MasterChef to host casting call in Austin on Saturday

MasterChef is casting in Austin this weekend. Photo from FOX.
MasterChef is casting in Austin this weekend. Photo from FOX.

If you’re an above-average home cook and wouldn’t mind some time in the limelight, you’ll be interested to know that MasterChef, the popular cooking competition show on Fox, will be hosting a casting call in Austin on Saturday from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. at Residence Inn Downtown, 300 E. Fourth St.

Prospective competitors need to preregister at and bring a prepared dish to serve to the casting team.

Aaron Franklin hits Jimmy Kimmel to promote new book

Aaron Franklin popped by Jimmy Kimmel yesterday for an 8 minute segment in which he shows the TV host, who was just in Austin for South by Southwest, and “Avengers” actress Cobie Smulders how to make one of his famed briskets.

Franklin, ever quick on his feet, seems at ease making jokes with Kimmel about using a sharp knife to cut belly fat just like his trims the brisket, keeping one hand clean to drink Lone Star and the “oddly big deal” of a guy who starts and puts out fires being nominated for a James Beard Award.

He also dropped the news that his show “BBQ with Franklin” will debut in “all the PBS markets” in May.

I’m sure the show will air on KLRU, and I’ll keep you posted if his estimation that it will air on every PBS station is accurate. (I have a feeling it will air in markets outside Austin and even Texas, but perhaps not every public TV station in the country.)

Anthony Bourdain returns to Austin for event at Bass in July

bourdainclosetotheboneTV host and professional culinary badass Anthony Bourdain will return to Austin this summer as part of a 10-city “Close to the Bone” tour.

Bourdain, the “Parts Unknown” host who has given similar monologe-style presentations in Austin, will talk about some of his globe-trotting adventures and thoughts on modern food culture in the July 9 appearance at Bass Concert Hall, 2300 Robert Dedman Dr.

Tickets ($42.50-$75.50), officially go on sale on April 17, but you can enter the promo code “UNKNOWN” to get early access. You can also currently buy VIP tickets, which cost $200 and include food from Odd Duck and Barley Swine and a chance to meet Bourdain.

10-year-old BeeSweet founder scores deal on ‘Shark Tank’

One of Austin’s youngest food entrepreneurs just inked a deal with FUBU CEO Daymond John.

BeeSweet Lemonade founder Mikaila Ulmer appeared on last week’s episode of “Shark Tank” — one of my favorite shows, by the way, but I’m always a few weeks behind watching it so I just now found out about Ulmer’s deal — and pitched a partnership to the panel of judges.

BeeSweet Lemonade founder Mikaila Ulmer and her dad, Theo, appeared on "Shark Tank" recently.
BeeSweet Lemonade founder Mikaila Ulmer and her dad, Theo, appeared on “Shark Tank” recently.

John, who founded the clothing brand FUBU and specializes in licensing deals on the series, offered Ulmer $60,000 for a 25 percent stake in her company with the goal of taking the lemonade to more retailers nationwide. Customers can already buy the lemonade, which is made at a co-packing facility in Round Rock, at Whole Foods in Texas, Oklahoma and Louisiana, as well as Austin stores such as People’s Pharmacy and Wheatsville Co-op.

Ulmer and her family started the business after the then 4-year-old participated in the citywide Austin Lemonade Day, which returns on May 2. The lemonade, which is made without high-fructose corn syrup, also has a touch of flaxseed, an idea Ulmer got from a 1940s cookbook her grandmother sent her the same year she first participated in Austin Lemonade Day. She donates 10 percent of proceeds to organizations that support bees around the world.

This spring, Ulmer will launch two new flavors: lemonade with prickly pear and another mixed with iced tea.

BeeSweet Popsicles

2 – 12 oz. bottles of BeeSweet Lemonade – Mint
2 teaspoons of yummy honey
1/2 cup of fresh spearmint
Zest of half of lemon

Add lemon zest, BeeSweet Lemonade, honey and mint to a small saucepan. Warm up on a low heat for approx 305 minutes to allow the lemon, honey and mint to mix. Allow liquid to cool slightly and pour into 6 oz. pop molds. No Molds? No problem. Use ice trays or Dixie cups. Add a sprig of fresh mint to each pop. Depending on your pop molds, either put the lid on or add pop sticks to the center and pop in freezer at least 4 hours.

