The Off Beat: A Hot Luck Switcheroo

Chefs talk music – and artists talk food – ahead of the fest

Épicerie owner Sarah McIntosh (photo by Nitya Jain)

Nothing says “dinner and a show” quite like the Hot Luck festival, Aaron Franklin’s annual springtime convergence of food and music. Among some five-dozen chefs participating in this year’s fest, popping up throughout Austin May 23 to 26, are Caribbean restaurant Canje’s Tavel Bristol-Joseph; French bistro Épicerie owner Sarah McIntosh; Tracy Malechek-Ezekiel, co-head of “fine-casual” counter service spot Birdie’s; and Bob Somsith, whose Laotian-American restaurant Lao’d Bar opened last month. Musical acts include dreamy folk singer Tearjerk, synth-pop quintet Slomo Drags, R&B trio Smooth Nature, and indie-pop artist Mobley.

But we’re not talking about any of that. Rather than discuss their Hot Luck offerings, these participants indulged in chatting about the other side of the festival. Starting with musicians and moving into chefs, read on for all the juicy details about post-show grub, kitchen soundtracks, and more.

Musician Chow

What’s your go-to struggle meal and your go-to splurge meal?

Jackson Albracht, Slomo Drags: Struggle meal: H-E-B Sweet Thai bagged salad and some seared chicken, if I wanna feel good; boxed mac & cheese with sausage and peas, if I wanna have a fun tummyache. Splurge meal: scallops or a steak. Something that can be basted with butter in the pan and accompanied by lots of garlic.

Vanessa Jollay, Tearjerk: Bouldin Creek [Cafe] is always really affordable. You could spend a lot there, or they have a lot of budget veg-friendly stuff. And you don’t feel super shitty after eating there. Splurge meal: I love Patrizi’s.

Is there a restaurant you always try to hit when you’re on the road? What about your favorite gas station snack?

Marvin Alexander, Smooth Nature: Somehow we always end up at Whataburger, just ’cause it’s open late after our shows. Then at gas stations, I would say a 5-hour Energy and a thing of Cheetos.

Mobley: Eating local is a good thing and sounds really nice, but it’s often not just impractical when you’re on the road, but dangerous, in that you don’t know where you are. This is a pretty violent and racist country, and so a lot of the time when we’re on the road, we’ll stick to what is on the exit, and often it’ll be national chains. [Especially] Burger King, because they have vegetarian burgers.

R&B trio Smooth Nature (photo by Valerie Kramp)

What do you eat post-show or after a night out?

Jackson Albracht, Slomo Drags: Being from San Antonio and living in Austin, it’s bound to be tacos 90% of the time.

Vanessa Jollay, Tearjerk: I usually go and get some fries at the Little Darlin’. Honestly, they have the best fries, and they give you a big bowl of them.

Chef Tracks

What kind of music do you listen to while you’re cooking?

Sarah McIntosh, Épicerie: On Fridays, we listen to Nineties country, but we call it Nineties Cunch. We have Nineties Cunch Day, and sometimes we’ll do Nineties Cunch Brunch, which is really fun. We’ll play it upstairs in the whole restaurant, which is hilarious and amazing. Everyone knows every word to every song.

Tavel Bristol-Joseph, Canje: I’m listening to a lot of reggae and Afrobeats. Beres Hammond, Buju Banton. Some Beenie Man in there. Burna Boy is, to me, one of the best Afrobeats artists.

Do you have a favorite local live music spot?

Sarah McIntosh, Épicerie: I love the Mohawk. I think that’s a great venue, and I think they have really fun, different music. It seems like it’s always changing.

Tracy Malechek-Ezekiel, Birdie’s: I have many special memories from the old Emo's. I used to drive from Houston for shows in college, but that was 20 years ago. These days, I appreciate the sound at ACL Live at the Moody Theater.

Who is your favorite musical artist?

Tavel Bristol-Joseph, Canje: My favorite musical artist has to be Buju Banton. And Mavado. Gary Clark Jr. I just love watching that guy play, man. It is magical. I’ve had the opportunity to watch him play a few times, and that shit was special. Watching somebody love what they do, [when] they are just love in love with music, it comes through. His voice, his body language, his expression of music is so special.

Bob Somsith, Lao’d Bar: Eminem. I saw him at ACL when he came here, and the dude popped up with a live orchestra in the background. It was probably the best hip-hop show I've seen live. I've been to Snoop Dogg, Linkin Park, all those concerts back in the day, and it just wasn't poppin'. But somehow, some way, Eminem was ridiculously good.

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Hot Luck Festival, Tavel Bristol-Joseph, Sarah McIntosh, Tracy Malechek-Ezekiel, Bob Somsith, Tearjerk, Slomo Drags, Smooth Nature, Mobley

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