Star chefs, upscale mall food and ZZ Tapas: Aaron Franklin’s Hot Luck festival returns in May

The second annual Hot Luck festival returns to Austin on May 24-27 with a dazzling array of regional and national culinary talent, quirky and engaging food programming and eclectic live music acts ranging from swamp funk to post-hardcore. 

Credit: Hot Luck

Any diner worth their Maldon salt will immediately recognize some of the biggest names attending the festival co-founded by barbecue wizard and James Beard winner and festival co-founder Aaron Franklin. Momofuku empire builder David Chang; Ashley Christensen of Poole’s in North Carolina; and James Beard winner and Seattle mainstay Renee Erickson are a few of the new out-of-town faces attending this year’s event that takes place at multiple bars, restaurants, event spaces and nontraditional venues around town. Returning talent from outside Texas includes ramen specialist Ivan Orkin, featured in Netflix’s “Chef’s Table”; Alex Stupak of Empellón in New York; Andy Ricker of Portland’s Pok Pok; and Peter Cho of Portland Korean restaurant Han Oak.

Joining the out-of-town guests are some of the best talents Texas has to offer, including James Beard award winners Chris Shepherd (Underbelly) and Justin Yu (Theodore Rex) of Houston; Diego Galicia and Rico Torres (Mixtli, San Antonio); John Tesar (Knife, Dallas); pastry star Rebecca Masson of Fluff Bake Bar (Houston); and Steve McHugh (Cured, San Antonio).

Hot Luck’s hometown will also be represented by a slew of award winners and standouts, with chefs from more than half of the Statesman’s Top 25 restaurants of 2017 appearing at the festival. That group includes Bryce Gilmore (Odd Duck, Barley Swine); Laura Sawicki (Launderette); Fiore Tedesco (L’Oca d’Oro); Jesse Griffiths (Dai Due); Kevin Fink (Emmer & Rye); Takuya Matsumoto and Tatsu Aikawa (Kemuri Tatsu-Ya);  Michael Fojtasek (Olamaie); Todd Duplechan (Lenoir); Tyson Cole (Uchi/Loro); Philip Speer (Bonhomie); and Yoshi Okai (Otoko).

Stradling the line of in-town and out-of-town chefs will be Kristen Kish, the recently announced executive chef at Arlo Grey at the forthcoming Line ATX Hotel. The fest will afford many attendees the first opportunity to taste Kish’s food and will also serve as a preview for forthcoming Austin projects from chefs Zach Hunter (Brewer’s Table), Erind Halilaj (Il Brutto) and Fermin Núñez (Suerte).

Hot Luck takes a different approach to its tasting events and parties than many other food and wine festivals. The centerpiece Saturday night event at the idyllic Wild Onion Ranch in South Austin plays like an oversize backyard cookout, with world-class chefs cooking over open flame, and the other events all have themes ranging from the irreverent to the inspired. There’s the Friday night Night Court at Fair Market, which will feature the chefs delivering takes on some of their nostalgic favorites from mall food courts of their youth. Ever wanted to try Franklin’s take on an Arby’s beef and cheddar? You might just be in luck. What happens when award-winning chefs get into a taco throwdown at a Tex-Mex institution? You’ll find out at Cisco’s Bakery and Restaurant one late night. And what happens when you mix hot rods and hot plates? ZZ Tapas.

Festival founders Franklin, Guerrilla Suit and Mohawk co-founder James Moody and Mike Thelin, co-founder of Feast food festival in Portland, created the festival to celebrate the worlds of food and music in a casual setting, complete with a DIY aesthetic and a choose-your-own adventure sense of programming. 

“We are thrilled to be bringing this back to Austin. Hot Luck isn’t a festival; it’s a party. These chefs and bands just want to do their thing with friends … where everyone is welcome to hang out and have a good time. That’s what Hot Luck has become, and we love it,” Moody said.

Supplementing the programing of food events stretched over four days is a slate of live music featuring a diverse cast of acts, ranging from Galactic to former Joy Division bassist Peter Hook & the Light and indie rock titans Okkervil River to the DJ stylings of Peanut Butter Wolf.

Tickets can be purchased to all the food events, with prices ranging from $70 for the taco party at Cisco’s to $195 for access to Saturday night’s Al Fuego main event. Hot Luck also sells a Whole Enchilada package for $550, which allows attendees to hit all five of the food events, every music show, special parties and more. Tickets for the music shows will also be sold individually, with prices ranging from $15 to $35.

A portion of the proceeds from Hot Luck will benefit SAFE Alliance, a merger of Austin Children’s Shelter and SafePlace, both long-standing and respected human service agencies in Austin serving the survivors of child abuse, sexual assault and exploitation, and domestic violence.

For more programming information and to purchase tickets, visit hotluckfest.com.

RELATED: HOT LUCK 2017

Chefs participating in Hot Luck 2018

AFAR: Abraham Conlon & Adrienne Lo, Fat Rice (Chicago); Alex Stupak, Empellón (New York); Andy Ricker, Pok Pok (Portland); Ashley Christensen, Poole’s (Raleigh); Bill Durney, Hometown Barbecue (New York); David Chang, Momofuku (New York); David McMillan and Frédéric Morin, Joe Beef (Montreal); Elias Cairo, Olympia Provisions (Portland); Ivan Orkin, Ivan Ramen (New York); Joshua McFadden, Ava Gene’s (Portland); Peter Cho, Han Oak (Portland); Renee Erickson, Sea Creatures (Seattle); Riad Nasr, Frenchette (New York); Sam Jones, Sam Jones BBQ Restaurant (North Carolina).

TEXAS: Chris Shepherd, Underbelly (Houston); Diego Galicia & Rico Torres, Mixtli (San Antonio); John Tesar, Knife (Dallas); Justin Yu, Theodore Rex (Houston); Rebecca Masson, Fluff Bake Bar (Houston); Steve McHugh, Cured (San Antonio).

AUSTIN: Aaron Franklin, Franklin Barbecue; Andrew Wiseheart, Contigo/Chicon; Bryce Gilmore, Odd Duck; Callie Speer, Holy Roller; Casey Wilcox, Central Standard; Chad Dolezal, Hightower; Damien Brockway, P6 at the Line ATX Hotel; David Norman, Easy Tiger Erind Halilaj, Il Brutto; Fermin Núñez, Suerte; Fiore Tedesco, L’Oca d’Oro; Jason Stude, Boiler Nine Bar + Grill; Jesse Griffiths, Dai Due; Kevin Fink, Emmer & Rye; Kristen Kish, Arlo Grey at the Line ATX Hotel; Laura Sawicki, Launderette; Michael Fojtasek, Olamaie; Miguel Vidal, Valentina’s Tex Mex; Philip Speer, Bonhomie; Sarah McIntosh, Epicerie; Takuya Matsumoto & Tatsu Aikawa, Kemuri Tatsu-Ya; Todd Duplechan, Lenoir; Tyson Cole, Hai Hospitality/Loro; Yoshi Okai, Otoko;  Zach Hunter, The Brewer’s Table.