Austin Food & Wine Alliance Announces New Board, Key Supporters & Website

Austin Food & Wine Alliance

New Culinary Non-Profit to Benefit Community with Grants, Events & National Outreach

AUSTIN (February 21, 2012) – Austin Food & Wine Alliance (AFWA), Central Texas’ newest culinary non-profit, which is dedicated to fostering awareness and innovation in the Central Texas food and wine community, has named the organization’s first Board of Directors after an overwhelming response from the city’s top culinary advocates. The AFWA formed this year after transitioning from the former Texas Hill Country Wine and Food Festival.

A selection committee composed of former board members and key culinary professionals vetted dozens of applicants to select the board members who will lead the organization’s key initiatives including providing grants to community nonprofits, individuals and businesses based on culinary innovation; continuing the legacy of hosting dynamic culinary events to showcase Austin’s top talent in the food, wine, spirit and craft brew industries; and providing ongoing educational opportunities through seminars and tasting events.

The Austin Food & Wine Alliance Board of Directors includes:

  • President: Cathy Cochran-Lewis, Senior Program Leader, Global Marketing, Whole Foods Market
  • Vice-President: Paul Barnes, Assistant Director, Austin Convention Center
  • Treasurer: Jeff Christner, Vice President, ABC Bank
  • Secretary: Gina Burchenal, Owner/Executive Chef, Gina’s Kitchen Culinary Consulting
  • Past President: Chad Auler, Founder/President, Savvy Vodka, Vice-President, Fall Creek Vineyards
  • Director: Linda Bebee, Vice President of Domestic Marketing, Texas Beef Council
  • Director: Michael Aaron Bepko, Global Online Community Manager, Whole Foods Market
  • Director: Christian Bowers, Owner, Bola Pizza & Austin Food Journal
  • Director: Sandra Spalding, Retail & Community Events Manager, Twin Liquors
  • Director: Tom Thornton, Food & Drink Editor, Austinist & Associate Broker, Realty Austin
  • Director: Marshall Wright, Social Media Director, T3 & Marshall Wright Photography

“We are thrilled with the amazing response and interest we received from so many strong candidates from the Austin community and are incredibly grateful to have such an outstanding pool of qualified and interested applicants willing to serve our new organization,” said Cochran-Lewis. “Heartfelt thanks to everyone who applied and we are pleased that so many of these candidates now will take an active role on AFWA committees and help us give back to the Central Texas culinary community through our grant program and events.”

Austin’s highly regarded public relations pro, Elaine Garza of Giant Noise PR & Marketing, will chair the PR & Marketing Committee for the Alliance. Additional key chairs include Shawn Safir of Republic National Distributing Company and Lisa Nuccio of Glazer’s Wholesale Distributing, who will co-chair the Wine & Spirits Committee. The AFWA board expects to name more committee chairs as they are selected.

Additionally, the AFWA announced today that Maker’s Mark® Bourbon has signed on as a year-round supporter. The premium Kentucky distiller will feature its distinctive, small-batch bourbon whiskey at Alliance events and will take center-stage at the much-anticipated return of Live Fire!, Thursday, April 26 – a meat-centric live-fire cooking event which debuted last April and was one of Austin’s most popular and provocative culinary events. In this unforgettable and tasty encore, Live Fire! features the best in sizzling proteins, cooking craftsmanship along with wine, beer and spirits’ tastings at the famed Salt Lick Pavilion on the banks of Onion Creek in the Texas Hill Country.  Tickets for Live Fire! go on sale March 7.

The Alliance is quickly gaining tremendous support and on Thursday was named the beneficiary of the inaugural 2012 CultureMap Tastemaker Awards, a competition recognizing and celebrating the best of Austin’s culinary and cocktail scene. On Thursday, April 12, CultureMap will host a one-of-a-kind food and wine celebration and awards ceremony at The Driskill Hotel recognizing excellence in categories of restaurant, chef, pastry chef, wine and beverage service, mixologist and décor/atmosphere. The Tastemaker Awards’ tickets are on sale now and a percentage of proceeds will benefit the Alliance’s mission and grants.

The organization is also the designated beneficiary of the new Austin FOOD & WINE Festival, April 27 – 29, 2012. The Austin FOOD & WINE Festival marks a collaboration between C3 Presents, FOOD & WINE Magazine and some of Texas’ most celebrated chefs and restaurateurs, including Tim Love, Iron Chef Champion and Owner/Chef of The Lonesome Dove Western Bistro and The Love Shack in Fort Worth; Tyson Cole, the James Beard Foundation Award-winning Owner/Chef of Uchi and Uchiko in Austin; and Jesse Herman, owner of the James Beard Foundation-nominated La Condesa in Austin/Napa. C3 is the Austin-based producer of Lollapalooza and Austin City Limits Music Festival. Festival proceeds will benefit the Alliance.

The Alliance has just launched its new website which will provide updates on upcoming events, volunteer signups, supporters and grants as the grant process develops.

One of the first acts of the new board will be to name the AFWA Chefs Council, a coalition of prominent and community-minded Central Texas chefs that will help shape the Alliance’s culinary events, educational programming and grant process.

For more information about the AFWA, visit , call 512.348.6847 or email The AFWA mailing address is PO Box 685306, Austin, TX, 78768. Follow the Austin Food & Wine Alliance happenings on Facebook at , on Twitter @ATXFoodWineAlly.


The Austin Food & Wine Alliance is a 501(c)3 non-profit organization* dedicated to fostering awareness and innovation in the Central Texas culinary community through grants, educational programming and events. Guided by an all-volunteer board of directors and committees made up of culinary-and-community-minded professionals, the Alliance’s commitment is to promote Texas food, wine, spirits and craft brews and to increase appreciation of Texas’ culinary impact. The AFWA is the designated beneficiary of the Austin FOOD & WINE Festival, April 27 – 29, 2012. For more information about the Austin Food & Wine Alliance, visit

*501(c)3 filed & pending IRS approval.

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About johngl

A bit of a wildman, John hails from the Midwest: A land of corn, cows, pigs, and a host of other healthfully meaty pursuits. Born on a dark and stormy night in late Fall, John grew up as the son of a meat cutter. There was always plenty of meat at hand. While not wealthy by any stretch of the imagination, his family certainly ate well. According to his father, that was the whole point.