Austin/ Food & Drinks
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Published on February 19, 2024
Chef Damien Brockway's Distant Relatives in Austin Fuses Central Texas BBQ with African FlavorsSource: Instagram/distantrelativesatx

In the heart of Austin, a new culinary experience emerges with Distant Relatives, where chef Damien Brockway introduces a modern twist on traditional African American cuisine through barbecue, a venture inspired by his quest to explore his ancestral foodways. Brockway, an acclaimed chef with fine dining credentials, has evolved from meticulous plating at restaurants like Counter 357 to serving up hearty smoked meats from an East Austin food trailer, reflecting a journey back to his roots.

Distant Relatives is a moniker that speaks not just to a restaurant, but to a philosophy of heritage and interconnectedness. Brockway's menu is a celebration, melding Central Texas favorites such as brisket and pork ribs with African-inspired ingredients like tamarind molasses and grains of paradise. The former fine-dining chef, who once stood out as the sole Black student in his high school, has turned the complexity of his identity into a culinary narrative that blurs past and present, according to KVUE.

Aside from its unique food selection, the trailer's setting and ambiance diverge markedly from Brockway's former life in the white-clothed universe of elite restaurants. At Distant Relatives, located adjacent to Leal's Tire Shop on East Seventh Street, patrons will find Brockway exchanging his tweezers for work boots and a smoker while dishing out flavors like coconut collard greens and pimento cheese chuck sandwiches. Each plate is a testament to his 250-year family history, which ties back to Richmond, Virginia – a nod to his ancestors' survival through slavery and sharecropping, Brockway shared in an interview with the Austin American-Statesman.

Brockway's journey from a top-tier culinary institute to noteworthy kitchens across America, and ultimately back to the heart of African American cooking, is not just about rediscovery, but about laying the groundwork for future Black chefs. His dedication to his craft and heritage stands to inspire a new generation to embrace and innovate within their own rich food traditions.