As people stood in line to get into the courtyard at the Marriott Plaza hotel on Thursday evening, aromas emanating from the food booths at the Taste of the Republic event had mouths watering.
The Fiesta culinary party, led by San Antonio Chef Brian West, highlights Texan cuisine. Curated for six different culinary regions around the state, the dishes reflected everything from the spicy and bold flavors of West Texas with a green chile braised pork tostada, created by Chef Benjamin De Los Santos of Benjie’s Munch, to a Tex-Mex take on Mexican southern comfort food in the form of Texas Akaushi HeartBrand Beef barbacoa from Chef Rudy Martinez of the Sheraton Gunter Hotel.
With its 2017 designation by UNESCO as a Creative City of Gastronomy, San Antonio has been working to foster international relations through the tastebuds, so City officials brought in two chefs from San Antonio’s German sister city of Darmstadt to cook at the event.
Chefs Frank Schylla and Andreas Schlechta prepared a dish typical to their region of Hesse, Germany. The green sauce – or grie soss as it is called in the regional dialect – is made with seven herbs and sour cream and usually served with boiled potatoes and eggs.
“People are very surprised that German food isn’t always about bratwurst, but can be vegetarian. They think it’s great,” said Schylla. “Everyone has been very nice and friendly, asking if they can come to our restaurant. But that would include a transatlantic flight to Darmstadt.”
Earlier in the week, the two chefs got a taste of Texas cuisine and culture on a tour of Texas Hill Country barbecue restaurants.
Led by West, Schlechta and Schylla visited City Market BBQ in Luling, as well as Smitty’s Market and the original Black’s Barbecue in Lockhart for a taste of brisket, sausage, and ribs. By their third serving the chefs had learned the meaning of “having the meat sweats.”
“It was amazing,” Schylla said. “Very authentic!”
Shining a light on uniquely American cuisine has been a mission for West, who is co-founder of the Texas Culinary Alliance and has consulted for many restaurants around the state. “That’s really good to hear as an American,” he said. “Because we often struggle with authenticity.”
The chefs also took a brief tour of New Braunfels and Fredericksburg, two towns that make their German influences
visible in street signs and business names.
Their stay also included visits to San Antonio restaurants such as La Gloria, where they met with Chef Johnny Hernandez and talked corn crops, as well as a tour of the Culinary Institute of America at the Pearl.
Back at Taste of the Republic, visitors snacked their way through the different booths, where each dish was paired with a specific wine.
“The wine pairing took it to that next level,” said Annika Hight, who attended the event for the first time this year. Her friend Tawnya Smith agreed: “They had this fried pork belly and paired with this really awesome chardonnay. That was my favorite!”
Both are celebrating Fiesta for the first time this year, despite having lived in San Antonio for years, and they said enjoyed doing it in a more relaxed setting than some of the more frenzied Fiesta events.
And while it’s a relaxed atmosphere for the guests, even the chefs get a chance to enjoy the evening, with some taking pictures, mingling with attendees, and getting inspiration from their colleagues.
“I’m getting extremely positive feedback. All of my chefs are so on board and well taken care of,” West said. “These guys works so hard in hospitality, and I do, too, so I wanted to make sure they were appreciated.”