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What You’ll Eat at Aaron Franklin’s New All-Star Food Festival

Who to look out for

Nadia Chaudhury is the editor of Eater Austin covering food and pop culture, as well as a photographer, writer, and frequent panel moderator and podcast guest.

Hot Luck Festival, the inaugural event from brisket whisperer Aaron Franklin, is bringing together some of the country’s (and Austin’s) best chefs and lets them do their cooking thing all next week.

While, yes, Franklin's name is attached, this isn't just a barbecue festival. There will be a variety of meaty dishes involving beef, pork, and fish, along with a healthy assortment of desserts. Dubbed the “afar chefs,” many of the out-of-town names hail from Portland, which makes sense considering the involvement of Hot Luck co-founder Mike Thelin, who’s also the co-founder of one of the country’s best food festivals, Feast.

Because Hot Luck is brimming with so many cooks (never a bad thing), Eater offers up a few highlights to watch out for. There are big names like Roy Choi, East Coast ramen king Ivan Orkin, and Thai comfort chef Noong Poonsukwattana, and Austin favorites like Bryce Gilmore, Callie Speer, Andrew Wiseheart, and Laura Sawicki.

There's the Hi, How Are You? backyard barbecue at Franklin's titular restaurant on Thursday, May 18; the Hi Lo featuring interpretations of childhood dishes at the Fair Market on Friday, May 19; flames abound at Al Fuego down in Wild Onion Ranch in Manchaca (shuttles will be provided) on Saturday, May 20; and tiki party Hawaii, Texas at Weather Up also on Saturday, May 20. Unfortunately, only those who have all-access packages can hit up the Franklin Barbecue and tiki parties. Then there are concerts serving food, like Thurston Moore’s show with DIY s’mores from Franklin and Houston baker Rebecca Masson, and a Sunday brunch series where non-Austin chefs are partnering with local chefs for special midmorning meals.

From the Austin and Texas contingent, keep an eye out for the Kemuri Tatsu-ya team concocting smoked pork jowl musubi and Dai Due’s Jesse Griffiths’ suadero tacos. Franklin himself is even offering up his version of grilled spam with cherry glaze and pimento cheese. Daniel Vaughn, Texas Monthly’s barbecue editor, is cooking for the first time, dishing up smoked strip steak tacos. For the purposes of this guide, Eater is focusing on those Hot Luck chefs outside of the Lone Star state.

With that, here is who you should look out for during the Hot Luck festivities.

A dish from Choi’s Pot in Los Angeles
A dish from Choi’s Pot in Los Angeles

Nong Poonsukwattana

People flock to the Portland Thai queen’s Nong’s Khao Man Gai, where the focus is, of course, that comforting chicken and rice dish. Nong’s began as a food cart, expanding with a second location, as well as a brick and mortar restaurant. She teased an Austin expansion back in 2013, but nothing ever came of it.
What she is making: fried pork spare ribs
Where you’ll find ‘em: Al Fuego, Wild Onion Ranch, Saturday, May 20

Roy Choi

Choi is a prolific Korean-American chef, with numerous restaurants and food trucks, including Kogi BBQ and the much-reviewed and growing socially-conscious mini-chain Locol; he’s also a memoir and cookbook author, and inspired/consulted director Jon Favreau for his film Chef. He's a fan of Franklin Barbecue and Austin's food scene.
What he is making: Kalbi, rice, kimchi
Where you’ll find ‘em: Hi, How are you?, Franklin Barbecue, Thursday, May 18

Adam Perry Lang

The California smoked meats master and cookbook author is known for his beef short ribs and Serious Barbecue Back Lot pop-ups. Lang and Franklin are pals — the pair hosted a pop-up on the West Coast in 2015, along with Roy Choi (see above). He is in the middle of opening a new meaty steakhouse/barbecue spot, APL Restaurant, his first in Los Angeles.
What he is making for Hot Luck: Peppered beef tongue with spicy pickles
Where you’ll find ‘em: Al Fuego, Wild Onion Ranch, Saturday, May 20

