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With her gin-based cocktail inspired by Beyoncé and a trio of daring wine-and-food pairings created in front of a live audience, Chicago-based Advanced Sommelier Jill Zimorski swept the awards at the seventh annual Somms Under Fire competition in Austin, Texas.

Held January 28 at the AT&T Executive Education and Conference Center, Somms Under Fire "showcases the essence of what a sommelier's job should be, which is service," says James Tidwell, one of the four Master Sommeliers on the judging panel. "Our goal as sommeliers is to allow guest to have a wonderful time and to facilitate that."

For this year's event, Somms Under Fire Founder Diane Dixon's wine, food, and travel company Keeper Collection formed a strategic alliance with TEXSOM and the TEXSOM International Wine Awards. TEXSOM's annual August conference in Dallas is one of the nation's most respected gatherings of wine professionals, and its February wine awards draw nearly 4,000 entries from around the globe.

While Master Sommelier Devon Broglie, the event's co- emcee, believes that "to this day,...

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AUSTIN, Texas [January 29, 2018] — Keeper Collection, LLC is proud to announce Jill Zimorski as the winner of the 2018 Somms Under Fire wine & food pairing competition, which occurred on Sunday, January 28th at the Zlotnik Family Ballroom at AT&T Hotel & Conference Center. Zimorski, sommelier and Champagne specialist for Moet Hennessey, based in Chicago, IL, was selected as the winner by a panel of judges for her outstanding performance in wine and food pairing, service, and education. In a clean sweep of the competition, she also won the Citadelle Gin de France Cocktail Challenge, and Fan Favorite Award.

Zimorski competed against Nick Davis, Advanced Sommelier, founder and creative director at Medium Plus, a beverage consulting and events company in Seattle, WA and Michael “Mick” Descamps, Advanced Sommelier and wine director at Red Wagon Wine Shoppe, Macomb, MI. The contestants selected three “perfect” wine and food pairings and presented their choices to Master Sommeliers judges James Tidwell, Melissa Monossof, Jay James, and...


Texas wine has been getting more accolades and attentionthan ever — but it’s not just the winemakers of the state who are getting national credit for their work with wine.

A couple of key educational events and competitions have also helped Texas become known for fostering sommeliers, the knowledgeable wine stewards at bars and restaurants who create the wine lists, help to explain the wines to customers, and pair the wines with food from the restaurant menu.

One of those events is Somms Under Fire, a competition, returning this weekend on Jan. 28, that tests the mettle of three sommeliers who have to think on their feet for a series of food pairing challenges. Each one is trying to win the top prize from a set of judges and the fan favorite prize from the audience, both of which will help the sommeliers with furthering their wine education.


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Somms Under Fire

6 p.m. Jan. 28. $75-$750. AT&T Hotel & Conference Center, 1900 University Ave.

The country’s foremost live sommelier wine and food pairing competition returns, this time with sommeliers from Chicago, Washington State and Michigan. It’ll kick off with a cocktail competition, followed by the pairing featuring cuisine from the Carillon restaurant within the AT&T Hotel. The sommeliers will select an appropriate wine to pair with the dishes in front of a panel of expert judges and the audience — who will also get to taste each of the courses. In addition to the judges, audience members will get to choose the winner of a Fan Favorite contest.


One of my favorite annual events is Keeper Collection’s Somms Under Fire wine and food pairing competition, in which acclaimed sommeliers first create a craft cocktail using Citadell Gin de France, then move on to the main event. The fun is in full swing as the audience tastes the wines that the somms have available as choices to pair with a multi-course meal. Every time I’ve attended this competition, the table discussion is lively, with everyone opining as to which wine should be chosen. Not only is it entertaining, it’s educational, as I’ve picked up key information that helps me choose wine to pair with the foods I cook at home.

#SommsUF goes through rounds for each course, awarding the best pairing each time, and ultimately crowns an overall sommelier winner. Top prize? An ultimate, once-in-a-lifetime internship in Burgundy, France with travel money, and a oh-so-very cool...

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The diversity of Austin's wine menus is no accident. The public's thirst for knowledge, plus a decade of hard work from a legion of local beverage professionals, has made Austin a leading destination for wine importers and producers. Now in year seven, local wine maven Diane Dixon's sommelier competition Somms Under Fire returns on Sunday, Jan. 28, as the debut event in the new wing of the AT&T Executive Education and Conference Center. From a pool of contestants spanning 20 states, three Advanced Sommeliers will be tested on wine pairing, service, and general knowledge, and the winner receives an internship in Burgundy, France (and a Champagne saber).

