Inspiration Board | Alexandra Manley

Since 2008, chef Alexandra Manley has been an intrinsic force behind every eatery that restaurateur Larry McGuire has opened in Austin, including Elizabeth Street Café, Clark’s, and Perla’s. Most recently, she has been at the culinary helm of Josephine House, the charming and elegant establishment at the corner of West Lynn and Waterston.

Given Manley’s extraordinary success to date, where does this young chef get all of her energy and inspiration? She starts close to home, with her parents. Her seasonal approach is informed by her family’s garden when she was growing up in Bethesda, Maryland. Manley’s parents also enjoyed looking for the perfect ingredient. “We would hunt down ethnic grocery stores in search of the best liverwurst, stinky European cheeses, Russian rye bread, and pickled herring,” recalls Manley.Many of the flavorful ingredients for her farm-to-table menu are harvested directly from the gardens that are shared by Josephine House and Jeffrey’s. “It is so inspiring to pick something directly from the garden and put it on the menu a few minutes later,” says Manley. “Right now we have beautiful lettuces and herbs. Fava beans, cardoons, and puntarella are on their way.”

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1. Old-school food writers: “Richard Olney, M. F. K. Fisher, and Elizabeth David. I still remember reading Alice Waters’s Los Angeles Times obituary for Olney.”

2. Photo of Alex’s parents, Jeff and Masha Manley, from their wedding day, September 18, 1965: “My dad is a compulsive researcher; my mother, a great improviser. He would make a big meal every Sunday and my mother would spend the rest of the week creating dinner with the leftovers.”

3. Julia Child’s The French Chef: “I love watching old episodes. Child’s joy is contagious.”

4. Coffee: “Some days my schedule is an excuse for trips to Houndstooth, Once Over, Medici, Flat Track, or Brew & Brew. There is only so much caffeine I can consume in a day—it is important to choose wisely!”

5. Jacques Pepin’s La Technique: “A classic and a favorite.”

6. Local produce: “We are so lucky here in Austin to have urban farms like Springdale, Boggy Creek, and HausBar, to name a few.”

7. Canelé mold: “I picked this up during my travels in France.”

8. Dark chocolate: “I always have a bar in my purse and several on the counter at home. The breakfast of champions is a square of dark chocolate and a cortado.”

9. Canal House Cooking, by Christopher Hirsheimer and Melissa Hamilton: “One of my favorite cookbooks.”

10. Butter-knife pendant and necklace: “Butter is the key, so I wear this pendant around my neck.”

11. Beurre d’Isigny with coarse sea salt.

12. Yard eggs: “Chickens eating real food of their own choosing makes for exciting egg eating.”

13. Cup and saucer: Essentials for cappuccinos.

14. Spread from The Whole Beast: Nose to Tail Eating, by Fergus Henderson: “Henderson also has a restaurant in London called St. John where I had one of the best meals of my life.”


Photography by Bill Sallans

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