Austin Food Festival: I’ll Do Anything for Free Food, Even Pay

Last weekend, I wanted to attend the second annual Far East Fest, an Austin food festival where Asian restaurants and food businesses gather for a day of samples and celebration, but I’m a student and didn’t want to pay around $50 for entry. So I signed myself up for a six-hour volunteering shift for the “free” food, which either shows you how little I value my labor output or how well I understand basic economics.

austinfoodfestival

I dragged TDM (“The Death of Me” guy and arguably the proximate cause of my Lime scooter accident) with me to volunteer. Rolling into the H-Mart parking lot, he expressed his disbelief that I’d managed to convince him to come with. I continued to talk about what a great idea it was, what are you talking about, as I inwardly shriveled upon contact with the frigid 30-degree weather. (I’m a Texan—leave me be.)

We worked some odd jobs before ultimately being assigned to serve food to VIP judges. A table of eight guests in the large VIP tent would be sampling food from each vendor to pick one winner. The two of us were to go down each booth, request samples, and deliver them to the tasting table.

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Credit: David Brendan Hall

TDM and I soon discovered the perks of our job. With our trays, we bypassed lines to request samples from the vendors, and while they worked carefully to prepare the eight samples, we had time to scope out stalls nearby and wait in those lines for food to eat ourselves.

I was living my dream, downing Asian fusion creations like matcha tres leches cake, Korean fried chicken wraps, and duroc pork on a bed of apple slaw and rice. Wolfing down golden milk ice cream in the biting cold and losing feeling in my cold, dead hands. I was in heaven.

And then, on one trip back from a stall, TDM stepped in a ditch and lost his grip on the tray. The samples, blue prawn fritters on sugarcane skewers and drizzled with yellow aioli, bounced and knocked into each other. One fell onto the ground.

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Credit: Austin Food Magazine

TDM and I—as well as a couple bystanders—collectively stared in the special kind of wistful horror that arises when someone drops good food.

TDM: What… if we just didn’t say anything?

Me: What, like not serve it to them at all?

TDM: Yeah. How would they know?

Me: No. No. We can fix this.

We salvaged the samples still on the tray. All the parts were thankfully still there, and they looked fine.

Me: I’ll just go tell them we need another sample. Stay here. It’ll be fine.

I did, and it was. No one noticed anything amiss, and we brought the fritters to the judges, who’d probably tried at least fifteen samples by that point and were getting full. Sometimes when they didn’t touch a sample, TDM and I would just split it. They ate the fritters, unfortunately.

We finished our serving task and got relegated to selling hats for a bit, where a completely wasted girl enveloped us in a three-way hug and asked where Home Depot was as the warehouse loomed, large and orange, in the background.

TDM: Actually, never mind. I forgot how fun volunteering is.

Days after the event, I came across a news article with many surprises, namely that the judges I’d served were the news anchors and that the samples TDM had dropped had won the competition. The restaurant, Sway, had been the reigning champions, too.

I immediately texted him to gloat.

Me: Sway owes their win to me

TDM: Crazy how we held their fate in our hands

Me: My hands. You weren’t going to serve them

TDM: It was a joke, and I exclusively held their fate in my hands because I screwed up. You were just in the right place at the right time

Me: You didn’t hold their fate in your hands because you screwing up and you not screwing up both led to the same outcome, them still being served. Your action wasn’t the deciding factor

TDM: I’ll give you 50% credit

I refused to settle. I figured this was still a point of contention between us and almost decided to agree to disagree until I remembered I’m the one with the blog, and winners write history.

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Last post: The Valentine’s Origami Box When You Can’t Follow Directions


7 thoughts on “Austin Food Festival: I’ll Do Anything for Free Food, Even Pay

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