You'll find few voices more influential in their field than Master Sommeliers Craig Col­lins (ELM Restaurant Group), Devon Brog­lie (Whole Foods Market), and June Ro­dil (McGuire Moorman Hospitality), and New Waterloo beverage director Mandi Nel­son. Each manages a portfolio of projects ranging from high-end grocers to steakhouses, and they make drink program decisions at many of Austin's finest restaurants. Broglie and...

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The seventh annual Somms Under Fire is the country’s preeminent live sommelier wine and food pairing competition. Three of the best wine professionals in the country will match wines with dishes prepared by the executive chef of The Carillon restaurant in front of a panel of expert judges. The audience tastes the wine and food pairings right along with the judges. The event is known for highlighting the featured sommseliers’ skill, craft food pairing skills by combining their incredible knowledge and expertise in a live, spectator-friendly format.

The sommeliers are competing for a Grand Prize of a one-week Internship in Burgundy, France, compliments of Becky Wasserman & Co and a $2,000 travel grant provided by the TEXSOM Foundation. Champagne Taittinger will host a day visit to the famed Champagne house for the winning sommelier. The Fan Favorite winner will receive attend the...

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If you have heard of Somms Under Fire before, you will be glad to know it will be back in 2018. And if you haven’t heard of it, you need to! The 7th annual event, organized by Keeper Collection, will be held at the AT&T Hotel and Conference Center in Austin, Texas, on Sunday, January 28, 2018.

Somms Under fire is a live sommelier wine and food pairing competition. The event begins with a VIP tasting seminar at 5:00 p.m. followed by the Somms Under Fire Cocktail Challenge. The wine and food pairing competition beings at 7:00 p.m. featuring cuisine from The Carillon Restaurant, a refined dining destination within the AT&T Hotel and Conference Center. The sommeliers will select an appropriate wine to pair with the dishes in front of a panel of expert judges and the audience.

Washington State Wine and Champagne Taittinger will both serve as sponsors for the event. Washington State Wine will serve as the VIP and Fan Favorite sponsor of 2018 Somms Under Fire. VIP ticketholders will enjoy an in-depth look into the wines of Washington during an exclusive tasting of...

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AUSTIN, Texas [November 15, 2017] – Tickets are now on sale for Somms Under Fire, the country’s preeminent live sommelier wine and food pairing competition. VIP tickets are $150 and General Admission tickets are $75 for the event, which will be held Sunday, January 28, 2018 at the The Zlotnik Family Ballroom in Rowling Hall at the AT&T Hotel and Conference Center in Austin, Texas.

Somms Under Fire begins with a VIP tasting seminar at 5:00 pm, followed by the Somms Under Fire Cocktail Challenge. The Somms Under Fire wine and food pairing competition begins at 7 pm featuring cuisine from The Carillon Restaurant, a refined dining destination with a comfortably elegant atmosphere within the AT&T Hotel and Conference Center.

The seventh annual Somms Under Fire is a continuation of one of the most important sommelier competitions in the United States. The event has attracted...

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AUSTIN, Texas [November 8, 2017] – Keeper Collection, LLC, host of Somms Under Fire the preeminent live sommelier wine and food pairing competition, is pleased to announce the three finalist and alternate competitors for the 2018 event. Sommeliers from 20 states contested in a qualification exam, designed to select the most knowledgeable wine professionals to compete in Somms Under Fire, which will be held Sunday, January 28, 2018 at the AT&T Hotel and Conference Center in Austin, Texas.

In its seventh year, Somms Under Fire has become one of the most significant sommelier competitions in the country. Its prestige, quality of competition, and substantial prizes regularly draw an outstanding group of wine professional applications from across the U.S. This year’s competition drew one of the largest fields of highly qualified sommeliers. All six competitors are Advanced Sommeliers certified through The Court of Master Sommeliers.

The three final competitors are (listed alphabetically):

  • Nick Davis is founder and creative director at Medium Plus, a...

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TEXSOM Continues to Grow and Improve

Company Enters Strategic Alliance and Makes Investments in Infrastructure

Dallas, Texas (November 7, 2017) –– TEXSOM Co-founders and Master Sommeliers James Tidwell and Drew Hendricks today announced several developments that better position the TEXSOM entities to fulfill and expand their mission, including a strategic alliance with Keeper Collection, new warehouse facilities, and a new application process for the TEXSOM International Wine Awards.

