Multiple Locations, May 24–27
by Neal Baker
In less than 10 years, Aaron Franklin of Franklin Barbecue has rocketed to legend status for his pit’s consistent ability to draw an hours-long line leading to the best barbecue in town. In the state. Some say in the world. But every now and again, the world’s greatest just wants to have a little backyard BBQ. Though of course when your guests are world-class chefs and your DJ is Questlove, things go off the chain pretty quickly. Founded by Franklin, James Moody and Mike Thelin, the fledgling Hot Luck Fest is coming back for only its second year but promises a master class in food and entertainment from some of the best in the business. From Thursday, May 24, through the following Sunday, the 27th, Hot Luck will inhabit halls and hangouts around town, putting on a series of rain-or-shine events in praise of the Texas tailgate spirit.
The list of chefs and musicians — the full extent of which can be found on Hot Luck’s website — includes the likes of Tyson Cole of Uchi, Tatsu Aikawa and Takuya Matsumoto of Kemuri Tatsu-Ya, Austinites Okkervil River, and former Joy Division member Peter Hook. Each event and gig has its own tickets, also online, so you can make the experience your own. Existing for more than just fun, Hot Luck also supports SAFE, an alliance merging Austin Children’s Shelter and SafePlace.
A Q&A with two of Hot Luck’s founders, James Beard award-winning pitmaster Aaron Franklin and James Moody, owner of Mohawk and a principal at Guerilla Suit.
How did Hot Luck get started? What initially set the wheels in motion?
Aaron Franklin: We wanted to do a food and music festival that was laid-back with an Austin vibe.
James Moody: It was born on a picnic table at Franklin’s. We all had some time to try something new and have fun with food and music again. I think we were drinking Live Oak pilsners and talking about Tom Waits reading recipes for us. Still waiting on him to call us back.
Austin is, of course, a festival-loving town, but what sets the Hot Luck lineup apart?
AF: Hot luck is about friendship — we’re throwing a party for our friends. It’s also about chefs cooking for each other without the pressure to deliver any crazy dishes. Invites to chefs happen via text, in person, or by calling. We ask them to think about what they’d make for their friends in their backyard.
JM: The concept and vibe set Hot Luck apart. It’s more of a city-wide tailgate with shows and tasty grub than a festival. No-frills, easy, and all are welcome. That’s the Austin we want people to experience and remember.
Favorite moment from last year? And what are you most looking forward to this year?
AF: Getting Daniel Vaughn to cook was great, since he’s a writer but well-versed in the food world. We got him out of his comfort zone at “Hi, How Are You?” to cook with us, and everyone helped. Roy Choi helped taste his sauce; I did his setup and checked his orders; Miguel [Vidal] and the Valentina’s team helped out too. We’re all a team, which is what we always wanted, but to see it unfold like that was special.
This year, I’m excited to work with our chefs on “Night Court,” which is our mall food court event on Friday at Fair Market. We’re coming up with some fun concepts and bites inspired by everyone’s memories of mall food courts back in the day.
JM: Al Fuego out at the [Wild Onion] Ranch is really special and probably one of my favorite moments, next to Yoshi [Okai] making sushi at Barracuda and Robert Ellis covering George Jones at The White Horse.
This year, my friend Alex Stupak of Empellón in NYC is taking over Cisco’s on East 6th Street for a night, and that’s going to be killer. Los Pinkys playing, Alex cooking, open bar — it will be hard to get into, intimate, and probably a little wild.