American cuisine

Austin’s new food truck explores modern African-American cuisine in Texas

Through his new Distant Relatives food truck, Damien Brockway explores modern African-American cuisine. It’s the clearest way for the chef to share his research on how the sprawling African diaspora has had a huge impact and continues to shape the way Americans eat right now. Located at 3508 East Seventh Street in the Govalle neighborhood, it opened the smokehouse and grill truck in late February with take-out and restaurant services.

Distant Relatives allows Brockway to delve into the essences of African-American cuisine, tracing the eating habits of his ancestors as they traveled across the United States — whether by themselves or by force. slavery – and eventually landing in Texas. The chief, who was born in Great Barrington, Massachusetts, and raised in Norfolk, Connecticut, investigated his own heritage and discovered that his ancestors had been brought as slaves to North America via West Africa – located in present-day Cameroon, Mali, Nigeria.

These regional African cuisines heavily influence Brockway’s cuisine at Distant Relatives. He emphasizes the use of pecan hardwood smoke, West African spices, fermentation and preservation techniques, and adherence to zero-waste methods, as he makes sure to use whole animals and each part of the product. This leads to dishes such as pulled pork made from sugarcane served with chili-ketchup, chicken thigh wedges with a chili-and-vinegar butter, and milk bread sandwiches filled with beef chuck, chilli cheese and pickled onions. Sides and snacks range from burnt peas. cabbage smothered with spicy smoked peanuts.

Chef Damien Brockway
Distant relatives [Official]

Before embarking on Distant Relatives, Brockway attended the Culinary Institute of America in Hyde Park, New York. After that, he was chef at the Old Inn on the Green restaurant in New Marlborough, Massachusetts and the One Market restaurant in San Francisco. His career in Austin began in 2013 when he joined Japanese restaurant Uchiko as head chef before becoming the executive chef of the now closed tasting menu restaurant Counter 3.Five.VII. After that, the chef landed at the Jester King Brewery in Hill Country, which he left last year.

Brockway began working on Distant Relatives with a chef friend in 2018, aiming to broadly cover the cuisines of the African diaspora. They decided to tighten the spotlight and really started launching the pop-up in August 2020, as the world protested against police brutality and racism with the Black Lives Matter movement. “I’m a chef and this is the best way I know to participate and give due consideration to these efforts,” he says.

Brockway originally intended to open Distant Relatives at Manor Road and Airport Boulevard, but the winter storm forced it to move the food truck to East Seventh Street, in the lot next to Leal’s Tire Shop. .

A hand holding a glass plate of cut ribs

Ribs of distant relatives
Granger Coats

An orange buttermilk-sweet-potato-butter mousse in a glass bowl with someone holding a spoonful of honey on a table with a red-white-blue checkered tablecloth

A buttermilk-sweet potato-butter mousse from Distant Relatives
Granger Coats

Helping the community is an integral part of Distant Relatives’ mission. Brockway donated proceeds from a two-day pop-up collaboration highlighting Tejano and African American cuisine with Alejandro Munoz (head chef at downtown restaurant Arlo Grey) in October 2020 to the organization at non-profit Casa Marianella. which is dedicated to helping homeless immigrants. Proceeds from a subsequent one-night meal with a Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil pop-up dinner series were donated to the NAACP Education & Legal Defense Fund last November. These efforts will continue with the food truck through future pop-ups. collaborations. and donations. Currently, the truck donates five dollars from each merchandise sold to the Austin Tavel Bristol-Joseph Chef’s Culinary Scholarship Program, which aims to help aspiring black student chefs.

Distant relatives hours of operation are 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. Wednesday through Sunday. Pickup orders can be placed in person.