“We continue to make investments in the things we feel will benefit the industry, reach new audiences, and promote our mission to further wine education and elevate service standards” said Tidwell. “Our alliance with Keeper Collection, LLC combines the resources of two wine industry leaders through access to a complementary audience, valuable administrative infrastructure, and Diane Dixon’s visionary educational work utilizing Twitter. Our own investments in infrastructure position us well for further expansion of...

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A simple purchase at Whole Foods blossomed into a nationally-coveted wine competition

Somms Under Fire is Austin’s own unique competition that puts wine professionals through a challenging gauntlet: they must create craft cocktails, demonstrate food and wine pairing expertise, and endure rigorous questioning from knowledgeable judges, all in front of a room packed with wine buffs. It’s all the brainchild of Diane Dixon, who, along with husband Earl, is a beloved figure in Austin’s modern wine scene.

In advance of this weekend’s event, Eater spoke to Dixon and event co-host and master sommelier Devon Broglie of Whole Foods Market to discuss the origins of the competition, Austin’s current wine scene, and how the Dixons became one of the bedrocks of Austin’s sommelier community.

How did you get involved with Austin’s wine community?

Diane Dixon: Devon [Brogile told] me about the Court of Master Sommeliers,...

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6 p.m. Jan. 29. $65-$1,300. AT&T Hotel & Conference Center, 1900 University Ave.

Depending on whether you attend with VIP tickets or general admission, you’ll be able to enjoy three wine and cocktail events at the returning Somms Under Fire, starting with a tasting of Austrian wines for VIP attendees at 4:30 p.m. That will be followed by a cocktail challenge featuring Pisco Portón made from Peruvian grapes, with each of the three participating sommeliers creating a drink recipe using the spirit. The main event will have them choose wines to pair with three food courses.




Be a part of the exclusive audience that gets to witness, vote on and taste along with the Judges of Somms Under Fire. YOU see in person who achieves the honor of a one week internship in Burgundy, France.

If you’re a Wine and Food lover, you know that the Perfect Pairing can truly make or break a meal. No matter which comes first, the food or the libation, knowing the Basics of Pairing is a critical component of getting the most out of a culinary experience.

To learn more and Buy Tickets either to VIP or G/A seating, go to


Sunday, January 29th

2017 Somms Under Fire, a Wine and Food Pairing Competition, will be held on Sunday, January 29, at the AT&T Executive Conference Center. The Winner of Somms Under Fire will win a one-week Wine Internship in Burgundy, compliments of Becky Wasserman Selections, along with a travel grant from the Wine & Food Foundation of Texas.


The annual wine and food pairing competition presented by Keeper Collection will be happening at the end of January at the AT&T Conference Center in Austin, Texas. This year’s finalists (AS Eric Crane, AS Hai Tran, and AS Jill Zimorski) will be competing for an internship sponsored by Becky Wasserman & Co., including vineyard visits, tastings, and dinners with our winemakers.

This year’s judges include our own Peter Wasserman, Burgundy Wine Expert, and one of our favorite winemakers from the Loire Valley, Patrick Baudouin. Patrick will also be providing the Magnum of Excellence prize for the winner, a 2011 Quarts de Chaume Les Zersilles.

For more information, check out

To buy tickets, go to:

- See more at:



Somms Under Fire

AT&T Executive Collection Center, Austin

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Our first trip to Austin, TX in October of 2016 left us excited and encouraged for the great passion of Austrian wines found there and in awe of the tight-knit sommelier community that has nestled in this southern tip of the United States.

Naturally, when Keeper Collection approached us with the opportunity to become a VIP sponsor of the upcoming Somms Under Fire competition, we just couldn’t resist!

Austrian Wine will present to 100+ VIPS at the competition in a mini-vertical series with special wines from across our most famous varieties presented by the winner of our Austria Uncorked: NY’s Best Somm 2016, Justin Timsit, now of Gramercy Tavern.

For more information on Somms Under Fire, please visit their website.

We will be live tweeting from the VIP tasting and the event so stay tuned to @AustrianWineUSA on Sunday, January 29th to learn more about what we’re tasting and what Justin has to say about our favorite...


