How the Future of Southern Food Landed in Austin

On the latest 'MUNCHIES: The Podcast' I sat down with chef Michael Fojtasek of Olamaie to discuss how his restaurant is changing the course of Southern cuisine.

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Jun 21 2016, 6:00pm

To be Texan, all you have to do is brag about it. Our state is so large, it's bigger than France, Japan, and almost twice as big as Germany. It's so proud that we've been threatening to secede from the US for a hell of a long time. It's a place so headstrong that even our foodways are not classified as Southern, but Texan, honey.

Or as a wiser culinary sage—chef Michael Fojtasek—once told me, "Texas is not part of the South. It's very much it's own thing with a lot of Southern influence." Damn, right.

So by regular logic, it's another state in the US with a big ego and a shared American history in Southernish geography. But at Olamaie, one of Austin's newest—and hottest—restaurants, chef and owner Michael Fojtasek and his team are politely ignoring history and respecting it all the same; blurring cultural and geographic lines between Tennessee, the South at large, and Texan traditions on one plate. And in this blended effort, pushing the notion of Southern food into the future.

But if you haven't heard of Michael Fojtasek, here's a quick primer: Last year, Fojtasek won Food & Wine Magazine's Best New Chef award, and Olamaie has been recognized as one of the best restaurants in Texas by Texas Monthly. With a seasonally-driven menu, Fojtasek and his team will serve you everything from a country-fried blowfish to Hoppin' John with a soft-boiled egg, or chicken and dumplings with fermented carrot.

Tune in to the latest episode of MUNCHIES: The Podcast to hear Fojtasek's thoughts on the past, present, and future of Southern food, and learn why Texan cuisine is not actually Southern. So go ahead download the podcast, and tell your friends to do the same. And if you haven't done so already, subscribe to MUNCHIES: The Podcast on iTunes and Soundcloudif you feel like it. Check back in two weeks for the next episode, when I speak to one of Austin's greatest bartenders (at one of Willie Nelson's old haunts) about how to be a Texan in 2016.