Hot Luck Festival, the inaugural food and music celebration from Aaron Franklin, music Mohawk founder James Moody, and Portland food festival co-founder Mike Thelin, made its Austin debut over the weekend, bringing forth major chefs (Roy Choi, Sara Kramer, Andy Ricker, Nong Poonsukwattana) and energizing concerts (Shonen Knife, Robert Ellis). It felt very much like the anti-food festival festival, with a very casual vibe.
Chefs mingled and interacted with the crowd while geeking out over colleagues. Every event, from the smaller concerts to the massive fire-focused ranch food party, never felt overly crowded — it was all manageable and accessible. While the Saturday morning storms put a damper on the chefs’ prep work, it all cleared up by the evening event.
Hot Luck was planned in four months, according to Thelin. “We like the idea of someone paying $15-20 for a rock show,” he said, “and also experiencing a food event.” Look for international chefs (who require more lead time for travel plans and scheduling) for next year’s Hot Luck. He also wants to expand on “smaller, personality-driven events,” too.
Rebecca Masson and Aaron Franklin working the s’mores line at Mohawk; Jon Favreau slicing meat for Roy Choi; Favreau talking to Daniel Vaughn; Vaughn’s tacos; Ivan Orkin prepping his koji-cured duck leg; Favreau, Choi, James Moody, Mike Thelin, and Franklin. All photos by Robert J. Lerma except s’mores by Nadia Chaudhury.
Before the Hot Luck festivities began, Franklin and Fluff Bake Bar sweets wizard Rebecca Masson fired up “Thurston S’Moores” for the former Sonic Youth leadman’s show at Mohawk on Wednesday evening. Ahead of the concert, Franklin and Masson walked down Sixth Street, and passersby exclaimed, “Was that Aaron Franklin?”
The next evening, director, actor, and cooking enthusiast Jon Favreau palled around Franklin Barbecue with Franklin and Choi during the backyard barbecue party on Thursday with a film crew in tow. What will the footage be used for is unclear at this point. Franklin showed Favreau how to properly slice brisket.
Frosé all day > rosé all day. Via 313’s upcoming bar Nickel City poured out drinks from the joint’s takeout trailer, including a particularly strong frozen rose. The bar also handed out wooden nickels for a free beer or whiskey whenever the bar opens.
To avoid any potential lines, Franklin Barbecue set up two stations during the welcoming party. Portland’s Olympia Provisions classed up the offerings with a giant charcuterie and condiments spread. For a decidedly vegetarian bite, Kismet’s Sara Kramer smoked up sweet potatoes paired with labneh and trout roe.
Texas Monthly barbecue editor Daniel Vaughn stepped behind the smoker under the name Full Custom Gospel BBQ (the name of his previous blog), leading people to wonder where this new barbecue joint came from. He served smoked New York strip tacos, paired with beef fat onions and Texas barbecue salsa, atop tortillas from Valentina's Tex Mex BBQ.
Olympia Provisions’ charcuterie; Adam Sappinton and Andrew Wiseheart slicing away; gnawing on ribs; more ribs at Hi Lo; tacos at Hi Lo; the Hi Lo scene at Fair Market. All photos by Robert J. Lerma except charcuterie and Sappington/Wiseheart by Nadia Chaudhury.
Hops & Grain collaborated with Franklin Barbecue for the limited Hot Luck beer, made with potatoes, the restaurant’s pickle brine, and bread. Likewise, for nonalcoholic drinks, Stumptown Coffee Roasters canned a special cold brew just for the festival.
Franklin’s preorder area transformed into an unofficial Hot Luck lounge, where Austin’s anticipated restaurants and bakeries doled out preview bites, like Play Dough Janina O’Leary with doughnuts and chopped brisket hand pie, and Alex Manley’s bagels and lox.
Jake Maddux, Zach Hunter, and the rest of the The Brewer’s Table crew decided to veer in the opposite direction of the festival’s main focus. “Barbecue is a heavy dish,” Maddux explained, “so we wanted to accent that with our watermelon salad and a veggie slider.” The wood-fermented and wood-fired restaurant is expected to open in mid-October with daily lunch and dinner service.
