Taste of Health Chef Showdown in Austin

I had the opportunity to assist Chef Marko Ellinger with a public event in Austin recently. He was doing a cooking demonstration for the Natural Epicurean and I helped him do advance prep the night before, as well as with the event itself. Some people dropped by and inquired about the culinary program. A lot of other people watched and enjoyed the demonstration.

Chef Marko is a creative guy and he has a good presentation for cooking demonstrations. One of his angles is that he sings these funny, slightly corny, songs that gets everyone smiling and thinking about food in a fun way. He has backing musical tracks that he creates himself with piano and everything. It definitely gets attention. His food is really good, too, and he is creative on the fly.

Below: Chef Marko demonstrates one of his outstanding recipes.


The event was the Taste of Health Chef Showdown at the Mexican American Cultural Center here in Austin. It was a really nice day and the chefs and restaurants present were competing for prizes related to healthy food. Lots of people were there to taste the healthy food entries and vote for their favorites. Beets Cafe, a raw food cafe, came out, as well as Hoover Alexander, a local chef mostly known for his barbecue and Texas-inspired food. Alexander is into healthier food these days, and he brought a great garlicky bean collard wrap. There was sushi, pizza, and a diverse array of food. (Beets Cafe won top prize, incidentally.)

The whole premise was terrific – trying to get local businesses to create and share a healthy entree with the public. Everybody wins – the businesses show off their food and Austinites get a taste of more nutritious food. The event was put on by the mayor’s wellness committee.

Below: A good-sized crowd gathered for each of Chef Marko’s three demonstrations.


I learned quite a bit from my experience. Mainly, during the advance preparation the night before, I learned what it felt like to be under the time crunch for an actual food preparation event. And while Chef Marko was someone I knew, I didn’t know him well and I wanted to make a favorable impression. The fact that the work was going to be public added to the pressure. Normally, our cooking in class is not seen by the public (although it was blogged about by Johnson’s Backyard Garden once) so it was a different kind of time pressure.

It felt great that I was able to get everything done Chef Marko asked. Toast this millet – OK. Roast this squash – check. Reproduce this cucumber garnish – no problem. I worked reasonably quickly and efficiently for someone with my level of experience and we got the kitchen cleaned up within a reasonable time. Then, at the event, I was able to help out with the Chef’s needs during the setup and presentation. It felt good. Maybe I can do this food thing after all.

Below: Millet cakes with carrot coulis on cast iron leaves, with a garnish of spiralized golden beet.



One thought on “Taste of Health Chef Showdown in Austin

  1. Pingback: Herbivoracious’ Michael Natkin | diet is correct

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