With almost 20 years experience in the industry, Max’s Wine Dive chef Edward Villareal is a fixture of San Antonio’s restaurant scene. His most recent culinary role, however, has taken him out of the kitchen and in front of the camera.
Inspired by his hometown’s burgeoning culinary community, he founded web series Homegrown Chef in 2017 with local writer and filmmaker Kimberly Suta. Now, he is seeking the community’s help in producing a new batch of episodes.
The idea for the series was developed when Villareal and Suta worked with Chef Cooperatives, a group of locally based chefs who raise funds to support the farm-to-table movement through pop-up events for community farms and ranches. A fan of Anthony Bourdain’s travel series, Suta wanted to document the exciting things happening in her own back yard.
“At the time, I had already been wanting to do a video series around our local food scene here in San Antonio, which had been really taking off,” Suta explains.
After a brainstorming session, Homegrown Chef was born. The first episode featured a cooking demonstration using hoja santa, a wild herb that can be found all over the city. Subsequent editions highlighted some of San Antonio’s most acclaimed chefs, including Jeff White, Pieter Sypesteyn, Ruth Wimberly and Luis Colon.
Villarreal said an increasing number of people — mainly out-of-towners — recognize San Antonio is more than just about “tacos and the Alamo.”
“Everybody has different foods and different styles," he says, "and we want to show that.”
For the second season, the show will be expanding its reach, first making a stop at the San Antonio Botanical Garden to check out its educational opportunities for adults and children, which teach visitors about the importance of healthy food, eating local, and growing produce at home.
The aim is not only inspire creativity in the kitchen, but also to educate the public. “Our greater mission is to educate and inspire people about the importance of knowing where their food comes from, eating local, supporting local farms and being inspired by the indigenous ingredients and rich culture we have available to us,” says Suta.
To help with that goal, Homegrown is teaming up with some favorite local chefs and culinary producers for Sumo Spring Bash from 5-9 pm on March 7 at Burleson Yard Beer Garden. The event will showcase Asian fusion fare featuring locally sourced ingredients, including vegetables picked fresh from the SABOT garden.
The $40-per-person admission includes event entry and bites from SABOT’s chef Dave Terrazas, independent chef Teddy Liang, JD's Chili Parlor’s Diana and John Anderson, and Honeysuckle’s Sara Lauren Hinojosa. Villareal will be serving braised pork belly steamed buns, spicy cilantro cabbage slaw, and sesame aioli.
As for the “sumo” part, guests can don an inflatable sumo wrestler outfit and spar with a partner for an extra $10. Time slots can be reserved first-come, first-served upon arrival.
The idea is at peace with the series’ cheery tone. Through interviews and cooking demonstrations, Homegrown Chef makes the story of San Antonio food fun. It’s a joy that’s reflected in its chef host.
“Watching San Antonio grow in the last five to seven years has been wonderfully fantastic,” says Villareal.