Friday evening’s Hi Lo at the Fair Market focused on updated versions of childhood dishes. Franklin whipped up his grandparents’ pot roast (dubbed Mimi and Papa’s pot roast in a lovingly handwritten sign). Callie Speer previewed brownie waffles that are sure to be served at her upcoming punk rock diner Holy Roller.
Lucky attendees during Hi Lo were gifted giant rib bones from The Country Cat's Adam Sappington and many were seen gnawing on the bones. His Sunday brunch buddy Andrew Wiseheart was on bread slicing duty.
Chef David Bull always loved beef. “Beef was always a favorite growing up,” he said, “so things like pot roast in the crock pot conjures up nostalgia for me.” He also thinks Austin has a lot in common with sister city Portland. He noted that Second Bar + Kitchen’s airport debut will happen sometime in late June.
L'Oca d'Oro chef Fiore Tedesco was looking forward to his brunch collaboration with Portland’s Joshua McFadden. “Josh and I speak the same language about food,” he said, “but I’m more concerned about trying to prank him in the kitchen.” He added, “That’s how you make a friend.”
Olamaie chef Michael Fojtasek admitted he felt some trepidation about crafting his dish, to the point where he had no idea what to make. Franklin told him, “‘Relax, it’s nostalgia, man, just think about it more,’” Fojtasek said. “When I was a kid, I ate white bread with Country Crock butter and raw sugar.” That lead to him creating the chicken liver mousse dish with strawberry sugar.
A guest tried to steal one of the Yeti coolers holding water, and a staffer had to stop him.
Alex Manley’s bagel and lox; Contigo’s setup at Al Fuego; Dai Due’s taco prep; longhorns at Wild Onion Ranch; Joshua Pinsky and Matthew Rudofker of Momofuku checking their hog. All photos by Nadia Chaudhury/EATX except Tesar by Julia Schweizer
Later that night, Shonen Knife’s catchy pop punk music were the perfect pairing to Otoko sushi chef Yoshi Okai’s bite of yellowtail and ponzu, who watched the show that Friday evening. The next night, everyone crowded into White Horse to watch Robert Ellis perform on Saturday night.
After the rains Al Fuego attendees (including sheriffs indulging in food) were welcomed by an idling herd of longhorns at Wild Onion Ranch out in Manchaca, Texas. One attendee noted, “If you've eaten too much brisket, it's advisable to sit crosslegged in a field and watch cows graze.”
Very special guests got to delight in Dallas chef John Tesar’s dry-aged burger, which one guest described as the “best thing I’ve eaten in months.” Eater Dallas editor Amy McCarthy wondered if it’s a preview of the chef's quick-service burger counter in Dallas' impending food hall Legacy Hall.
Contigo concocted an entire rotisserie setup for its giant ribs, used for cheesesteaks. Dai Due got into the taco spirit (ahead of its taqueria to be found in Austin’s first food hall Fareground) with tacos de suadero.
The Hightower’s Chad Dolezal made what he described as his trashy dish: corned beef with fennel slaw on flatbread-style tortillas. “It’s our play on both a California burrito and a reuben.” The tortilla addition added the Texas touch.
There were long lines for Kemuri Tatsu-ya’s smoked pork jowl musubi and Momofuku DIY smoked pork buns (where meat was pulled from the whole roasted hog on-site).
Saturday night’s closing tiki party at Weather Up featured drinks in halved pineapples were served, along with shots of okolehao, Hawaiian moonshine, and pina coladas in Yeti cups, plus very real but branded tattoos from Sailor Jerry.
San Antonio chefs Diego Galicia and Rico Torres spent all day prepping a giant 185 pound pig for the party, rubbed with achiote, sour oranges, garlic, and a bit of clove. It spent ten hours in a Caja China oven, rested for two hours, and then sprayed with coconut milk and pineapple juice. “We take tiki very seriously in Mexico,” Galicia said. Elsewhere, Franklin dished up homemade spam and Salt & Time’s Ben Runkle deep-fried scrapple with compressed pineapple.
Sunday brunch collaborations included Contigo and Country Cat's chili, corn grits, and egg, Hightower's klobasnek with Cured (the restaurant) jalapeno sausages, and breakfast pasta from L'Oca d'Oro and Ava Gene.