A panel of Celebrity Judges will award the Grand Prize of a one-week Internship in Burgundy, France to the winning Sommelier, compliments ofBecky Wasserman & Co. In addition, the Winning Sommelier will be presented with a $2000 Travel Grant by The Wine & Food Foundation of Texas. The Judges Panel include:

Master Sommelier Craig Collins of ELM Restaurant Group, Peju Napa Valley Winemaker Sara Fowler, Burgundy Winemaker Nicolas Rossignol of...


Calling out the best possible wine pairings with excellent cuisine is the name of the game at Somms Under Fire, a national wine and food pairing competition dreamt up by Austin wine impresario Diane Dixon of Keeper Collection.

Held at the AT&T Executive Education and Conference Center on Sunday, January 24, the general public is invited for a night where expert judges test the mettle of three wine professionals in an in-the-moment food and wine pairing challenge, naming one the 2016 Somms Under Fire champion.

The event rundown

It starts with a 4:30 pm VIP wine tasting and education session presented by Napa Valley Vintners with renowned winemakers from Gallica, Louis Martini Winery, Peju, and Long Meadow Ranch Winery. The winemakers will present eight wines, offering VIP guests an opportunity to taste similarities and differences of the regions.

At 6 pm, the competing sommeliers will present cocktail recipes made with Chopin Vodka and inspired by a song...


Austin’s Diane Dixon of Keeper Collection — the wine impresario who dreamt up the concept of Somms Under Fire, a national wine and food pairing competition held in our city — gathered a few members from her event team to tell CultureMap about this year’s festivities. Really damn good wines and even better conversations were flowing between serious wine collectors, the Dixons, and two master sommeliers from Austin, June Rodil and Devon Broglie. As we sampled a California cab, food pairings began flying around:

“This thing needs raw elk.”

“This is a cab for a slab: A big salty, peppery slab of meat.”

Calling out the best possible wine pairings with excellent cuisine is the name of the game at the Somms Under Fire competition, held at the AT&T Executive Education and Conference Center on Sunday, January 24. The general public is invited for a night...


One annual event that I always look forward to is the Somms Under Fire Finals competition from Keeper Collection. This food and wine pairing pits sommeliers against each other in a fast paced evening of delectable bites and sips. At stake is an internship in Burgundy, France and $2K travel grant, to help the winner on his journey toward a higher level of wine knowledge, sponsored by Becky Wasserman & Co. It’s a fun way to spend an evening, with outstanding small bites paired with just the right complementary wine, and a crowd encouraging their chosen sommelier through tweets, applause and sometimes loudly voiced support. This is one wine pairing event that veers away from the old fashioned, staid, and somber and into vibrant discourse.

Full disclosure: I have been in the past, and will be this year, a guest of Keeper Collection at Somms Under Fire. I fully anticipate to enjoy every bit of the night.

Competition will be stiff between...


On Jan 24th, the premier wine and food event in Austin, Somms Under Fire will be taking place at the AT&T Conference Center. Three Somms will come from around the country to taste food and wine and create pairings along with the audience. Winners from the judges panel and the audience favorite will get trips to Burgundy and Napa Valley. Join us to see who reaches the gastronomic nirvana!!!!

More information at:

Listen to the interview here

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There was only one winner at Monday night's chef competition Citywide 86'd, but we learned a few fun insider things about Austin's culinary world, too....

On Monday night, we witnessed the nail-biting finale of CityWide 86’d, a competition inspired by Food Network’s Chopped that began with 16 Austin chefs and culminated with four battling it out for the win. Oscar Yip (Olive & June), Kevin Cannon (Barley Swine), Claire Helbig (Eden East), and Joel Garza (St. Philip Pizza Parlor + Bakeshop) created dishes made from pre-determined secret ingredients. Ultimately, Garza took home the grand prize, including a travel grant and the chance to stage with chef Brett Cooper at the award-winning Aster in San Francisco. Here are six things we learned throughout the evening.


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Last night, four chefs – Joel Garza of St. Philip, Claire Helbig of Eden East, Oscar Yip of Olive & June, and Kevin Cannon of Barley Swine – crossed pans, locked knives, and waged war with each mystery ingredient (and each other) in a battle to win Citywide 86’d.

Under the judgment of culinary kings Aaron Franklin of Franklin Barbecue, Jason Dady of San Antonio’s Jason Dady Restaurants, John Tesar of Dallas’ Knife and Oak Restaurant, and Andrew Wiseheart of Gardner and Contigo, Garza emerged victorious and took...

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Check out what the Austin American-Statesman had to say about the 2015 Citywide 86'd competition below!

