The TT 46

Michael Fojtasek and Grae Nonas

Olamaie, Austin, TX
Photo: Robert J. Lerma

Why they killed it in 2015: When people talk about Fojtasek and Nonas's whitewashed cottage churning out country-fried eggplant, cauliflower burgoo and other modern renditions of Southern, it's often grouped with the likes of Charleston's Husk and Nashville's The Catbird Seat. That's because Austin's duo has been making the old exciting and new again since opening in 2014, drawing on Southern traditions but putting their own mark on them with local produce in the heart of brisket and puffy-taco town.

How would you describe your cooking? "Garden-inspired Southern."

What's your signature dish? "Kilt white button mushrooms, warm country ham vinaigrette, mushroom catsup, tarragon. We love this dish. It's the only dish that remains from the original menu."

Which dish would you cook for the rest of your lives? Fojtasek: "Standing rib roast." Nonas: "Fish."

What are the three essential cookbooks on your shelf? Fojtasek: "The Taste of Country Cooking, by Edna Lewis, Chez Panisse Vegetables, by Alice Waters, and The French Laundry Cookbook, by Thomas Keller. The Taste of Country Cooking is one of the best illustrations of how we cook at Olamaie. Edna Lewis uses seasons to outline not only menus but a sense for the time of year. Chez Panisse Vegetables was the first book to have a huge impact on my outlook as a cook. The awesome art and thorough descriptions of vegetables caused me to go to Boggy Creek Farm for in-person education. The French Laundry Cookbook belongs in every collection. It's the finest American cookbook in my opinion. At Olamaie, Grae and I think about what we have read from the past and how to apply it to our current version of Southern food. We hope the books will help us keep pushing forward with authenticity and focus." Nonas: "What Michael said with the additions of Astrance: A Cook's Book, Bouchon Bakery and The Art of Fish Cookery."

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