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Hot Luck returns to Austin in May after two years off, and it's bringing a pizza party

Matthew Odam
Austin 360
"I'm getting goosebumps just talking about it": Aaron Franklin says he can't wait for the return of his Hot Luck Fest in May.

Aaron Franklin hasn’t seen many of his best culinary pals since the pandemic began in 2020. That will end this spring. 

After being sidelined for the last two years, Franklin’s Hot Luck Fest will take place May 26-29. It will be Franklin’s first public event in a couple of years, and on Tuesday, he announced the roster of chef friends from Texas and beyond who will join him for the multi-day festival.  

Franklin admits that it would have been easy to call Hot Luck a wrap after a forced two-year hiatus followed the first three years of the festival, but he says the idea of getting everyone back together after so much time apart was too enticing to him, his festival partners and his friends across the country. 

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“I’m so excited to see all of our friends coming back. It’s been a long time,” Franklin told the American-Statesman by phone recently. “I think it’s gonna be a pretty magical year. I’m getting goosebumps right now just talking about it.”

Ever wonder what a star-studded pizza party thrown by one of the country’s best pitmasters would look and taste like? Attendees will find out at the festival’s opening night Giddy Up kickoff event at Mohawk. Famed pizzaiolo and return attendee Chris Blanco will be joined by Austin’s Fiore Tedesco of L’Oca d’Oro, Oakland-based Palestinian-Syrian chef Reem Assil and other chefs who will cook up pizza, with Christina Tossi of Milk Bar taking care of dessert.

That event is only open to Whole Enchilada ticket holders ($500 for adults, $150 for ages 12-20), and the feast will be followed by sets from DJ Jazzy Jeff and DJ Mel, with individual tickets for sale for the night of music. 

The general public will be able to get in on the culinary action at the Hi, How Are You? event at Franklin Barbecue on Friday night. Franklin will be joined in his parking lot by a group of chefs that includes Amanda Shulman of Her Place Supper Club; North Carolina’s Ashley Christensen; Chinese-American chef Mei Lin of Los Angeles’ Daybird; Todd Duplechan of Lenoir; and chef Tavel Joseph-Bristol of Caribbean-inspired Canje in East Austin.

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The collection of chefs represents a diverse array of culinary voices and traditions, a major consideration of the festival, Franklin said. Individual tickets for the event, which is included in the Whole Enchilada package, cost $175.  

The weekend’s final public-facing event (there’s a chefs-only party Sunday) is once again Al Fuego, a celebration of open-fire cooking at Wild Onion Ranch that will feature food from Alon Shaya from New Orleans; North Carolina chef Ashleigh Shanti, whose work explores African American food ways; Lutie’s chef Bradley Nicholson; Rico Torres and Diego Galicia of award-winning Mexican restaurant Mixtli in San Antonio; and more than two dozen other chefs from across Texas and the United States. Individual tickets for the headlining event cost $225. 

A link to purchase tickets and complete chef lineup and list of concerts can be found at hotluckfest.com