The Women of Hot Luck Fest Talk Food and Music

15 chefs share kitchen tunes & exclusive bites


In its third year, Hot Luck Fest's party vibe is quintessentially Austin, with its focus on the intersection of food and music and just having a damn good time. The stacked lineup of talent from both realms really speaks to the artistry this city harbors and hosts, so we caught up with almost all of the participating female chefs to chat about the food/music creative connection, their favorite tunes to play on the line, and the tasty treats they're serving at the events.


Sarah Heard, Foreign & Domestic

Fest: Good music for us provides the same feeling as a good meal – they come from the same creative place. [I'm so excited about] Justin Yu!!! Rebecca Masson! And, of course, Christina Tosi!

Food: Beef tongue pastrami tartine

Music: [It] depends on the task at hand & my mood: Nineties hip-hop, reggae, Eilen Jewell, Garbage radio, anything John Prine has ever written, Tracy Chapman/New Beginning, Ben Balmer/Dug In, Garbage/Version 2.0.



Sarah McIntosh, Épicerie

Fest: Hot Luck definitely has an amazing Austin vibe. The focus on homegrown/mom-and-pop restaurants and bands is what brings soul to this fest. Music and food are essential to the hospitality industry and excite our community of creatives. It's a perfect pairing: like stoners and snacks. I can't wait to see Christina Tosi and get some of that soft-serve! [And] Matty Matheson [chef and star of Viceland's In Suppertime], again! He's hilarious, lovable, and you're pretty much guaranteed to see his belly button, which just sums up the Hot Luck vibe.

Food: We're serving a Spam hash at "Hi, How Are You?" Come see us and get your Spam!

Music: I'm stoked to see Leftover Salmon. It's a throwback to my 20s and the days of Widespread Panic, Phish, and Keller Williams. I have no shame; I love a good jam band. Every year, Hot Luck's music hits the mark for me. Our line music depends on the day: definitely heavy on hip-hop, rap, funk. But like I said, I love some heady jam band music. Right now, it's a lot of Brockhampton, Louis the Child, Kendrick [Lamar], Anderson Paak, or the chopped and screwed version of the Pimp C Pimpalation album because that shit is amazing.



Photo by Shelley Hiam

Callie Speer, Holy Roller

Fest: I feel like Austin has been known for the creativity and collaboration in our music scene for some time, and over the past few years our food scene has definitely adopted that philosophy too. Having grown up here, it feels at times like I get to hang out and just do rad things with my friends. There's a level of support and openness amongst the chefs here that really fosters creativity. [I'm] excited for hometown musician Robert Ellis. Love the whole piano man thing he has going on. [And] Nathan and the team from Turkey and the Wolf. I love how unapologetically themselves they are.

Food: We are doing some fun cold items: bodega meets paleta cart. We are partnering with Cold Ones Pops and doing a yellow cake version, which is a play on the pancakes we serve at Holy Roller, and a Jägermeister sno-cone.

Music: It runs the gamut from punk to old-school hip-hop, even Frank Sinatra; Bruce Springsteen's "Dancing in the Dark," Billy Joel's "It's Still Rock and Roll to Me," and Bowie's "Suffragette City." The most important thing is to get to the radio first. If Britt [Castro] is in charge of the music selection, there's a 100% chance we'll be listening to Celine Dion all day.



Christina Tosi, Milk Bar (NYC, L.A., D.C.)

Fest: I make it no secret that I LOVE Austin. My fam and I have been vacationing here for years and I make any excuse to visit. [I fell] hard for this town after my first visit a few years ago, and I've tried to make the trip as much as I can ever since. Whenever I'm here, I relish in the down-to-earth people, cannonballing into Barton Springs, eating too many tacos, the pilgrimages to Buc-ee's, and the great friends that have welcomed me and Milk Bar countless times with open arms. I'm super excited to be coming out for Hot Luck – Aaron first described [it] to me as a "rad, super laid-back group of chefs and artists having a good time in Austin," which, needless to say, sold us on the spot. I'm excited to see my local pals like Callie & Philip Speer, Michael Fojtasek and Laura Sawicki of Launderette (we go way back to her New York days), and Aaron Franklin himself, as my siblings and I would lawn chair out in line at 9am on family vacay. That I get a back door into some of that killer barbecue, finally – I mean, COME ON; what's NOT to get excited about?