Richard Linklater spoofs ‘Boyhood’ in new video for PETA

Spoofing his acclaimed movie “Boyhood” ahead of the Oscars on Sunday, Richard Linklater teamed up with PETA this week to release a short little video about the director’s choice to become (and stay) a vegetarian.

The concept is pretty cute: Pretend that he’s checking in with PETA every five years since 1985 to see how things are going in his animal-free eating.

The joke at the end about how he’s hardly aged is amusing, but this video is among PETA’s more benign tactics to get people to stop eating animal products. For a drive-by of their more offensive ones, check out this Business Insider list of 17 of their most shocking campaigns, and here’s how PETA defends the intentionally controversial approach.


How has food writing changed since 1937? Not as much as you’d think

San Antonio Express-News food writer packs groceries at H-E-B for a story in 1988.
San Antonio Express-News food writer packs groceries at H-E-B for a story in 1988.

I’m a little behind in pointing blog readers to a big story I published on Sunday about the history of newspaper food writing in Texas and a book called “The Food Section” that digs into a little-explored piece of journalism history: the early food editors who laid the foundation for our current foodie culture.

Clearly, I’m invested in this subject because I am a current food writer for a mainstream newspaper, but I think the subject has wide appeal because so many of us feel a special connection to the food section of a newspaper and, by extension, the writers and editors who oversee it. Historically, this kind of “soft news” didn’t earn much respect in journalism circles because it wasn’t as “serious” as the hard news.

I put quotes around the word serious because the more you think about what matters in people’s lives, what they serve on their dinner table has just as much impact on their day-to-day lives as how much their property tax is going up or the latest political scandal at the Capitol.

Americans spend more on food than just about every other expense besides housing, and food writers help them spend that money wisely and gain confidence in the kitchen. Former Austin American-Statesman food writer Kitty Crider has said that she thought of herself as a “recipe lady” when she started the job but quickly realized that her beat would encompass far more than that.

Think about it. A writer who can help someone understand the latest in nutrition science can mean the difference between someone having confidence in their own weight management and someone who struggles to figure out why the numbers on the scale keep climbing. When covering a new food technology or product, a writer is also helping put that evolution into a wider context about how life in America is changing, such as how the invention of frozen dinners, convenience foods and the microwave allowed women to work longer hours and earn more money for themselves and their households.

When interviewing five of the longest tenured food editors in Texas, I realized that for all the changes in both media and food, the job is still very much the same as when, in 1937, Hattie Llewellyn took what was likely the first full-time food editor position in the state at the San Antonio Express-News.

We keep track of food trends and news and inspire readers to try new ingredients and techniques in the kitchen. We answer their questions — once by snail mail and phone; now by email, social media and phone — and find ways to make that conversation a two-way street. Food writers have always coordinated recipe exchanges, but now, instead of asking readers to mail or drop off their favorites, we have them do it through Instagram or email.

The network of food writers used to be limited to those who worked at traditional news outlets, but blogging has widened that circle to encompass anyone with enough interest and aptitude to set up a WordPress site. (In the early years of blogging, that change made many in the industry nervous, but I think most established food writers now see that it’s beneficial to everyone to be more open-minded about food writing from “non-professionals.”)

Within this growing food writing industry and hyperactive foodie culture, we need to acknowledge the pioneering work of the women who persuaded their editors that food was a subject worthy of professional pursuit.

Jane Nickerson.
Jane Nickerson.

One of those women whose name I want you all to remember is Jane Nickerson, the founding food editor of the New York Times.

Nickerson, who took the job in 1942 and “retired” to raise her family in 1957, was at the helm of the country’s most influential newspaper during the wartime rationing of World War II and later reported from Europe on how cooks there were trying to make due with a slowly recovering food system. She was responsible for introducing James Beard to the culinary community in New York and preceded Craig Claiborne, whose name is nearly as well known as Beard’s, by nearly 15 years, but her name has almost been lost to history, even in Times’ own reporting on the history of its food coverage.

Six months after Voss’s book brought her story to life, Nickerson still doesn’t have a Wikipedia page.

There’s still much to be written about this subject, which I hope to do in the coming years. As my food writer friend Ellen Sweets pointed out of Facebook, even less is known about the women of color who were also writing about food at this time, and each year that passes, the likelihood of recovering that information declines.