Ivan Orkin

The East Coast ramen king happens to be a Jewish white guy from New York. He started his ramen journey by opening two popular noodle soup shops in Tokyo, of all places, as an outsider, and came back to New York for two new restaurants, Ivan Ramen Slurp Shop and Ivan Ramen in Manhattan.
What he is making: to be announced, but it’s a safe bet it’ll involve ramen. Or maybe something with pizza since he opened a pizzeria, Corner Slice, in New York this year.
Where you’ll find ‘em: Hi, How are you?, Franklin Barbecue, Thursday, May 18

Adam Sappington

The chef and butcher is one half of the force behind essential Portland restaurant Country Cat Dinnerhouse and Bar with with his wife Jackie. The restaurant is lauded for its fried chicken, beef jerky, and bacon. Bonuses: the couple beat the competition on an episode of Chopped, and they were nominated for a James Beard Award for their cookbook, Heartlandia.
What he is is making: "Not your mama's garlic toast," with grilled Tomahawk chop in smoked marrow-porcini butter
Where you’ll find ‘em: Hi Lo, Fair Market, Friday, May 19; brunch at Contigo, Sunday, May 21

Sara Kramer

The Los Angeles chef behind falafel shop Madcapra and Middle Eastern restaurant Kismet was named, along with co-owner Sarah Hymanson, one of Food & Wine's best new chefs of 2017. Both were behind renowned New York City spot Glasserie before they left for the West Coast.
What she is making: to be announced
Where you’ll find ‘em: Hi, How are you?, Franklin Barbecue, Thursday, May 18

Poonsukwattana's grilled chicken and rice from Feast last year
Poonsukwattana's grilled chicken and rice from Feast last year
Amy McCarthy/EDFW

Peter Cho

At Han Oak (Eater Portland named it the best restaurant of the year), Cho delves into Korean barbecue, spicing up beef with a Korean-American dry rub. He knows his meats: he worked under April Bloomfield. Eater critic Bill Addison sees Cho’s restaurant as a sign of Korean cuisine's steadfast place in America’s culinary scape.
What he is making: to be announced
Where you’ll find ‘em: Hi, How are you?, Franklin Barbecue, Thursday, May 18

Isaac and Amanda Toups

The New Orleans Cajun chefs love pork chops and dirty rice, especially at their restaurants Toups' Meatery and Toups South. Isaac’s got a cookbook coming out next year, Chasing the Gator, plus he was named a fan favorite during Top Chef’s 13th season.
What they’re making: to be announced
Where you’ll find ‘em: Al Fuego, Wild Onion Ranch, Saturday, May 20

Andy Ricker

The man behind cult Thai spot Pok Pok has several locations of the restaurant in Portland, along with one in New York. (Alas, he closed down his Los Angeles shop in March.) Ricker won a James Beard Award for the restaurant in 2011.
What he is making: Gaam muu yaang and sai ua (grilled pork and northern Thai sausage)
Where you’ll find ‘em: Al Fuego, Wild Onion Ranch, Saturday, May 20

Joshua McFadden

The Portland chef at Italian-skewing Eater Portland 38 Ava Gene went from cooking at the restaurant to outright owning it. He also opened Middle Eastern restaurant Tusk (named one of Food & Wine's restaurants of 2017). And to just keep himself busy, he just published a new vegetable-focused cookbook, Six Seasons: A New Way With Vegetables.
What he is making: “James Beard Sandwiches by the Sea,” with tonnato (a tuna sauce), sweet onions, white bread, and parsley
Where you’ll find ‘em: Hi Lo, Fair Market, Friday, May 19; Hawaii, Texas, Weather Up, Saturday, May 20; brunch at L'Oca d'Oro on Sunday, May 21. (If you miss out on Hot Luck, he’s cooking a pop-up dinner at Josephine House later that Sunday.)

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