The Austin Chronicle

Check out what The Austin Chronicle had to say about the 2015 Citywide 86'd competition below!

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On February 7, 2015, Citywide 86’d kicked off its 2015 competition with a preliminary round between LaV’s Casey Petty, Olive & June’s Oscar Yip, Greenhouse Craft Food’s Matt Crader, and Qui’s Alice Gonzalez. The young chefs were tasked with creating a three-course meal on the spot using secret ingredients, including cinnamon rolls in a can, pop tarts from St. Philip, and Cuvee Cold Brew coffee. Joining Austin Way Editor in Chief Kathy Blackwell on the panel of judges for this round were Salt & Time’s Bryan Butler, food and beverage consultant Valerie Broussard, and Keith Kreeger—the designer and porcelain mastermind behind...

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The third annual Citywide 86'd kicks off Feb. 7 with chefs from LaV, Parkside Projects, Qui, and Scarlett Rabbit/Greenhouse Craft Food doing battle in a "Chopped"-style competition at the Auguste Escoffier School of Culinary Arts.

The competition features cooks and sous chefs from some of the city's best restaurants in a three-round battle (appetizer, entree, dessert), with one competitor being eliminated after each round.

Future competitions (not open to the public) will include talent from Barley Swine/Odd Duck and Lenoir (March 14),...


Next month marks the start of the third annual Citywide 86'd competition, a local industry-focused event withChopped sensibilities. Sixteen up-and-comers from Austin's top restaurants will compete in four preliminary tournaments that will put their creativity to the test.

Created by the Uchi team as an in-house competition in 2008, Citywide 86'd pits competitors against each other (and the clock) as they whip up dishes from mystery bags full of secret ingredients. Like Chopped, a competitor is eliminated in each round — appetizer, entree and dessert — until just one chef remains.

The four preliminary winners will square off at the final showdown (open to the public) in June. The Citywide 86'd champ will not only win major bragging rights, but the opportunity to stage at a prestigious restaurant and a travel grant awarded by The Wine & Food Foundation of Texas.

The talent has not been...

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Four rounds will lead to the final competition in the summer.

Citywide 86’d, Austin’s own Chopped-inspired cooking competition where restaurant teams create three-course meals with on-the-spot ingredients, returns in February. The preliminary round features LaV, Parkside Projects, Qui, and Scarlet Rabbit/Greenhouse Craft Foods, on Saturday, February 7. This year, only one restaurant is allowed to represent a group, which explains why St. Philip is competing and Uchi and Uchiko aren't. Other restaurants include Lenoir, Barley Swine/Odd Duck, Hillside Pharmacy/Eden East, Contigo/Gardner, and more.

There will be four rounds all together, and the finale will be held in June. The winner will get to showcase at a known restaurant, as well as $2,250 in a travel grant.

86'd started in 2008 when Uchi chefs decided to throw their own inter-staff competition, which blossomed into the city-wide battle now. Last year’s winner was Uchi’s Ben Schwartz. The full press release is below.

Uchi, Keeper Collection and The Wine & Food...


A hometown favorite claimed top prize in the Olympics of wine pairings.

An epic battle in wine and food pairings knowledge took place in Austin over the weekend and the victor, James Watkins, a sommelier from Houston. Watkins represented Cordúa Restaurants where he serves as beverage director during the fourth annual Somms Under Fire. The wine and food pairing competition sponsored by Keeper Collection, LLC was held Sunday at AT&T Executive Education & Conference on the campus of University of Texas, drawing contestants from across the country. Prior to event, contestants are selected based on top scores received on a theory-based entry exam, narrowing the playing field to three finalists.

The competition kicked off with the Tio Pepe Sherry Cocktail Challenge, where Watkins won with his drink named the Open Sesame (Tio Pepe Fino Sherry, honey-ginger syrup, lemon juice and sesame oil). Afterwards,...

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Figuring out the right wine to go with your dinner can be daunting for just about anyone. Just try doing it in front of a live audience and a panel of wine experts judging you. That is exactly what three wine professionals will do when they compete in the 2015 Somms Under Fire, a wine and food pairing event being held on Sunday, January 18, at the AT&T Executive Education & Conference Center.

In its fourth year, the sommelier competition organized by Keeper Collection, LLC has drawn national talent for competitors and judges. The wine and food pairing event will challenge participating sommeliers to match wine from all over the world with dishes prepared by Chef David Bull of...


