Next week, over forty Texas chefs will join an assortment of high-profile colleagues from across the country for the second edition of Austin’s Hot Luck—a deliberately low-key, chef-driven food and music festival produced by James Beard Award winner Aaron Franklin; Guerilla Suit principal James Moody; and Mike Thelin, cofounder of Feast Portland. We used Hot Luck as an excuse to dial up three of its participating chefs and talk about the business side of food, what to ask your waiter, the pitfalls of celebrity chef culture, and, in one case, our fragile political divide.
John Tesar, from Knife at the Highland Dallas, is a Top Chef regular. He already had a reputation for playing the heel before he was on reality television, but it’s not bravado he can’t back up; Tesar’s a four-time James Beard nominee and has been awarded Esquire’s Best New Restaurant in America honor twice, first for Spoon and later for the steakhouse-reinventing Knife.
Rebecca Masson, from Fluff Bake Bar in Houston, is sometimes called “The Sugar Fairy.” Masson trained at Le Cordon Bleu in Paris and has worked at some of the finest fine dining restaurants in New York and Houston, but she really earned her bona fides at Fluff Bar, where she churns out life-changing cookies, cakes, cupcakes, and tarts like the Couch Potato (a fusion of potato chips, pretzels, cornflakes, marshmallows, and chocolate chips) and her signature Fluffernutters.
Rico Torres is a chef at Mixtli in San Antonio. Mixtli is a “Mexican restaurant” in that food is indeed inspired by Mexico’s history and regional culinary distinctions, but Torres and his partner, Diego Galicia, have earned their accolades by thinking big in a small space (a tiny boxcar converted into a twelve-seat chef’s table). They consider themselves both chefs and storytellers, utilizing technology and tradition for a menu that entirely changes every 45 days.
Hot Luck runs from May 24 to 27. Its events are mostly priced à la carte and there are a handful of tickets left, especially for the live music events that challenge chefs to pair food with musicians from Austin and beyond, including The Roots’ Questlove.
This post has been updated to reflect the correct spelling of John Tesar’s name. The photo has also been updated.