Cooking Up Good Eats at Easton Park
After profiling Easton Park’s awesome makers, we knew we had to talk to more of the creative professionals who make their homes here! We put out a call on social media for Easton Park chefs, and we heard from a bunch of you. We were able to catch a few Easton Chefs on the phone to find out why they love making their homes at Easton Park.
Chef Joseph Holloway, Bryant Park resident since 2019
As a kid, there was nothing Chef Joseph Holloway loved more than watching Ninja Turtles and enjoying a deep pan personal pizza. On weekends, he would keep the TV on after the cartoons were over to see Julia Childs, Jacques Pépin, Yan Can Cook, and Paul Prudhomme work their magic. Through the years, Joseph leveled up his own cooking skills, advancing from jarred pasta sauce to creating his own custom alfredo. “I’ve always had a sense of delight that comes from making good food,” Joseph says.
After high school, Joseph ended up in Illinois for college majoring in theater and worked in restaurants to pay the bills. “My first love, even before cooking, was music,” he says. “I’ve played piano for as long as I’m been cooking.”
Around the time Joseph realized the theater life (and Illinois) weren’t for him, an old friend from Austin tasted Joseph’s version of the pan pizza he had loved as a kid. Joseph’s version was made with high-quality ingredients and a crispy cast-iron skillet crust. The friend was blown away, and encouraged Joseph to start his own business, offering to be an investor. Joseph and his family moved to Easton Park, and the partners were searching for a food trailer when the COVID-19 pandemic hit.
“If we had pulled the trigger on the trailer, it could have been catastrophic,” Joseph says. In the meantime, the past few months have given him a chance to try recipes and perfect other aspects of the Thicc Pizza business. For now, he takes orders over Instagram and delivers to Easton Park and the immediate surrounding areas. Customers are loving his delicious crust and combos like the Notorious P.I.G (with pepperoni, ham, sopressata, bacon, and Italian sausage) and an alfredo-sauced pizza with sausage and green onions. “I can’t think of a better place I could have made this happen than Easton Park,” Joseph says. “Everyone has been wonderful. I’m so grateful for this time in life.”
Chef Desi Franco, Knob Hill resident since 2017
When Chef Desi Franco and her fiancé Chris were looking for a house, there were two things that mattered to her: a big kitchen with lots of counter and storage space, and a big yard so they could get a dog. They found the perfect kitchen in their Buffington home, and they got their dog Milo, an Australian Shepard, about five months after they moved into Easton Park.
Desi went to culinary school here in Austin at Le Cordon Bleu, but she started cooking as a child with her dad and grandma. “The cool thing I learned from them is you can make anything delicious with what you have in the fridge, you don’t need specific ingredients,” Desi says. “We would make anything the fridge would allow us to make.”
As a chef in Austin, Desi has cooked at several hotels and is currently working at the Kalahari Resort in Round Rock. “It’s hard work, and there’s long hours, but it’s very diverse, which is one of the reasons I love it,” Desi says. “You get to meet people from different cultures, learn about cultures and put them on a plate and fill up bellies.”
When Desi’s home, she and Milo love hiking and exploring the green spaces around Easton Park. And of course, she cooks for her neighbors. “I like cooking anything that I’m craving. And when I cook a lot of food, I spread it around. But sometimes I just want a bowl of cereal!”
Chef Art Hernandez, Skyline Park resident since 2019
If you’ve eaten at the Driscoll Hotel or Punchbowl Social, you might have had Chef Art Hernandez’s delicious cooking. The El Paso native went to school at Le Cordon Bleu here in Austin, and when he graduated, he quickly moved up the ranks at kitchens around Austin, San Antonio, and Central Texas. One of his coolest gigs was working at a farm-to-table fine dining restaurant in the 300-person town of Doss, Texas, that attracted diners from as far away as Illinois. “We got to work with organic farmers, and we’d do local meat and wild game,” Art says. “There was a big smokehouse, and on the weekends we’d do 30 to 40 briskets at a time.”
When his wife Perla graduated from school in San Antonio, the couple wanted to move back to the city. Art helped open the Congress Avenue pizza spot Due Forni, which served Neopolitan-style pizzas. “I spent two months just learning how to make dough,” Art says. “That attention to detail is so much a part of me now. We had a water filtration system that put minerals back in the water to mimic the water in Naples!”
In 2019, the couple and their bulldog, Lexi, bought a home in the Skyline section of Easton Park. Perla insisted that they needed a pot-filler in the kitchen, even though Art didn’t want it. “Now when she sees me use it, she’s like, ‘SEE! I told you!” he says. “This is one of the biggest kitchens I’ve had. It’s allows me to do the things I’m doing now.”
Before the pandemic started, Art was traveling for Punchbowl Social, helping to open locations around the country. Now, with time on his hands, Art started the Community Eats – Easton Park page on Facebook to promote his own cooking. “We started with hot ready to go plates and expanded to Neopolitan pizzas on Fridays, with desserts with all those as well,” Art says. “And we’ve got Vixen Cookie Company, which does cookie boxes in classic and exotic flavors.”
With as many homes as there are in the Easton Park community, it’s important to Art to stay close to home. He does the cooking, and Perla delivers pizzas and food on Fridays when she gets off work. “That’s why I cook is I love bringing people together,” he says. “That’s the foundation of what we’re doing. We try to bring people together and make great experiences, and being able to give back to the community you live in is even better. I have a lot of love and enjoyment for this neighborhood.”