Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Announcing the Austin Food & Wine Alliance

Austin's Newest (and Oldest) Food & Wine Nonprofit Uncorks New Name, Mission, Call for Board & Committee Members
Return of Live Fire! Set as Inaugural Fundraiser April 26 at Salt Lick Pavilion

After 26 years as theTexas Hill Country Wine and Food Festival, Austin's oldest food and wine organization has transitioned to become the Austin Food & Wine Alliance (AFWA), a non-profit dedicated to awareness and innovation in the Central Texas culinary community including food, wine, spirits and craft brews.

As the designated beneficiary of the new Austin FOOD & WINE Festival, the AFWA will give back to the Central Texas culinary community through a vibrant grant program to fund projects focused on culinary innovation. Additionally, the Alliance will feature educational programming and culinary events showcasing Central Texas' chef talent along with artisan and local producers, world-class wine and spirit makers and craft brewers.  

To lead into the inaugural Austin FOOD & WINE Festival, April 27 - 29, the AFWA will showcase top local and guest chefs, ingredients and techniques with a return of the popular Live Fire!, Thursday, April 26 - a meat-centric live-fire cooking event which debuted last April and was one of Austin's most popular and provocative culinary events. In this unforgettable and tasty encore, Live Fire! features the best in sizzling proteins, cooking craftsmanship along with wine and beer tastings at the famed Salt Lick Pavilion on the banks of Onion Creek in the Texas Hill Country.

"We're excited to further support the amazing culinary talent and happenings in Central Texas," said Cathy Cochran-Lewis, AFWA president. "With the support of the Austin FOOD & WINE Festival, as well as dedicated volunteers and sponsors, we will be able to give back to the culinary community while offering extraordinary artisan, interactive and educational experiences highlighting the best in food, wine, spirits and craft brews year-round."

The AFWA is seeking culinary- and community-minded professionals to serve on the all-volunteer board of directors and committees which will guide the organization to fulfill its commitment to promote Texas food and wine and to increase appreciation of the state's culinary impact. An application for board and committee seats is posted on the AFWA website,, and must be submitted by Tuesday, January 31.

AFWA officers, who previously served the Texas Hill Country Wine & Food Festival's executive committee, are Cathy Cochran-Lewis of Whole Foods Market® as president, Paul Barnes of the Austin Convention Center as vice-president/president-elect, Jeff Christner of ABC Bank as treasurer, Gina Burchenal of Gina's Kitchen as Secretary, and Chad Auler of Fall Creek Winery/Savvy Vodka as past president.

The new board will have 11 seats and five standing committees for Sponsorship, Programs/Education, Grants, PR/Marketing, Events/Volunteers. Board members will serve one- and two-year staggered terms with committee members serving one-year terms.

Board and committee chairs will be determined by a selection committee composed of AFWA officers and a task force of key culinary and community professionals, which also developed the organization's mission and structure. The new board will be announced mid-February.

The AFWA has named Mariam Parker as interim executive director. With expertise in marketing, event planning and sponsorship, Parker will handle day-to-day AFWA business. Additionally, the organization will work with Mike Thelin of Bolted Services of Portland, OR for business development. Thelin oversaw business development for last year's Texas Hill Country Wine & Food Festival and helped produce one of the most successful festivals in the organization's 26-year history. 

The Alliance also will be guided by the AFWA Chefs Council, a coalition of prominent and community-minded Central Texas chefs, which will be named by the new board.

For more information about the AFWA, visit, call 512.659.7153 or email The AFWA mailing address is PO Box 685306, Austin, TX, 78768. Follow the Austin Food & Wine Alliance happenings on Facebook at, on Twitter @ATXFoodWineAlly.

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