Right now, I’m on the hunt for more information about Opal Washington, who was perhaps the first African American columnist at the Statesman, and any other food writers and editors whose names didn’t pop up in that story.

I know their relatives are out there, sitting memories and clippings that document these careers and, by extension, the history of food culture here.

It’s a story that I look forward to continuing to tell as my own career in food writing evolves.


WATCH: Foods that go too far on Statesman Shots

I always enjoy chatting with (the very witty) Tolly Moseley and Omar Gallaga on their podcast, Statesman Shots, and they invited me back this week to talk about all things Thanksgiving.

We cover the highs and the lows of the holiday, from our very favorite dishes to the family-related stress that often accompanies the dinner. In one of their Short Shot sections, we discussed the Austin360 Taste Test series, and by extension, foods that go too far. The cappuccino chips and hot peanut butter drinks of the world might not appeal to my palate, but as you’ll see in the video, one person’s “yuck” is another’s “yum.”

You can listen to the full podcast here (MP3) or here (MP4/AAC), and here is the link to subscribe.

Food invention show casting in Austin

Have a food invention you’re trying to get off the ground? The producers behind “Extreme Weight Loss” on ABC are casting in Austin on Dec 3 and 4 for a new show about entrepreneurs who have created food-related inventions, from kitchen utensils and equipment to tools that might be used to harvest or grow food. (They also mentioned “a new kind of cake” on the website, but didn’t specify if all consumer packaged grocery goods are eligible.)

Contestants who make the show will get to pitch a panel of investors. Interested applicants can sign up or submit an audition video at

Update: Deep Eddy Vodka re-edits commercial after complaints

deepeddyadI really didn’t want to have to write this post.

The Austin-based Deep Eddy Vodka caused a stir last week with an offensive new ad in which a guy “crashes parties” and makes unwanted advances on women, including spitting “vodka” on them.

Last week, Austin Gastronomist blogger Kathryn Hutchison wrote the definitive takedown, which includes the full-length video, explaining why Deep Eddy shouldn’t base an ad campaign on a guy touching women when they’ve asked him not to.

Hutchison gets to the heart of the matter:

“His admission that ‘we crashed parties…’ implies that the women in the advertisements weren’t actresses who accepted a role. These were real women at parties in Austin, getting spit on and hit on so that Deep Eddy can make more money.”

On Twitter, they claimed to have removed the video and, essentially, that they were sorry “you people who care about how women are portrayed and treated in media” (my quotes, not theirs) were offended.

The non-apology is irritating, but I was hoping that the video would disappear and I wouldn’t have to take them to task here on my work blog.

But that all changed over the past few days when I heard the guy’s voice coming from my kids’ bedroom.

Like just about every kid in America these days, my children watch YouTube in the way that we used to watch regular television, and like any media platform, that comes with advertising. They know all about how deceptive marketing can be and have become quite scrupulous about the ads that appear in front of their favorite YouTube shows, including the Fine Brothers’ awesome Kids React series.

It was during a pre-roll for that decidedly kid-friendly show that the Deep Eddy video has been popping up over and over again during the past few days.

UPDATE: Here’s the edited version of the ad that Deep Eddy is using:

I tweeted my displeasure yesterday, but now that I see Deep Eddy still hasn’t owned up to the fact that they are using this ad in an active campaign (and nor have they engaged with the most recent string of tweets or issued a real apology), I decided it was time to take the conversation off social media and post something on the record here.

UPDATE: Here’s the response from Deep Eddy:

“Deep Eddy Vodka is a company that prides itself on strong values in regards to gender equality, and as soon as the concern was brought to our attention we immediately took action. Over 40% of our employees are women, and all are shareholders and strong supporters of the Deep Eddy Vodka brand.

We are sorry that the video came across as anything but lighthearted and fun, and will be more aware when giving comedic license to a campaign.”

In the email, the publicist said that after the initial complaints, the company re-edited the video to remove the parts in which the man spits on the woman and where another woman asks him (again) to stop touching her. The final add still toes the line at the end when the woman responds with the line, “It was basically a party in my mouth,” and the host throws a look at the camera that says he’s not thinking about vodka.

While I’m happy the company has taken some kind of action, I’m still not thrilled at the tone because I’ve seen where it comes from. We’ll keep this poll up for posterity’s sake::