- Matthew Odam American-Statesman Staff
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.
Any diner worth their Maldon salt will immediately recognize some of the biggest names attending the festival co-founded by barbecue wizard, 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 (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, a 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 programming 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.
Austin will welcome a new face to its culinary landscape when the Line ATX hotel opens in the coming months. “Top Chef” season 10 winner Kristen Kish, who also will be recognizable to viewers of the Travel Channel’s “36 Hours,” will serve as the executive chef for Arlo Grey, the centerpiece restaurant for the hotel that will take the place of the former Radisson at 111 E. Cesar Chavez.
The restaurant will take advantage of its urban-meets-natural location, perched just above Lady Bird Lake. While there are few details on the specific type of cuisine that will be served at Arlo Grey, a look at the Korean-born Kish’s career is instructive.
The Michigan-raised chef and graduate of Le Cordon Bleu in Chicago worked at the Michelin-starred Sensing in Boston before becoming an integral part of the demi empire of Barbara Lynch, the 2014 James Beard award winner for best restaurateur in the nation, eventually serving as chef de cuisine at Lynch’s Menton, a nationally lauded French restaurant celebrated for its technique, seasonality and sophistication.
Kish left Menton in 2014 and has spent the intervening years traveling the world, writing her first cookbook (“Kristen Kish Cooking”) and appearing on “36 Hours.”
The Line is owned and operated by the Sydell Group, which has a portfolio that includes the Nomad hotels in Los Angeles and New York and iterations of the Line in Los Angeles’ Koreatown and in Washington. In partnering with chefs at some of its other properties across the country, Sydell Group has often identified local talent to lead their kitchens (Roy Choi in Los Angeles, Spike Gjerde in Washington) but decided to take a different route in hiring Kish.
Sydell Group founder and CEO Andrew Zobler said that while he didn’t want to bring in a “celebrity chef” with properties in major cities across America, he was also leery of hiring a local Austin chef and possibly running the risk of having a redundant concept in the market. He wanted to respect Austin’s identity while also aiming for uniqueness and originality.
“When Kristen came along, a bunch of bells went off,” Zobler said. “She doesn’t have her own restaurant; she’s a great cook; she’s very hospitable; has a great story. Her personality to me vibes with Austin culture. We thought it would be more fun to bring in someone who is a little bit different and offer up something to Austin that it didn’t already have.”
While Kish will be new to Austin, she will be joined at the hotel by a chef familiar to discerning Austin diners. Chef Damien Brockway, formerly the executive chef of downtown tasting menu Counter 357, will helm P6, the rooftop lounge atop the hotel’s adjacent parking garage, which Zobler said will have a romantic vibe and sweeping views of the lake. Rounding out the culinary team will be Justin Ermini, previously executive chef at Las Alcobas in Mexico City, who will spearhead a ground-floor burger bar.
The Line ATX is slated to open in late spring, and while no exact dates have been set for the opening of the various food and beverage concepts, Zobler says they will have a strong impact in helping define the hotel’s personality and appeal.
“Our general theory is that people want an experience of travel. They want to go some place that gives them a feeling of being in that place, and food is one way of doing it; design is another way of doing it; art is a third way of doing it. Who you engage with locally, the people you hire … there’s lots of different facets to it. Food and beverage is clearly an important part in creating a sense of destination.”
Better Half, the all-day Southern-influenced restaurant from the group behind the popular beer/coffee bar Brew & Brew in East Austin, officially opened this week at 406 Walsh St. (at the corner of Fifth and Walsh streets).
The restaurant’s offerings start at 7 each morning, with quick items like a tasso ham and jalapeño honey butter biscuit ($6) and granola bowl ($9), expanding to a full breakfast and lunch menu that runs from 9 a.m to 3 p.m. That menu features dishes like a fried chicken biscuit ($7), greens and grains bowl with smoky mushrooms in a tamari broth ($11), Gulf redfish torta ($15), a green salad with carrots, beets and avocados ($10), a cheeseburger made with 44 Farms beef ($9) and more. And, if you hit the pop-up held at Brew & Brew, you will remember the pastrami sandwich, which will be a Wednesday special.
The menu from chef Rich Reimbolt, formerly of Josephine House, lengthens in the evening to include a petite chicken fried steak ($12), savory churros with queso ($8), a ham flight with deviled egg spread ($14) and more. Reimbolt is joined in the kitchen by fellow McGuire Moorman Hospitality alumnus Jenn Tucker, who oversees a pastry program that includes the biscuits, beignets and all of the bread, which will be made in-house, and a dessert menu featuring buttermilk pie ($6) and s’mores cake ($8). The kitchen will close at 10 p.m., but owners say they will be making fresh batches of biscuits at 9:30 p.m each night for late-night eats.
Given the owners’ history, you know you can expect a strong selection of brews and brews, as well as cocktails. Coffee is from Heart Roasters and Flat Track; there are four cocktails and six beers on tap, as well as stirred and frozen cocktail selections.
The modernist space from Chioco Design and Lillianne Steckel Design is open until midnight Sunday, Tuesday and Wednesday, and until 2 a.m. Thursday-Saturday. Better Half closes at 3 p.m. Mondays.
One of the more active restaurant groups of the past decade in Austin has decided to amicably split.
ELM Restaurant Group co-founder Bob Gillett has left the group to focus all his attention on bakery, bar and restaurant Easy Tiger, the second concept from ELM, which opened on East Sixth Street in 2012.
Gillett is joined in leading Easy Tiger into the future, which includes opening a forthcoming location at the Linc, by partner and “head dough puncher” David Norman, one of Austin’s most accomplished and revered bakers, who will oversee bakery operations and kitchen offerings. Easy Tiger “has received additional capital from a group of local investors that will help immediately ramp up work on the eagerly anticipated Linc shop, which features a vastly expanded baking facility,” according to a rep.
The other three founding ELM partners — chef Andrew Curren, co-founder Scott Hentschel and finance director Vince Ashwill — will continue to manage 24 Diner, Italic, Irene’s and Fareground (where Easy Tiger will remain in operation), as well as work toward opening Cookbook at the Austin Central Library this spring and 24 Diner at Domain Northside.
In addition to those changes, ELM also recently said goodbye to Mark Sayre, who left the group after two-plus years to be the new service director at McGuire Moorman Hospitality.