Luck Presents Potluck Was a Celebration of Indigenous Cuisine with Award-Winning Chefs and a Willie Nelson Serenade
The evening was filled with delectable dishes, libations and an iconic Willie Nelson performance under the Hill Country stars
By Gabrielle Nicole Pharms
Photos by Julianna Pressley
Each springtime, Willie Nelson’s annual Luck Reunion Music Festival at the star’s Luck, Texas ranch near Spicewood is one of the hottest tickets in town. Created by Luck Presents, the fest’s kickoff event, Potluck, is an intimate culinary experience and fundraiser complete with a performance by the legendary singer himself is an even hotter ticket to secure.
Each year, Potluck features a theme paying homage to America’s roots through delicious eats. This year’s event focused its foodie attendees on the importance of Indigenous tradition and culture in America. The “Three Sisters” theme was dedicated to the primary crops of Indigenous cuisine: maize, squash and climbing beans. Backed by deep rooted traditions, many indigenous nations called corn, bean and squash “the three sisters’ because they nurture each other like family when planted together.
Much like these plants, the Austin food community came together to support each other and celebrate sustainability ingredients, gastronomic talent and raise funds for the Luck Family Foundation in support of Farm Aid, Wholesome Wave and Texas Food & Wine Alliance.
A team of esteemed chefs including Crystal Wahpepah of Wahpepah’s Kitchen, Kickapoo Nation, Brit Reed of I-Collective, Choctaw tribe, and Sewa Yuli of I-Collective, Yoeme tribe and Michel Nischan of Wholesome Wave prepared a family style seated dinner to 300 lucky guests in a heartwarming – and mouthwatering homage to this cuisine.
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“Part of what stirs my creativity is combining older, more traditional techniques and dishes with newer, more modern ones that people are familiar with,” said Chef Brit Reed regarding the inspiration behind her cooking this year’s Potluck. “Combining older traditional techniques with newer ones (while using traditional ingredients such as corn, beans, and squash or others) can be a way of reintroducing natives and non-natives alike to these foods and making them accessible.” The dinner also served as “a time of reflection for the guests” to consider how the food scenes of the Americas could have been if the policies around food and removing Native peoples from our food hadn’t happened” Reed mentioned. While raising awareness, attendees also gained an appreciation for native foods.
The Potluck idea was started by Matt Bizer, Co-Founder and Creative Director of Luck Presents, and Scott Marsh, Luck Presents’ Partner and CFO – both self-professed foodies. “We are as big of chef fans as we are musicians, so we have always looked for ways to integrate culinary programs more deeply into the event,” said Bizer. “Food and eating together has always created space for conversation, learning and change. Sharing a meal with someone you don’t know holds space for people to break through barriers of their differences and connect on what they have in common. We wanted to utilize this platform for a cause, and we intended to follow in the footsteps of Willie himself with his work for farmers and food systems.”
“This year’s theme of ‘Three Sisters’ evolved from discussion around farming practice, crops, preservation and sustainability, but along the way, it became clear that to truly understand and reclaim a balanced ecosystem and practice, we needed to look back to our origins and roots and the people who shared these crops with us, to begin with,” Bizer stated. “As the conversations began with the chefs, Bizer and the Luck Presents team quickly realized there was a lack of platform and awareness of the power in the voices of the Indigenous people.”
The event kicked off with welcome bites and cocktail hour presented by Texas Food and Wine Alliance with guest chefs Edgar Rico of Nixta Taqueria and Mariela Camacho of Comadre Panadería. Guests were serenaded with a set by Canadian folk and country artist William Prince, born to the Peguis First Nation community.
The dinner kicked off with a song sung by the family of Chef Sewa Yuli Portela. The chefs prepared various Indigenous dishes, including Kickapoo Chili, Buffalo Ribeye with Chokecherry Rub, Pvaka Tvpvaki Taco and Three Sisters Cake.
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Following dinner, Willie Nelson and his son Micah serenaded guests with his timeless classics, including “Mama Don’t Let Your Babies Grow to Be Cowboys,” “Whiskey River,” “On The Road Again,” and more.
Next year’s theme is yet to be decided, but one thing’s for sure: it will be backed by intention. “The purpose of the Potluck is to hold space for conversations around our food and, through that, our community and environment,” Bizer added. “Food is a human right but also a responsibility. This year, no one said that more eloquently than our Indigenous chefs and friends. For that purpose, we hope to inspire advocacy and raise money for organizations fighting for the change we all need in not only our food systems but our larger community as a whole.”
If you’re interested in attending Potluck, follow Luck Reunion on social media and online at @luckreunion and luckpresents.com.