater’s parent company, Vox Media. No Eater staff member is involved in the production of those shows, and this does not impact coverage on Eater.

Austin Convention Center

500 East Cesar Chavez Street, , TX 78701 (512) 404-4000 Visit Website

Hilton Austin

500 East 4th Street, , TX 78701 (512) 482-8000 Visit Website

Austin Marriott Downtown

304 East Cesar Chavez Street, , TX 78701 (512) 457-1111 Visit Website