We've resolved to get more familiar with our favorite beverages this year. Whether whiskey, coffee or wine, Austin merchants, bars and sommeliers are constantly offering new and innovative ways to learn about the drinks that shape our day. It can be truly enlightening to take a few hours to learn more about your drink of choice. You'll shop smarter and appreciate it more, and the process itself is often great fun. Read on for the best January beverage events in Austin.

National wine pros compete at Somms Under Fire

Figuring out the right wine to go with your dinner can be daunting for just about anyone. Just try doing it in front of a live audience with a panel of wine experts judging you. That is exactly what three wine professionals will do when they compete in the 2015 Somms Under Fire, a wine and food pairing event held January 18 at the...



Sunday, January 18, 6 p.m.

A live wine and food pairing event at the AT&T Executive Education and Conference Center featuring celebrity judges declaring a victor among the three finalists, who are advanced sommeliers.

See the original Edible Austin post here.




Jan. 18

Somms Under Fire tests top advanced sommeliers to see who can create the perfect wine pairing. This year’s finalists, Luke Boland, Eric Crane and James Watkins, hail from Manhattan, Atlanta and Houston, respectively. The winner receives a once-in-a-lifetime wine internship in Burgundy, France, with a local wine expert and a $1,000 educational travel grant. Event attendees will also have the chance to select a fan favorite.

Read the original Austin Monthly post here.

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By Arianna Auber - Austin 360

Somms Under Fire, 6 p.m. Sunday, Jan. 18. A wine and food pairing competition that will pit three sommeliers against each other in this event organized by Keeper Collection. $60 general admission, $125 VIP.

See the original Austin 360 post here.


Now in its fourth year, this food and wine pairing competition will challenge three sommeliers to match classic wines with dishes prepared by chefs David Bull and Jason Stude in front of an audience of 250 people and a panel of judges.

The best part? The audience will get to taste the pairings! Enjoy as wine pros Luke Boland of Del Posto in New York City, Eric Crane of Empire Distributors, Inc. in Atlanta and James Watkins of Cordúa Restaurants in Houston duke it out in a battle of taste buds.

Read the original CultureMap Austin post here.

Wine & Spirits December '14 Cover

Many thanks to Wine & Spirits Magazine for featuring Somms Under Fire in the Happenings section of their December issue!

Best of Austin 2014

Critics Picks: Best of Austin Food - Austin Chronicle

A live competition – much like that foodie reality show Chopped – that features Austin chefs battling mano-a-spatula for supremacy in a contest judged by their most talented peers? What's not to love, especially when the audience is treated to a relentless array of wine and beer and samples from the menus of the finest restaurants in town, while the culinary gladiators slice and dice and grill and bake their way to the sort of victory claimed, this year, by Uchiko's Ben Schwartz.


4200 N. Lamar #140, 512/916-4808

Read the article on The Austin Chronicle by clicking here.

Chef Ben Schwartz

By Wayne Alan Brenner - The Austin Chronicle

Uchiko's Ben Schwartz takes top honors at the cooking competition

That's the news, the part you need to – or maybe already do – know: Ben Schwartz of Uchiko defeated Bradley Nicholson of Barley Swine, Murphy Parks of Searsucker, and Lauren Ortiz of Uchi on the field of culinary honor last night at the finale of this year's hardfought Citywide 86'd.

Other information that's as necessary to the event as spice is to a good curry: Who the judges were. Answer: No less than David Bull of Congress Austin & Second Bar + Kitchen; Mat Clouser of...

86'd Competition Lobster

By Megan Giller - Zagat

What would you do if the main ingredient in your professional cooking competition turned out to be deadly? That was the problem Uchi's Lauren Ortiz faced at last night’s 86’d event (the local version of Chopped).

As emcee and chef Philip Speer announced the ingredients — whole live Maine lobster, Wahaka mezcal, smoked Serrano chiles and fresh peaches — Ortiz revealed her shellfish allergy. She wasn’t the only one. Judge Matt Clouser removed himself from the round and subbed in chef Callie Speer (both from Swift's Attic), but Ortiz carried on. Ultimately she turned out a superior dish of cold-poached lobster dressed in miso-garlic butter accompanied by peaches four ways (grilled, cured, fresh and pickled) and topped with sliced Serrano peppers. The kicker? She wasn’t able to taste anything as she prepared...

