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What the Carillon’s Josh Watkins Is Making for Live Fire

By Megan Giller  |  March 20, 2014

On April 17, some of the best chefs in Texas will gather at the Salt Lick Pavilion for Live Fire, the Austin Food & Wine Alliance’s annual celebration of all things meaty. The alliance just announced the lineup today, and on the ticket is Carillon chef Josh Watkins, who is known for his smoked creations.

Watkins and his team recently won the ICC Smoke competition in New York, and he’s previously won awards at the Live Fire competition too. What’s he making this year? We chatted with him today and found out that he's planning sugar-cane-skewered pork belly lollipops with pineapple-jalapeño chutney and a fish sauce lacquer in a black-garlic barbecue sauce with fresh Thai basil. Watkins notes, though, that “one dish is too easy,” adding that the Carillon team is making several dishes for the event.

So what makes Watkins’ dishes special? “We apply refined techniques to what is traditionally a rustic approach to cooking,” he told us. For example, last year for Live Fire he served smoked veal cheeks with a petit bosque cream and pickled vegetable salad, an amazing trio of textural contrasts. To get it he first smoked the cheeks, then braised them, then breaded them and then fried them on site. In other words, it might look like he’s just whipping out amazing veal cheeks or beef ribs, but he’s actually been working on that dish for several days.

The chef says that the concept of applying refined techniques to traditionally rustic cuisine is the new concept that the Carillon will be rolling out in April. (For a sneak peek, read all about their delicious duck confit with blackberry-bourbon compote.) 

Tickets to Live Fire are on sale now for $75.