Food: We're bringing our Milk Bar ice cream truck – a vintage 1969 Chevy P10 postal truck that we keep in L.A. – down to Austin for Hot Luck! We have some surprises up our sleeves, but expect an epic cereal milk soft serve toppings bar.

Music: I try to keep a democratic approach to music in our kitchens across NYC, L.A., and D.C. There's always an epic 2000s pop song I forget about until it's blasting. Mariah Carey rules, as do Spice Girls, as does death metal, hip-hop, and soul. When it's my turn to choose these days, it's Tom Petty. I'm a sucker for Bob Dylan and Neil Young, any day, any time. On a road trip, I'm not afraid to crush to some Justin Bieber, get down to SZA or Lizzo, Cardi B, or just belt out some Temptations.



Katie Button, Button & Co. Bagels (Asheville)

Fest: I can't really speak exactly to what a musician feels, [but] I imagine that [for] both musicians and chefs, and anyone who is creating something that is theirs for others to enjoy, it can be humbling. I know when I create something, I am nervous to watch people eat it, see it, enjoy it for the first time. And then when you see their faces light up, or they tell you how special it is, there is nothing that feels better than that. I imagine that is similar for a musician but on a much bigger scale with a much larger audience – watching everyone sing, dance, and enjoy.

Food: I'm preparing an open-faced, smaller version of a bagel that we make at Button & Co. Bagels. The bagel is our hand-rolled, sourdough-leavened, 24-hour fermented everything bagel covered in ramp cream cheese and topped with smoked black cod that is rubbed in sumac, and garnished with some pickles.

Music: I was so excited to see Archers of Loaf on the music lineup – I have been a BIG FAN for a LONG TIME. They are originally from the Asheville area, and one time when they were playing a show at the Grey Eagle in Asheville, I bought tickets and was so excited to meet them. Then I invited Eric Bachmann to come and eat lunch at Cúrate before he headed back out of town, and I personally took care of the table, trying to curate the best meal for him. He loved it, and we had one of those special "I'm a fan, you're a fan" kind of moments. [On the line], I let my team pick the music, so whatever they want. I get so focused on my work that I don't really hear it on in the background during prep. A few of my favorites are Icky Mettle and White Trash Heroes by Archers of Loaf, Surfer Rosa and Doolittle by the Pixies, The Lonesome Crowded West and Moon & Antarctica by Modest Mouse, The Bends and OK Computer by Radiohead, Funeral and The Suburbs by Arcade Fire.



Alex Manley & Jen Tucker, Swedish Hill

Fest: As chefs who have worked in Austin for the past two decades, we have seen the music-centric city grow into a food- and music-focused city, and this relationship seems very natural to us. [And] we are so excited that Chris Bianco is going to be participating as a chef this year!

Food: We are preparing a barbecued brisket buttercup with sharp cheddar cheese, pickled red onion, and herb salad.

Music: Anything goes as long as it's upbeat: Four on the floor is always good to keep things moving along; ZZ Top's Tejas & Eliminator, anything by Louis Prima, Don't Bring Me Down by ELO. [We're excited] that Erika Wennerstrom is performing!



Ivana and Yamila Maldonado, Cuyo

Fest: The "hi-lo" contrast of innovative chefs [and] eclectic musicians mixed with a friends & family tailgate vibe is the perfect Austin festival, and it reminds us of summer nights in Argentina. Cuyo's baked goods were born out of our grandmothers' smoke-filled backyards, where family gathered around long tables with free-flowing red wine, patiently awaiting empanadas and the parrillada. The night always ended with dancing and music. We're thrilled to be cooking alongside such an impressive and diverse group of chefs and musicians. Sweet treats from Christina Tosi and grub from our Houston neighbor Chris Shepherd are some [things] we will be lining up to try. After the fest on Saturday, we will be checking out El Tule at Barracuda.

