Rock Your Taco Showdown Preview

We’ve partnered with a host of talented bloggers from around the web to let you in on some of the stories behind the wide range of talent at this year’s festival. From profiles and interviews to recipes and previews, follow along for the inside track on all things AFWF.

With the Festival kicking off tonight, Liz Standley of Oh Hey Dallas, checks in with a few of the chefs participating in the Taste of Texas and Rock Your Taco events on Friday and Saturday evenings for a look at what guests can expect from the gourmet soirees!


Rock Your Taco

If I’ve said it once, I’ve said it a 100 times. For the self-proclaimed “foodies,” culinary explorers, chefs and really anyone who enjoys incredible food, Austin FOOD & WINE Festival is the event of the year. It is truly the Disneyland for your taste buds. I had the pleasure of attending the festival last year for the first time and am thrilled to be participating again in 2014.

AFWF is so much more than a few booths serving up dishes from local area restaurants. From chef demos to evening events, competitions to after parties, AFWF truly offers something for everyone.

One of my favorite events from last year’s festival was the Rock Your Taco Showdown. In this culinary battle, beloved chefs from across the country compete for the best taco. Sounds simple right? Wrong! These chefs dream up some of the most creative, delicious and truly one-of-a-kind creations. This year marks the third Rock Your Taco Showdown and in the two previous years, Chef Tyson Cole of Austin’s Uchi and Uchiko has blown the competition away.

Held at Republic Square Park in Downtown Austin, Rock Your Taco is like a scene out of a movie. Guests laughing, “oohs” and “ahhs” coming from every direction, participating chefs taking pictures with adoring fans — all set to the soundtrack of great live music. It is almost as if you are living out an episode of Bravo TV’s Top Chef — and I can get down with that.

I had the pleasure of chatting with a few of the chefs competing in this year’s Rock Your Taco, and based on our conversations I can guarantee that attendees are in for a treat!

Fort Worth’s Tim Love informed me that his creation will be a game-time decision but that it’s guaranteed to be as “bold, aggressive and adventurous,” as last year when he served up roasted antelope bulgogi and kimchi tacos.

Meanwhile, Rick Bayless of Topolobampo, Frontera Grille and XOCO in Chicago has been working on his taco for weeks. “I’m doing two demos with our Wine Director, Jill Gubesch, on good pairings for the fest. I can tell you that the food we’ll be talking about is both classic and modern. We wanted to show both sides of what we do.”

Representing Dallas and Abacus Restaurant is culinary legend, Kent Rathbun. This will be the first year that he is competing in the showdown and when asked if he was “ready to rock some tacos” his response was everything I could have hoped for with a “hell to the yes!”

Chef Rathbun’s self-admitted guilty pleasure is street tacos, so his Rock Your Taco dish is sure to be something special. Although I couldn’t get Chef Rathbun to divulge specifics, he did mention that he “worships the pig.” One can only assume his taco will be full of pork-y goodness. As for his thoughts on ousting reigning champ, Tyson Cole? “I thought (he) did Asian food.”

Speaking of Chef Tyson Cole, while he also wouldn’t tell us what he’d be serving, he did hint that it would involve “a lot of yellow.” Does that scare me? Yes, but I’m moreso intrigued by what that could possibly mean. When asked whether he was worried about winning that third title, Chef Cole said, “We never settle. It’s always about pushing the limits in order to be the best for all of our staff, cooks and chefs. Win or lose, I’m sure this time around we’ll put out something that’s delicious.” Oh, I am sure you will, Chef, I’m sure you will.

Will the third time be a charm for Chef Tyson Cole? That will be determined by guest judges Chef Graham Elliot, FOOD & WINE Magazine Publisher Christina Grdovic and TV Personality Andrew Zimmern on April 26th, but I can guarantee you that the 14 participating chefs from ten different cities will definitely be bringing their A-game and I can’t wait to reap the benefits!


Liz Standley developed Oh Hey Dallas as a total accident. A food lover and explorer of all things Dallas, what started off as a place for friends and family to visit to get a laugh as well as gain the scoop on the latest and greatest has turned into a full time hobby. When she isn’t being a snarky food snob, Liz enjoys working with dog rescue and traveling.”