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2014 International Festival Celebrates Australia...But Hold the Vegemite, Please

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I'm excited about this year's International Festival highlighting Australia for two reasons: One, it gives me an excuse to post the music video for Men At Work's brilliant 1980 song "Land Down Under" (see the next page), and two, I honestly don't know much about Australian food.

Being that the festival is hosted here in Houston, a number of local chefs will be coming out to showcase their cuisine, but there will also be Australian chefs and vendors introducing Texas to the wonders of food from Down Under.

Hot on the heels of Houston's Second Annual BBQ Festival, the International Festival is hosting a "Texas vs. Barbie Cook-Off" competition on May 1 from 6 p.m. to 9 p.m. at Hermann Square Park featuring local chefs and restaurants. The festival will also have a concession area with food from more than 40 restaurants, some of whom will be trying their hand at Australian cuisine.

So far, the barbecue competition plans to welcome Kevin Bryant of Eleven XI, Donald Chang of Nara, Dwayne Carrington of Fiesta Mart, Susie Jimenez of Trenza, Soren Pedersen of Sorrel Urban Bistro, Bob Iacovone of Fish & the Knife, Joe Gerardi of Fleming's Steakhouse, Staci Davis of Radical Eats, Patricia Alvarez-Burdette of Mr. Peeples and Jason Gould of Cyclone Anaya's. Gould is actually a native Australian, so he might be a tall poppie at the event. I read that's Australian slang for successful. I have no idea if that's accurate.

Anyway! Fiesta Mart will be providing Lone Star Legacy Beef, as well as other meats and seafood options, for the grilling competition. Australian wines will also be available for sampling.

I'll be there judging the event along with Peter Remington, the publisher of Houston Modern Luxury; Lance Zierlein, host of the morning show on Sports Talk 790; Eric Sandler, food writer at CultureMap (and the man I like to refer to as the Perez Hilton of the Houston food scene); Ron Jenkins, a board member of the Houston Festival Foundation; and Daniel Vaughan, who last year was hired as barbecue editor at Texas Monthly.

Tickets start at $75 and are available online.

If music is more your thing but you still want good eats, check out the festival concessions. There will be more than 40 vendors at the event, ranging from local restaurants including Boheme and Menchie's Frozen Yogurt to traveling vendors, non-profits and religious groups.

Mark Lacy, executive director of the Houston Institute for Culture and the man in charge of concessions at the International Festival, notes that in past years the featured country has also had a number of restaurants in Houston that serve their native food. He points to Brazil and India as examples.

"But there aren't lots of Australian restaurants in town," he says, so we'll be munching on truly multicultural cuisine. No vegemite here. We hope.

And now, without further ado...

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