We’re featuring Q&As from our Food Republic Interview Lounge at the W Austin during the Austin Food & Wine Festival this past spring, with video excerpts of the sessions with host Richard Martin. Next up is Lawrence Kocurek, chef de cuisine at Trace at the W Austin.
As somebody who knows his way around an animal, who can butcher a whole animal, have you ever seen a chef who just doesn’t know what he’s doing? And really has messed up a whole cut of beef or something?
Yes. They will remain nameless, but I have, absolutely. For me, I really took an interest in charcuterie in probably 2007, 2006. I would get whole pigs at my house and my wife and I would work on them and we would go from there. Because when I was a child, my grandparents did that stuff but I really didn’t look at it as – this is where food comes from. They always had a pig, once a year they slaughtered it, and that was just a weekend at grandma’s. It wasn’t something that was for me, at the time in my thought pattern, it didn’t make an impression on me. Now, absolutely, I mean I hold those memories near and dear. The older I get, and the older my grandmother gets – my grandfather is now passed, but the older they get, I really kind of treasure those moments and where they’ve put me on a path as a chef.
And you’re really putting this stuff to use here in the Trace Kitchen. I was told that you recently received an honor for one of the items on the menu. Wanna tell us a little bit about that?
Yes, our duck bacon was quoted as being one of the best bites in Texas from a charcuterie standpoint or a smoked meat standpoint. We also were finalists with two items in the Good Food Awards this year, so we’ve done really well with the charcuterie program and understanding how that ties into what we’re doing in the restaurant.
How do you make duck bacon? Do you have to feed the duck to the pig?
Duck bacon is from the breast, so you think of bacon on a pig from the belly, so kind of a similar area. It’s just cured in a very similar way that bacon would be. Maple and molasses and things like that. And then it’s smoked, and dried a little bit, and there’s duck bacon.
One of the other unique things that Lawrence brings to the table is that he raises snails. It’s kind of an unusual hobby, but obviously if you’re a French-trained chef, escargot is a very important part of it. So I was wondering, you’ve talked a little bit about it in the past – what’s the personality of a snail and how are snails like people?
Those are both really good questions. It’s funny – in the morning, we have this large flower garden kind of around where the snails are and we have some copper tape so they can’t climb out. Right now, the snails are eating California poppies and pansies and things like that. And literally my wife and I will go out there in the mornings and sit and drink coffee – and you can literally watch the snails, if you pay attention to the flowers, kind of climbing on top of them. Personalities – um – I mean they don’t really have one, they just kind of move around and do their own thing. But it’s nice with a small child. He’s been playing with snails for a long time. So it’s pretty fun to watch him play with them for sure.
Do you ever make escargot at home?
We do, absolutely. We have a couple pounds of escargot butter in the fridge just for a whim. We’ll pull them out of our garden and purge them for a couple days, and have some escargot. It’s nice to have it available for you at all times.
Presented by our friends at the W Hotel Austin.