Tastemakers :: Olivia

By Elizabeth Winslow

James Holmes is a little bit of a bad boy, let’s just get that out there. The accomplished chef is absolutely one of the nicest people I’ve ever met — one of those food people who’s made a career out of saying yes. When he opened Olivia several years ago, Austin was blown away by his sophisticated French-influenced, farm-driven menu, but also a little scandalized by the larger-than-life portrait of Waylon and Willie overlooking the sleek, modern dining room, and perhaps puzzled by the hand-tooled custom cowboy boots that grace the open kitchen. But that’s just how James rolls. He’s real, he’s Texan, he’s funny — the kind of guy who for a follow-up act, would open a fried chicken joint. The kind of guy who would grow a garden and put chickens on the lawn of his fancy restaurant; who challenges as much as he delights, who never rests on his laurels, and who knows the importance of giving back to his community.

*photography by Thomas Winslow

What inspires you?

Watching my seven year old daughter deal with life.

How do you measure success?

These days it’s being able to take time off with my family and knowing that everything is being taken care off at the restaurants.

Tell Olivia’s brand story in five words.

Eclectic, raw, organic, grassroots, progressive.

Tell us what you do.

Pick up cigarette butts, change light bulbs, unclog toilets, feed chickens……I’m really a glorified handyman who councils & mentors young cooks and somehow coordinates all the beautiful food with great service and runs two restaurants.

What are you cooking this week?

Chef Max (Olivia’s new chef de cuisine, Maximillian Petty) and I were just talking about the simple beauty and flavor of raw egg yolks straight from my chicken coop out back of Olivia.  Plus we were considering putting an escargot omelet on the brunch menu.

Elizabeth’s Kitchen Inspiration :: Inspired by the gorgeous eggs produced by Chef James’s chickens at Olivia, I whipped up one of my favorite simple summer suppers, making great use of garden herbs and the gorgeous heirloom tomatoes we are seeing right now. Click to download the recipe for my Thai Pork Omelette with Heirloom Tomatoes & Fresh Herbs.

What flavors inspire memories for you?

Peanut butter and lemon zest. And truffle oil always reminds me of some wild times cooking in NYC.

If you weren’t running Olivia and Lucy’s Fried Chicken, what would you be doing?

I would have an antique store.

What’s in your fridge right now?

Some leftover pizza from Homeslice and lots of bottles of hot sauce.

What is your favorite cookbook?

Simple French Cooking by Richard Olney

see more of Elizabeth’s work on Haymakers

Comments (2)

  1. Anne Marie says:

    Beautiful photos! I’ll have to add this to my list of Austin restaurants to try…right under Sway. 🙂

    Homeslice and hot sauce. I’m sure 99% of Austinite’s have one of these two items in their fridge.

  2. Chris says:

    that first photo epitomizes Austin! love it……

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