Food: For the "Hi, How Are You?" event, we're focusing on an Argentine classic – the beef empanada. We'll be making ours with spiced beef, onions, and olives, stuffed in a flaky dough and baked in a wood-fired oven courtesy of our friends over at Texas Oven Co.

Music: In our kitchen we often blast a mixture of Argentine rock and psychedelic cumbia. ... "De Música Ligera" by Soda Stereo and "Madrugada" by La Beriso, to "Black Moon Rising" by Austin locals Black Pumas (though just about any Adrian Quesada project will get us in the mood!).



Photo by Chelsea Francis

Jessica Maher, Lenoir

Fest: I think musicians and chefs speak the same language. We're creative people who work long hours and sometimes struggle to make money. The work is hard, so the love, passion and creativity have to be there to keep you going. Almost every restaurant I've worked in has musicians and actors working in the front of house, and every cook has strong opinions about music, so our lives overlap, too. My favorite part about Hot Luck is that the other chefs and guests are really having fun. Sometimes festivals can seem like a lot of extra work, and somehow the organizers have managed to make it a good time for everyone and really support the chefs (and I'm sure the musicians) who participate. Makes me want to get a babysitter and hang out all weekend!

Food: We're planning on making a Goan-inspired crawfish curry with crispy sticky rice and herbs. It's a mix of Southern Indian, Cajun, and Texan.

Music: I have always typically had the kitchen to myself or with one other person to annoy while I sing along. I really just base the music on how I'm feeling that day, so sometimes it's mellowish Khruangbin, Kate & Anna McGarrigle, Jason Isbell, Paul Simon, or the Meters; sometimes it's Talking Heads, Missy Elliott, the Raconteurs, etc. It's cheesy, but I like to disappear into the music. It makes the time really fluid.



Rebecca Masson, Fluff Bake Bar (Houston)

Fest: Music and food go together like peanut butter and jelly. We are all artists, and to be able to combine the two in a festival is like making magic. Music inspires me in my kitchen, whether the music that is playing inspires to you make something new or keeping the vibe in the kitchen lighthearted and playful. Thirty-second dance parties are amazing for the tone of the kitchen. Live music is a lot like working in a kitchen, we are onstage all night long (and the bake shop, all day long). We are putting out our hearts and souls in the offerings at the shop just as a music artist is doing in their songs.

Food: Since the festival falls the day after my birthday, we are making fried birthday cake ice cream. Y'all better come ready to party!

Music: Usually we play Nineties hip-hop in the bakery. Everyone knows the tunes; the guests love it. But lately, I personally have been obsessed with the Lizzo playlist and have been forcing my staff to listen to it as well. (They don't really mind, they just like to give me a hard time.) [Also], A roller-skating jam named "Saturdays" – De La Soul, "Just Playin' (Dreams)" – Notorious B.I.G., "Get Involved" – Raphael Saadiq ft. Q-Tip.



Laura Sawicki, Launderette

Fest: Aaron, Moody, Mike, and all the Hot Luck crew have successfully built a festival that at its core is uniquely Austin. It gathers a group of insanely talented chefs and musicians together, to foster a culture that shares a collective sensibility and passion for art, food, music, and creativity. And yet, with all that talent there is still a sincerity and an approachability to the fest. It's just about havin' a good ol' time. Looking forward to seeing old friends and making new ones ... all the while, getting to eat some damn good food!

Food: Since it's usually hot AF on Memorial Day weekend, I thought mini icebox pies would be fun to serve at Al Fuego ... something to offset all that M-E-A-T. So, I'll be serving strawberry-Biscoff and smoked chocolate-pretzel icebox pies.

Music: Fleetwood Mac is always at the top of the list. I love me some Nineties hip-hop throwback jams too. And, of course, Billy Joel and Elton are like family – I always welcome them into my kitchen!


Hot Luck Festival 2019 runs May 23-26. For a full list of chefs, music, parties, and events, go to austinchronicle.com/hot-luck-festival.

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