Upcoming Free Educational Conference Gives Insights Into Houston Food History

On Friday, September 8 and Saturday, September 9, a group of historians, farmers, writers, sociologists, activists and artists from across the spectrum of Houston food culture will present several educational seminars as part of the “Houston Eats!” conference. Hosted by the Gulf Coast Food Project and Foodways Texas at the University of Houston, topics range from urban farming to the history of Chinese bakeries. The co-organizers are are Todd Romero and Monica Perales, co-directors of the Gulf Coast Food Project and history professors at the University of Houston; Marvin Bendele, director of Foodways Texas; and editor, food writer and author David Leftwich.

Friday’s seminars will be hosted in M.D. Anderson Library at Rockwell Pavilion from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. while Saturday’s schedule will be presented in Multipurpose Room 237 in the Student Center South from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m.. Tickets are free but required; attendees must register online in advance to obtain theirs.

Below are just a few highlights from each day, but the full schedule can be viewed online.

Houston Eats poster
Houston Eats! poster featuring artwork by by Amy C. Evans. Click for a larger version. Image courtesy of Houston Eats!


  • Keynote: “From Lightnin’ to Lemonade: Reimagining Culture in America’s Most Diverse City” by Tyina Steptoe of the University of Arizona.
  • Feasting on Culture: Asian Platiality through Supermarkets and Food Practices” presented by Roy Vũ (“Farm to Freedom: Vietnamese Americans and Their Home Gardens”), Claudia Kolker ( “Vietnamese Monthly Rice”) and Elaine Cho ( “A Tale of Two Cities: Exploring Koreatown Houston and Koreatown Carrollton”).
  • In the Land of the Links: Tracing Houston Barbecue Traditions from Cajun Country to Beaumont” presented by J.C. Reid, Houston Chronicle barbecue columnist.
  • A discussion of the forthcoming book,  The Lost Restaurants of Houston by authors Paul and Christiane Galvani
  • Baked: Chinese Bakeries and the Creation of Identity in Houston” by writer Alana Dao.
  • Expanding Local Farm and Food Communities: Key Arenas of Opportunities for Activists” moderated by writer Pam Walker and featuring publisher Kim Korth (Edible Houston), Casey McAuliffe (councilwoman from LaMarque), Judith McGeary (Farm and Ranch Freedom Alliance) and Edwin Marty (food policy manager, Austin Office of Sustainability).


  • “Arab Stereotypes and Marketing Palestinian Food in Houston” by Aimee Bachari, public historian.
  • ‘I Heard the Earth Singing Beneath the Street:’ The Challenges of Farming in the Most Diverse City in the Country,” moderated by writer/author David Leftwich and featuring Kellie Karavias (founder/director Cultivated Classroom at Gregory-Lincoln Education Center and Hogg Middle School), Constant Ngouala, (production Manager of Plant It Forward Farms) and Scott Snodgrass (owner of The Edible Group).
  • Selling Mexican Culture in Houston: A History of La Nacional Tortilla Factory and La Consentida Cafe” by Mikaela Selley, Houston Metropolitan Research Center.
  • Boudain Kolaches and Houston Creolization” by Robb Walsh, author and food historian.
  • Live interview with 2017 James Beard Best Chef Southwest Hugo Ortega, pastry chef Ruben Ortega and James Beard-nominated restaurateur Tracy Vaught of Hugo’s, Caracol and more by Houston Chronicle restaurant critic Alison Cook.

Those deeply interested in Houston food culture who have the opportunity to attend should find both days to be interesting and valuable.

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