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Chefs Ruston Richardson and Drew Dunston

by Rachel Dushkewich February 14th, 2013 | Chef Interviews
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Looking to dine alongside American history? Look no further than Paggi House in Austin, Texas! Residents and visitors recognize Paggi House as one of Austin’s oldest historical landmarks, as the building dates back to the 1840’s. The exciting food and atmosphere, though, prove enticing in their own right!

Chefs Ruston Richardson and Drew Dunston create a menu blending classic Austin cuisine and artistic, innovative flair. They view every dish as a work of art, ensuring that great taste and beautiful presentation go hand in hand. Using the best local farms and growing their own herbs ensures that each ingredient is top quality. Enjoy the stunning Austin view from the patio or sip cocktails at the unique stone bar in the dining room – either way, Paggi House proves to be an exceptional dining experience! I had a chance to speak to Chefs Ruston Richardson and Drew Dunston to learn more about them and their historic restaurant!

 RD: Paggi House has quite an amazing story! Could you describe some of its history?

 PH: The house is arguably the oldest standing building in Austin. It was an inn pre-Civil War, and Robert E. Lee even spent the night there once. The bricks are handmade from nearby soil, the milk cellar is now the bartender’s storage, the well is still standing, and the kitchen is in a separate building (just like the old days).

 RD: How would you describe the overall vibe of your menu?

PH: Modern New American cuisine with a bit of molecular influence. We want the food to taste really good but look unusual and unexpected.

 RD: What’s your favorite dish currently?

 PH: The cold smoked foie gras in a jar with apple butter, pickled fennel and yuzu gastrique. It’s not only really cool-looking but it tastes great. It’s a piece of theater.

 RD: What kind of atmosphere doe Paggi House have?

 PH: The history of the building makes it like no other restaurant in town. It’s got a reputation for ghosts . . . it can get a little spooky at night. The high ceilings and architectural detail makes people feel like they’re eating in Sam Houston’s house or something.

 RD: How does Paggi House incorporate local, seasonal ingredients?

 PH: We use local ranchers for our quail and antelope. We have a small herb garden for garnishes and cocktails. We try to incorporate produce from the four different farmer’s markets here whenever possible.

 RD: How does your location in Austin, Texas influence your restaurant?

 PH: We’re all about locally sourcing and using seasonal ingredients. People like comfort, southern food with a twist. We try to satisfy our older customers that are regulars as well as bring in newcomers from other cities. It’s a balancing act that has us creating different dishes and keeps people guessing.

 RD: How did your partnership begin, and how is it working together?

 PH: We both started at as sous chefs and rose through the ranks. We’re also friends outside of work (and our girlfriends are, too) so we’re constantly thinking of new dishes even when we’re out of the kitchen. It makes collaboration so much better.

(Photo courtesy of Paggi House)

Read more from Rachel Dushkewich
Read about Rachel Dushkewich

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