Austin has been growing at a rapid clip over the past 20 years, and it’s no wonder! With 300 days of sunshine, winter temperatures in the 50s, and a booming economy, this is the place to be!
And we’re not the only ones who say so. U.S. News & World Report rated Austin the #1 place to live in America three years in a row — 2017, 2018, and 2019. It’s also ranked #4 of the best large cities to start a business. That’s great news for culinary students with entrepreneurial aspirations!
So if you’re looking for great food and drinks, lots to do outdoors, and live music every night, head to Austin for culinary school.
Dining and Drinking in Austin
Austin is a foodie paradise, with world-class food coming from humble food trucks and fine-dining restaurants — and everything in between. Austin culinary students can feast on tacos, gorge on Texas barbecue, and enjoy fine dining from James Beard-awarded chefs, all in the same laid-back city.
“In Austin, the relationships we have with the farmers are fantastic.”
Escoffier Chef Instructor John Hummel
Top Austin Restaurants
One of the top on the list is farm-to-table restaurant Emmer & Rye, under the leadership of Chef Kevin Fink. Their entirely seasonal menu changes every week or so, based on what they can find locally. The ingredient hunt starts in Austin, and then expands to the state of Texas. This local focus seems to be working! Kevin Fink is a James Beard finalist, and he was named a 2016 Best New Chef by Food & Wine. The restaurant also got a Best New Restaurants nod by Bon Appétit in 2016.
For very special occasions, Austinites love to visit Uchi for amazing sushi and modern Japanese cuisine. Chef/Owner Tyson Cole is a three-time James Beard semifinalist and one-time winner as Best Chef: Southwest. If the menu seems out of reach of your budget, drop by for their Sake Social happy hour for discounted small plates and hand rolls.
It’s not all fancy eating in Austin. In fact, Austin is a pretty casual place with a major food truck scene. Head south of the city to Valentina’s Tex-Mex BBQ, a food truck that serves brisket, sausage, smoked chicken, and carnitas with homemade flour tortillas. It was named one of Texas Monthly’s Top 50 BBQ spots, which is a major honor in a state that takes its BBQ very seriously.
“Some fellow alumni and I are working in partnership to build a much-needed establishment in Austin, TX. I am so grateful for my education at Auguste Escoffier School of Culinary Arts and all the doors it has opened for this next chapter of my life.”
Monica Paredes, Austin Pastry Arts Graduate
Escoffier Austin Culinary Arts graduate Nahika Hillery has her own successful Austin food truck, Kreyòl Korner Caribbean Cuisine. It serves creative Haitian dishes like plantain cups stuffed with beef or pork and malanga (or taro) fritters.
Across the globe food-wise, another Escoffier graduate is cooking up a storm. Chef de Cuisine Stacey Jones completed her culinary externship at Sway, a beloved modern Thai restaurant in South Austin. After her externship, she was offered a job as a pastry chef and worked her way up the ranks. Sway makes flavorful curries and inventive fried rice dishes in an upscale modern atmosphere.
“I think the biggest thing for Escoffier students is they build up the confidence in us, in all of our skills, so we can walk into a restaurant and feel comfortable in the kitchen and in our knife skills. All of the [Chef Instructors] were really supportive and helpful and encouraging.”
Stacey Jones, Austin Culinary Arts Graduate & Chef de Cuisine
Austin is a health-conscious city, so there are lots of vegan and vegetarian options, too. Local favorites include Bouldin Creek Cafe for tofu scrambles and Mr. Natural for vegan tacos and enchiladas.
Several major food festivals call Austin home, like Aaron Franklin’s Hot Luck Festival and Austin Food + Wine Festival. These events have been cancelled for 2020 due to the pandemic, but will hopefully be back in 2021.
Festivals provide a great opportunity to sample small bites from some of the city’s best chefs. Plus, culinary students can volunteer to help out, providing a great opportunity to network and get advice from industry professionals!
Wineries, Breweries, and More
The craft beer movement has impacted the city in a big way, with dozens of breweries in Austin and the surrounding area. Visit Banger’s Sausage House & Beer Garden on trendy Rainey Street to sample over 200 beers on draft. And wine lovers can head a short drive west into the Hill Country to the Hwy 290 Wine Trail, with over 40 wineries and distilleries dotted across the countryside.
Breweries, wineries, and restaurants are generally open — especially if they have patio seating. Make sure to check with each location before planning a visit and abide by social distancing and mask rules!
When students need to get away from food altogether, Austin has options galore!
Inside the city, head to Barton Springs Pool in downtown’s Zilker Park. Take a bracing dip in the 68-degree, spring-fed pool on a hot summer’s day. This natural pool has been a major city attraction for over 100 years. Zilker Park is part of an extensive greenbelt, with hiking trails scattered all over the city.
Separating downtown from South Austin lies Lady Bird Lake, a man-made reservoir that stretches the length of the city. Rent a kayak or stand-up paddle board and spend a day on the water. Or if you prefer to stay on dry land, explore the lake’s hike-and-bike trail. This well-manicured path has 10 miles of trails and a large boardwalk that projects over the water.
If you need to get out of town, visit McKinney Roughs Nature Area to the east with beautiful hiking trails on the Colorado River. Or head west to Enchanted Rock near Fredericksburg. Climb the pink granite dome to get a 360-degree view of the surrounding hills.
South of Austin, stop by the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center. The former first lady was wild about native Texas plant life, and she co-founded this botanical garden dedicated to Texas’ natural beauty.
Culture & Shopping
Austin has changed dramatically over the past 20 years, with major growth and population increases. But the Live Music Capital of the World still loves live music. While many indoor venues are still closed due to the coronavirus, some outdoor venues are bringing music back with social distancing guidelines.
Austin is home to major annual music festivals like South by Southwest and Austin City Limits. They were cancelled for 2020 but will hopefully return in 2021! Austin also has a small independent film scene, with directors like Richard Linklater and Robert Rodriguez living and working there. During the Austin Film Festival, filmmakers flood into the city to watch screenings and make connections outside of Hollywood.
At the Circuit of The Americas, Austin hosts Formula 1 and MotoGP races, concerts, community events, and more. While the major racing events were cancelled in 2020, they are expected to resume in 2021.
And if you like to shop, visit The Domain in North Austin. This sprawling retail and restaurant development is considered Austin’s second downtown. It has independent boutiques, restaurants, spas, and high-end retailers. As an outdoor mall, you can wander the area in the fresh air and pop your mask on when you enter the shops.
Work Hard, Play Hard
Even with some of the major events on hiatus due to COVID-19, Austin is a city with plenty to do for culinary students. Try world cuisines and local brews, soak up the sun while hiking or kayaking, and take in all the live music you could possibly want!
If you’re ready to start your culinary education in Austin, contact our Admissions department today!
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