Food for Thought
Food for Thought
Food for Thought
On Saturday, March 9, The Washington Post brought together local Austin chefs, entrepreneurs and thought leaders, including Top Chef host and executive producer, Padma Lakshmi, for a series of discussions about the future of food and issues at the intersection of culinary culture and broader social justice movements.
Eating Austin: Exploring A Thriving Culinary Scene
How are local chefs preserving the rich and unique culinary traditions of Austin while staying on the cutting edge of food and restaurant culture? Hear from three of the city’s best chefs.
  • Mar 11
Barley Swine Owner and Executive Chef Bryce Gilmore, Pastry Chef Laura Sawicki and Olamaie Owner and Executive Chef Michael Fojtasek explain what makes Austin so unique.
  • Mar 11
Bryce Gilmore
Owner and Executive Chef of Barley Swine, Odd Duck and Sour Duck
Bryce Gilmore has spent the last decade in Austin building a restaurant group with a cornerstone of supporting local farmers. After opening Barley Swine, his first brick and mortar in late 2009, Gilmore was named a Food & Wine Best New Chef and James Beard Foundation Award (JBFA) semifinalist for Rising Star Chef in 2011. In March 2012, Barley Swine was also named one of GQ Magazine’s Best New Restaurants. Both Odd Duck and Sour Duck Market were named Bon Appetit’s Top 50 Best New Restaurants in 2014 and 2018, respectively. All three of his restaurants source all ingredients from small, nearby farms. Anything they can’t source, they make; and anything they can’t make, they don’t serve.
Michael Fojtasek
Executive Chef and Owner of Olamaie
Michael Fojtasek is the executive chef and owner of Olamaie, Austin American-Statesman's 2015 and 2017 ‘Best Restaurant in Austin,' and upcoming neighborhood restaurant Mignette. Fojtasek opened Olamaie in Austin, Texas, in August 2014 as an outlet for his passion for seasonal ingredients and love of Southern cooking and hospitality. Since opening, Olamaie and Michael have received numerous accolades, including 2018 James Beard Finalist for “Best Chef Southwest,” 2015 James Beard Semifinalist for “Best New Restaurant,” 2015 Food & Wine magazine’s “Best New Chefs,” and second Best New Restaurant in Texas Monthly’s “Where to Eat Now” in 2015.
Laura Sawicki
Pastry Chef at Launderette
Whimsical, complex and beautiful, Laura Sawicki's work embodies her spirit and passion for creating desserts that tickle our memories and enchant our palettes. Her love of hospitality and dedication to her craft has gained Laura a devoted following and high praise from both local and national press. She was named “Best New Pastry Chef 2012” by Food & Wine magazine and has been nominated four times by the James Beard Foundation for “Outstanding Pastry Chef.”
Moderated by Mary Beth Albright
Food Anchor, The Washington Post
Trends in Food Innovation: Keeping it Local
From hyperlocal gardening to “BreadBots” in your neighborhood grocery store, the way we experience, access and enjoy food is changing, fast. Experts look at how innovations and changing priorities are revolutionizing our relationship with food from the supermarket to your kitchen counter.
  • Mar 11
LettuceGrow’s Jacob Pechenik says consumers often focus on cost and convenience, but it’s time they start asking whether ‘someone is looking out for them’ when it comes to their food.
  • Mar 11
Jacob Pechenik
Co-Founder of The Farm Project
Jacob Pechenik is a passionate entrepreneur, who has made a career of questioning and improving industry status quos. While expecting their first child, Jacob and his wife, actress Zooey Deschanel, became acutely aware of limitations in our food system and went on to found The Farm Project, a Public Benefit Corporation whose mission is to transform our food system by engaging and empowering consumers. The organization’s newest initiative Lettuce Grow furthers their mission to reconnect people with their food by empowering everyone to grow 20 percent of their own food at home.
Jacob Pechenik
CEO, Wilkinson Baking Company
Randall Wilkinson is the CEO of Wilkinson Baking Company. Wilkinson Baking produces a “bread bot” that is a mini-bakery producing freshly baked bread using smart technology like AI, big data analytics, and facial recognition to customize each experience.
Moderated by Cat Zakrzewski
Technology Reporter, The Washington Post
Serving up Social Change with Padma Lakshmi
Emmy-nominated Padma Lakshmi is internationally known as a food expert, model, actress and best-selling author. She has also been named a visiting scholar at MIT, co-founded the Endometriosis Foundation of America and serves as an ambassador for the ACLU focusing on both immigrants’ rights and women’s reproductive rights. How has she leveraged her thought leadership in the food world to create broader social change?
  • Mar 11
Padma Lakshmi says it’s important to her that her show showcases chefs from all walks of life. ‘We want to have a nice cross-section of chefs, not only because we’re so conscious or ethical, but because it makes a better show. That’s more representative of the whole country, and it’s more exciting, and often the food is more exciting and delicious.’
  • Mar 11
Padma Lakshmi says she doesn’t consider someone experimenting with another culture’s food or fashion cultural appropriation, it’s just a way for them to learn about someone else’s way of life. ‘That kind of hyper political correctness does not allow for love. It does not allow for appreciation and admiration,’ she said.
  • Mar 11
Padma Lakshmi
Host, Executive Producer of Bravo’s "Top Chef"
Emmy-nominated Padma Lakshmi is internationally known as a food expert, model, actress and best-selling author, as well as the recipient of the 2016 NECO Ellis Island Medal of Honor and Variety’s 2018 Karma award. Lakshmi serves as host and executive producer of Bravo’s Emmy award-winning Top Chef, which is currently in its 16th season. Lakshmi also serves as an ambassador for the American Civil Liberties Union, focusing on both immigrants’ rights and women’s reproductive rights. She was also recently named a Visiting Scholar at Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT).
Interviewed by Mary Beth Albright
Food Anchor, The Washington Post
Sponsored Content from Land O' Lakes
A conversation revealing the truth about the biggest problems (and solutions) in today’s food system.
  • Mar 11
Marcie Glicksman, PhD
Chief Science Officer at Orig3n
Marcie Glicksman has a PhD in Neuroscience and along with her teammates at Orig3n, she has developed a series of health- and wellness-associated DNA tests. These tests use simple cheek swabs that can be done at home and sent into a lab. The data provides users with information about their unique makeup, and the company provides recommendations on nutrition, fitness, and more based on this information.
Jennifer van de Ligt, PhD
Associate Director, Food Protection and Defense Institute and Director, Integrated Food Systems Leadership Program
University of Minnesota Professor Jennifer van de Ligt has an extensive background in animal feed and human food production, nutrition, modeling, safety, and regulations, with academic, industry, and global perspectives. A key focus of her current research portfolio is building collaborations with and transitioning food and feed security, safety, and supply-chain resiliency solutions to the food industry.
Marie Haga
Executive Director, CropTrust
Marie Haga is the executive director of CropTrust, whose mission is to ensure the conservation and availability of crop diversity for food security worldwide. Their stance is: It has never been more critical to conserve crop diversity. We need the greatest possible diversity of crops to secure our food supply at a time when we are making unprecedented demands, and putting unprecedented pressure, on our environment.
Moderated by Danielle Nierenberg
President of Food Tank
Danielle Nierenberg is a world-recognized expert on all issues relating to our food system and agriculture. She is the co-founder Food Tank, a nonprofit organization focused on building a global community for safe, healthy, nourished eaters.
About Washington Post Live
Washington Post Live is the newsroom’s live journalism platform. Top-level government and business leaders, emerging voices and newsmakers discuss the most pressing national and global issues of the day.