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Fun Fun Fun Fest Fixes Its Focus on Food

Will the festival's new chief of chow improve the offerings in 2013?

By Kenny Pailes, 10:32AM, Sat. Aug. 3, 2013

The brains behind Fun Fun Fun Fest are here to ease your mind, Austin. With an unexpectedly theatric press conference, festival founder James Moody, marketing director Sawyer Stoltz, and PR firm Giant Noise served renewed notice that they won't sit idly by while the city's weirdness disappears.

Moody and company could have used the standard emailed press release to announce the hiring of John Mueller, namesake of John Mueller Meat Company, to be the "Official Curator of Grub" for the 2013 festival. They could have peppered the usual social media outlets with their news, in subtle homage to the legendarily liberal use of the spice by the barbecue cook.

Subtlety, however, does not suit the sort of folks that put the same word three times in their festival's name. If you want tacos at Fun Fun Fun Fest, they will be blasted at your gaping maw from a real live Gatling gun. If you want an official statement from Fun Fun Fun Fest, you'll have to dodge the outstretched claws of a brass eagle statue and focus your eyes past the oversized displays of stars and stripes hanging from above you.

Standing behind that eagle and between those flags, Mueller relished his role as the gatekeeper to FFF Fest's food options. The man in black attacked the microphone and his audience with equal relish, starting his speech with an unconvincing declaration that he was retiring from the BBQ business before explaining why he was the right man for this job: "Aaron Franklin wasn't available." Asked about his strategy for serving vegans, John responded with practiced comedic pauses, "I hate vegans and vegetarians. Sorry. I sell meat for a living."


John Mueller commands the room while James Moody laughs on
photo by Kenny Pailes

The humor of the stunt aside, hopeful food vendors may be wondering what this actually means for their very real aspirations to serve the festival's expected 18,000 attendees. Dismissing the notion that the whole skit was a joke for the joke's sake, Moody insisted that "we trust John's opinion. We're going to let all the applications go through him."

"We approached him because he embodies the same things we do at Fun Fun Fun Fest. I've been a patron of his for years, following his outlaw story." However, James doesn't advise applicants mirror that attitude with their submissions. "Oh no! Obviously, that would be weird. We're just trying to set the tone that you should be serious about your food, like he is. He's one of the best cooks in the entire state of Texas."

"Festival food has always been crap. We're trying to break that mold and represent modern Austin." Moody's admiration for Austin's food scene is palpable. "Yeah, it's become a real incubator environment. Chefs are trying new things for the first time ever right here. So, we too want to offer food that is great and different."

Sawyer Stoltz anticipates that about 200 applications will be submitted via the festival's website. From that pool, six food trucks will be selected to occupy the West side of Auditorium Shores in November, and a dozen more booths will be chosen for other spots on the grounds.

Stoltz largely echoed Moody's tips for candidates. "We're looking for people that offer unique options but at the same time prove that they can handle our crowds for three straight days."


John Mueller's signature black pepper encrusted barbecue
photo by Kenny Pailes

Perhaps no genre is more emblematic of Austin's electric food scene right now than barbecue, which makes the John Mueller tie-in all the more fitting. However, he will not be serving his own goods at the festival, leaving the city's brisket worshipping masses with perhaps the most intriguing thought of the day:

Will any pit masters be daring enough to apply, and, if so, do they have any hope of passing the scrutiny of the man behind the podium?

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