Slideshow: Ask a Chef: What's Your Favorite Texas Ingredient?

Paul Qui: Chef & Owner, Qui Restaurant
Paul Qui: Chef & Owner, Qui Restaurant

My favorite thing to cook right now is guinea hen. My friend Sebastian from Countryside Farm has been raising some amazing birds. I love the process of breaking the birds down and cooking them in different ways. I like cooking each part in a different way to make sure I get the best result from each part of the bird.

[Photograph: Austin Food & Wine Festival]

Andrew Zimmern: Chef & Owner, AZCanteen
Andrew Zimmern: Chef & Owner, AZCanteen

Texans know their way around meat, whether it’s barbecued brisket or more exotic species like antelope and wild boar. My current favorite? The Sika venison from Broken Arrow Ranch. Sika deer, which are a smaller species, are actually native to southern Siberia and Japan, but free-ranging herds have thrived in Texas Hill Country. This venison has an intense beefy flavor profile, but with a fraction of the fat. The luxury cuts are sublime, but the shanks and shoulders braise well, and the meat is processed so well that the typical mineral flavors associated with ground meat from the animals is non-existent. I am really into my Sika Picadillo these days…. When you buy from Broken Arrow Ranch you’re also supporting a small artisanal meat purveyor who has been harvesting wild deer and antelope for 30 years. They humanely raise animals, without hormones or antibiotics, and you can taste the difference in their products.

Meet me at The Munchies Awards’ Eat & Greet. Food, drinks and live music! April 26, 4-6 p.m. at Torchy’s Tacos. RSVP at bit.ly/torchyseatandgreet.

[Photograph: Austin Food & Wine Festival]

Laura Sawicki: Executive Pastry Chef, La Condesa Austin, La Condesa Napa Valley & Sway
Laura Sawicki: Executive Pastry Chef, La Condesa Austin, La Condesa Napa Valley & Sway

Anything from Pure Luck Farm. The Sainte Maure is my favorite of late. It's a cheese I tasted four years ago and it has evolved since then on such a profound level. I am currently using it in the goat milk ice cream sandwich at La Condesa.

[Photograph: Melody Fury]

David Bull: Executive Chef & Partner, Congress Austin
David Bull: Executive Chef & Partner, Congress Austin

Right now my favorite ingredient to work with is Texas goat from Windyhill Farms in Comanche, which is about two and a half hours northwest of Austin. It's exceptionally tender and also very lean. I love the reaction people are having when they see it on the Congress menu because it's either an unfamiliar ingredient or a very loved one. We're currently pairing it with blonde morels, cumin yogurt, fresh peas, and pepita seeds.

[Photograph: Congress]

Sarah Grueneberg: Executive Chef, Spiaggia and Houston native
Sarah Grueneberg: Executive Chef, Spiaggia and Houston native

Texas Gulf White Shrimp!!! Gulf whites are hands down my favorite shrimp to use for really any type of cuisine. They are extremely versatile and have a tender texture and a wonderfully clean shrimp flavor! Shrimp & grits, shrimp gumbo, and bacon-wrapped shrimp are some of my personal favorite dishes to prepare using Texas Gulf Whites.

[Photograph: Melody Fury]

Terrence Gallivan and Seth Siegel-Gardner: Executive Chefs & Co-Owners, The Pass & Provisions
Terrence Gallivan and Seth Siegel-Gardner: Executive Chefs & Co-Owners, The Pass & Provisions

With the upcoming summer season we will be using quite a bit of Gulf shrimp. Currently we use Gulf shrimp for a number of dishes in both restaurants. In The Pass we make a dehydrated shrimp chip that is seasoned with Japanese togarashi spice and in Provisions we make a roll of poached Gulf shrimp for an apple and celery remoulade salad. We also use the shrimp to make a roasted shrimp mayonnaise for our braised bacon BLT, which we serve on our Provisions lunch menu.

One other Texas ingredient that pops on our menus frequently is sorghum. At the moment we are using popped sorghum seeds (which resemble tiny popcorn) to make a "fiddle-faddle" for out Petit Fours cart in The Pass.

[Photographs: Austin Food & Wine Festival]

Nate Wales: Beverage Director, La Condesa & Sway
Nate Wales: Beverage Director, La Condesa & Sway

Kosmic Kombucha. Mina and Omar Rios, brewers and local Austinites, created an amazingly clean and delicate kombucha. They use a simple base of green and oolong teas and add flavor on top of it with local Texas organic flavors. I'm having a lot of fun taking that as my main component and mixing it with my favorite spirits. The hints of effervescence and the clean bright flavor make for a unique and refreshing cocktail.

[Photograph: Melody Fury]