Keeper Collection culinary heroes

By Matthew Odam - American-Statesman

They don’t enjoy the media attention and public fawning that their high-profile bosses receive, but a collection of some of Austin’s best cooks will get their moment in the spotlight on June 16 at the Citywide 86’d finale at the AT&T Executive Education and Conference Center.

The event is an elimination competition in the format of the Food Network’s “Chopped” and features cooks from Barley Swine, Searsucker, Uchi and Uchiko.

The finale caps a tournament that started with 16 competitors from restaurants around the city. The competition, which eliminates a contestant following each of the three rounds (appetizer, entrée, dessert), started as an internal battle among employees at Uchi in 2008. Uchi expanded the competition to include Uchiko and Uchi Houston over the next few years, with winners receiving cookbooks and knives as prizes.

Uchi teamed with the...

Hot Sauce Festival

By Megan Giller - Zagat

All Summer

Trailer Food Tuesdays

Head to the Long Center the last Tuesday of the month for trailer treats from Regal Ravioli, Coolhaus and more, plus live music and beer (June 24, July 29 and August 26, 5-9 PM, free, 701 W. Riverside Dr.).

Antonelli’s Cheers! to Cheese Series

Local hot spots pair cheese with a variety of boozy beverages, including cocktails at qui, French wine at Arro, and beer at The ABGB. (Check the calendar for dates, prices and locations).


Negroni Week

Drink for a good cause: order the infamous cocktail at bars around town (Half Step, the Tigress, Searsucker, Drink.Well and more) to benefit local charities, including SXSW Cares and Austin Pets Alive (June 2-8, various locations and prices).


Chef cooking with cereal

By Kristi Willis - CultureMap Austin

One contestant looks perplexed as he eyes a plastic tub with two live fish swimming around, but with no time to waste, dashes off to the pantry to grab other ingredients. Colleagues, servers and friends cheer as they watch the chefs battle nerves, unfamiliar equipment and the clock to get their dishes to the plate.

The competition was started in 2008 by the Uchi restaurant group as a way to encourage creative innovation among their team.

For the last several months this scene has repeated itself as chefs from some of Austin’s most innovative restaurants have sharpened their creative culinary skills in the hopes of besting their peers in the annual Citywide86'd competition. Similar in format to the TV show Chopped, four contestants receive mystery baskets to prepare a dish in a short time period with one chef eliminated after each course.

Four preliminary rounds were held...

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By Virginia B. Wood - The Austin Chronicle

The Keeper Collection, LLC announced today that Nathan Prater was the winner of the annual Somms Under Fire Wine & Food Pairing Competition held Sunday, Jan. 26 at the UT/AT&T Executive Education and Conference Center.

Prater represented Austin's Red Room Lounge and competed against Certified Sommelier Paula de Pano of the Fearrington House Restaurant in Chapel Hill, N.C., and James Watkins, Beverage Director of Cordua Restaurants in Houston.

The evening began with a Sake One Saktail...

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As avid watchers of shows like Chopped, Top Chef, and Iron Chef, we all enjoy the excitement of a cooking competition! Austin is going to be receiving a taste of this excitement with this year’s Somms Under Fire Competition on January, 26th at the AT&T Executive Education & Conference Center.

In the competition Advanced Sommelier Paula De Pano, Advanced Sommelier Nathan T Prater, and Certified Sommelier James Watkins will be testing their wine and food pairing skills in front of a live audience! The winner of the Somms Under Fire compeition will receive an internship in Burgundy, France with British Master of Wine, Jasper Morris. The event will feature wine from all over the world and food prepared by Chef Shawn Cirkiel of Parkside Projects, which includes Parkside Restaurant, Olive & June Restaurant, The Backspace Restaurant, and the soon opening Chavez.

Tickets for the event are $65 for General Admission and $125 for VIP, which offers preferred seating during the competition and judging. VIP also offers a one-hour burgundy tasting and...

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By Matt McGinnis - CultureMap Austin

In just over two weeks, some of the world’s best athletes will compete in the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi. Whether it's speed skating or snowboarding, the one thing that is certain is that the athletes have trained like mad to make it to the big stage. Here in Austin, we're hosting a mini Olympics of our own. But this is for wine. Three sommeliers will battle in a test of wine and food pairings in Somms Under Fire on January 26, at the AT&T Executive Education & Conference Center on the University of Texas campus.

To earn a spot in the competition, more than two dozen applicants from nine states took an insanely difficult — and timed — written exam testing their...

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