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Photo recap: Aaron Franklin’s Hot Luck festival sets itself apart in second year

Matthew Odam

The Hot Luck festival co-founded by  Aaron Franklin proved again in its second year that there is no food festival like it in the country. The a la carte festival spanned four days and included four evening and one daytime food events, and several chefs popped up with bites at the slew of music concerts that spread over the four days.

Franklin again swung open the doors of his Franklin Barbecue for “Hi, How Are You? “the official kick-off party for the festival he co-founded last year with  Mike Thelin of Feast Portland and Mohawk owner  James Moody.

Opening night focused on smoked meats, as Franklin’s staff served award-winning Franklin Barbecue inside and one popular gentleman patrolled the grounds outside passing out gigantic beef ribs. With several food stalls set up outside featuring food from  Sam Jones of North Carolina,  John Tesar of Knife in Dallas,  Daniel Vaughn from Texas Monthly and plenty of cold beer and whiskey flowing, the first night had the feel of a tailgate party at the most famous barbecue restaurant in the country.

Friday’s Night Court event at Fair Market celebrated chefy plays on nostalgic food inspired by mall food courts of the 80s and welcomed a stunning roster of regional and national talent, such as  Andy Ricker of Portland’s Pok Pok, who inspired memories of the free samples at Chinese restaurants in the mall with his khao moo daeng Chinese-Thai barbecue pork on jasmine rice. The nightcap event at Cisco’s Restaurant & Bakery captured the creative but deeply rooted spirit of the festival, as chefs prepared world class tacos for attendees in one of Austin’s most beloved culinary institutions.

If Thursday mimicked a tailgate and Friday mirrored a house party, the centerpiece Al Fuego event felt like party at your best friend’s ranch. The bucolic Wild Onion Ranch south of town welcomed chefs who cooked over open fire and did not hold back on the flavor or fun. If people were brave enough to visit all of the stations, they’re still thinking about the homemade Spam burger from  Billy Durney of Hometown Bar-B-Que in Brooklyn; the beef hot dog with ikura and grilled spring onion from  Renee Erickson of The Walrus and the Carpenter in Seattle; the smoked tri-tip on black sesame rice cracker from  Loro; the beef tongue from  Contigo; and what I like to call “The Finisher,” a doughnut drizzled with foie gras caramel from  Rebecca Masson of Fluff Bake Bar in Houston, which sent attendees dizzily into the night.

By Sunday afternoon, you might expect the festival to have taken its food off the gas after three nights of fun, but the Austin Speed Shop hosted an open-air brunch that went full throttle.  Kevin Fink of Emmer & Rye thrilled with the bite of the day, a migas taco served on white Sonoran flour tortilla and Houston’s  Chris Shepherd of UB Preserv showed his deft touch mashing up cultures with boudin shumai. They were among about a dozen chefs who fed guests that wandered around a collection of gorgeous vintage cars and hot rods on display. Among the automobiles was a 1951 Ford F1, a classic that Franklin is having the team at Austin Speed Shop restore. Maybe it’ll be nice and shiny for the third annual festival next year, which seems like a fate fait accompli, as the organizers have dialed in the details that make their festival one of the most interactive, engaging, tasty, filling and unique food events you’ll find in America.

More photos from the long weekend: