Tastemakers :: Trace

By Elizabeth Winslow

It may be hot outside, but this week we have such a cool treat to share with you: Chef Lawrence Kocurek, Chef de Cuisine at the W Austin’s deliciously stylish restaurant Trace, invited us back into his kitchen for a quick cooking lesson. We asked for something we could all whip up at home without so much as turning on a burner, and he proposed a beautiful composed salad, bursting with the flavors of juicy tomatoes, berries, and salty feta… perfect for entertaining poolside, tucking into a picnic basket, or enjoying al fresco with a glass of French rose. But first, we met up with Forager (hello, dream job!) Valerie Broussard for an early morning trip to the farmers market, where we picked up the juiciest, still-warm-from the-sun tomatoes, just-picked tart strawberries, fresh feta from Swede farm, and gorgeous, fragrant herbs for our cooking lesson!

*photography by Thomas Winslow

Tell us what you do in a few short sentences.

LK: I am the Chef de Cuisine of Trace at the W. I oversee the daily culinary operations

VB: As buyer and forager, I serve as a liaison between our culinary team and the farmers, artisans and other purveyors we work with.  I research and report back about sustainability of seasonal produce, meats, etc.  And sometimes it’s just as simple as letting Chefs Lawrence or Janina know that an ingredient won’t be around much longer so they can change the menu accordingly, or informing them of new discoveries.

What inspires you?

LK: My family.

VB: Travel.

Tell Trace’s brand story in five words.

LK: Farmed, foraged, crafted, hunted, shared.

VB: We emphasize traceability of ingredients. 

Where did you get your start in the food business?

LK: Working at a grocery store.

VB: I helped out around my father’s business (sugar cane equipment) and would do inventory of greasy machine parts (screws, nuts, bolts) every summer.  My sister and I would start laughing about something and have to start counting all over again. But my first food job was at Richie’s, a little burger and ice cream stand on Main Street in St. Martinville, LA where I grew up.  I think it may still be there!

What’s your favorite ingredient?

LK: Butter & salt…and not necessarily in that order.

VB: I think I’m obsessed with salt. I have a little collection from a shop with locations in Portland, OR and NYC called The Meadows []. And it doesn’t hurt that this shop sells some amazing chocolates too.

What flavors inspire memories for you?

LK: Smoked meats.

VB: Warm, freshly-baked bread with butter and honey reminds me of coming home from school throughout my childhood; crawfish etouffee reminds me of family dinners at my maternal grandparents’ house; and my mom’s homemade rocky road ice cream was an annual 4th of July treat.

What is your favorite cookbook?

LK: Astrance: A Cook’s Book by Pascal Barbot.

VB: I just bought Vegetable Literacy by Deborah Madison but haven’t had a chance to cook anything from it yet.  I love that The French Laundry features some of their purveyors in the cookbook.

Click here for Chef Lawrence Kocurek’s Tomato Salad recipe!

Where do you get culinary inspiration?

LK: Nature.

VB: Farmers’ markets. Really fresh ingredients don’t need a lot of manipulation. I’m happy with a plate of perfectly ripe heirloom tomatoes with some salt and a drizzle of olive oil. 

What’s your next big idea? 

LK: Retire in Spain and open a destination restaurant. 

VB: Now that we have established relationships with area farmers, I’d like to start asking them to grow specific varieties for us at TRACE. Many farmers are hesitant to do it out of fear of getting stuck with something a chef might change his or her mind about, but a commitment to a small quantity of something a chef loves should be a good arrangement for both parties. 

What’s in your fridge right now?

LK: A lot of wine…duck eggs, vegetables, cheese, and a lot of butter.

VB: Purple carrots and cucumbers from Phoenix Farm for juicing, a few different cheeses, goat’s milk, hummus.  And I have an oxtail in the freezer. 

What are you cooking this week?

LK: My whole menu at Trace….

VB: Not a whole lot.  I’m leaving town later this week and am trying not to buy anything perishable before I leave- I hate waste, so I’ll get creative with what’s left in my pantry, refrigerator and garden!

See more of Elizabeth’s work on Haymakers

Comments (4)

  1. Kendel says:

    Loved this feature and can’t wait to try the Tomato Salad recipe!

  2. louisablackmore says:

    Really enjoyed this post, lovely photographs and interesting to find out a little more about these inspiring peeps!

  3. CarlaJ says:

    Great article about two amazing supporters of local foods. Thanks, Elizabeth.

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