Roaming Restaurant Slow Burn Pops Up at Austin’s Made In HQ
The Sustainable Restaurant Concept Tours the Country like a Band, and Fittingly Hosted a Dinner at Made In’s Studio Kitchen during SXSW
By Taylor Tobin
Photos courtesy of Made In Cookware
Austin diners have an insatiable appetite for the new, the unexpected, and the environmentally-conscious, which is why a concept that embraces all of these characteristics feels like an ideal fit for the Lone Star capital. With Slow Burn, professionally-trained chefs Tiffani Ortiz and Andy Doubrava take an on-the-move approach to fine dining, driving their Subaru hybrid from city to city throughout the United States and operating pop-ups that focus on local ingredients and sustainable kitchen practices. Last weekend, Ortiz and Doubrava brought a one-night-only dining event to Made In’s Austin studio space, introducing their innovative restaurant format to a location that’s more than ready to welcome them.
According to Ortiz, she and Doubrava first got to know each other as “classmates at the French Culinary Institute in New York.” After graduation, both Ortiz and Doubrava started working in kitchens, but Ortiz says that, over time, “my chef job became really corporate, and I felt way less connected to the food.” She decided to leave her kitchen role in New York City and to sign up for World Wide Opportunities on Organic Farms (or WWOOF), a volunteer program that gives aspiring farmers the opportunity to work on organic farms throughout the country in exchange for room and board.
She calls her first endeavors with WWOOF “kind of an ‘Eat, Pray, Love’ journey, except with way less money.” Ortiz gained first-hand experience with biodynamic farming, building a keen interest in learning more about this type of sustainable agriculture, and her travels eventually led her to a “Meyer lemon orchard in Malibu.” As it happened, Doubrava was one of the few people Ortiz knew in California; the two reconnected, Doubrava gave Ortiz a lift to the farm, he decided to stick around to do some farming and to “cook for the guests at the farm’s B&B, and we kind of fell in love over in those canyons.”
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After starting their romantic partnership, Ortiz and Doubrava decided to both cut ties with their home bases in New York and California and to embark on a traveling-band-style culinary adventure, “going from farm to farm to volunteer and cook on ranches,” growing their knowledge base on biodynamic and sustainable farming practices, and launching Slow Burn, their nomadic pop-up restaurant series.
When creating menus for Slow Burn, Ortiz and Doubrava seek to link up with local farms, butchers, and restaurateurs to get a clear sense of the products and cooking styles that each city holds dear. In addition to gathering fresh produce and locally-raised meats for their dinners, Ortiz and Doubrava tell us that they place equal emphasis on the “larder”, or preserved and jarred foods that they collect on their travels, that they find in their host cities, and that they make themselves in order to limit food waste. “We use food waste to make misos, vinegars, and charcuterie–Andy has a strong background in charcuterie, and he’s really been honing in on that,” says Ortiz.
Doubrava tells us that the Slow Burn team has extensive travel plans over the course of the next eight months, with these gustatory vagabonds hoping to hit “48 states this year.” Their stopover in Austin happened at least in part because of Otis Baldwin, the assistant general manager of Rainey Street smash hit restaurant Emmer & Rye. “Otis actually approached us and said ‘Hey, you guys should do something here’,” explains Ortiz. Baldwin helped link Slow Burn up with Made In, a brand of high-quality cookware with an HQ right here in Austin.
Made In was already familiar to Ortiz and Doubrava, who’ve ordered cookware from them and who admire their commitment to sustainability via their Recycled Cookware program (which allows customers to trade in used cookware to be either donated to Habitat for Humanity or to be melted down to make new Made In products). Because they were already fans of Made In’s products, they felt even more enthusiastic about the idea of running a Slow Burn night in Made In’s airy Austin studio space. “We don’t need to cook Slow Burn meals in a restaurant; we just need water and electricity,” Ortiz explains. “So we did something really intimate at Made In –just two seatings of 15, and the whole Made In crew was there as guests. It was really, really fun.”
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The key to Ortiz and Doubrava’s creative vision is their ability to roll with the fresh products and preserved items that they can get their hands on. With that spirit, the duo debuted a menu of thoughtful dishes like Crawfish Tart, Smallhold Mushrooms with Beef Heart, Sunchoke Flatbread with Elderberry Herbs, Texas Beef and Sourdough Streusel.
“We try to keep it flexible and fluid,” Ortiz says. The excitement to cook for Austin diners was seen (and tasted) in their menu. “Every culture has its own version of ‘comfort food’, so it’s great to view food from Austin’s viewpoint.”
While Ortiz and Doubrava both love their traveling-chef life, they say that they’d like to ultimately take what they’ve learned throughout their journeys and, as Doubrava puts it, “find a routine and a home base.” Ortiz agrees that a “brick and mortar with a small agricultural operation” would be the ideal culmination of their Slow Burn adventure. But for now, they’re excited to keep exploring, keep cooking, and keep sharing their talents and their sustainable vision with foodies all over the United States.
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