When Tim Love, a dynamic Texan chef at the helm of nine popular restaurants, is presenting at a food festival, ticket-goers better brace themselves for a wild ride. Think bottomless and strongly satisfying margaritas in the hands of each audience member while Tim wields tongs, wit-filled commentary and grilling know-how across the crowd, eliciting spirited participation and cheers.
This, our friends, is how food festival panels should be done. Forget watching someone stand and stir.
We caught up with Tim after such a free-wielding presentation at the inaugural Music City Eats festival in Nashville, TN. His was just one of many innovative cooking demonstrations offered up during the 2-day event featuring a full roster of locally and internationally known chefs including the likes of Giada De Laurentiis, Micheal Symon and John Besh. And to make this particular festival that much more enticing, the musical talents of the Kings of Leon, Norah Jones and other highly recognizable names were on hand for a star-studded exclusive evening concert.
Seeing as Tim is the Official Chef of Austin City Limits, held the first two weekends of October, he is no stranger to either the music or food festival circuits. So what makes events where rock stars and chefs intermingle, swapping stories of long, neon-lit nights and good food incredibly worth your pennies and time? And what can attendees look forward to noshing on at the upcoming Austin City Limits?
We’ve got the answers—or more specifically, Tim does.
Relish: Music and food is a huge theme for you from Austin City Limits to Music City Eats. What is the big connection between music and food for you and in festivals?
TL: For me, they are my two favorite things in the world. But I think, you know, everybody for years has been trying to figure out how to put music and food together. It seems so simple, but it’s a really, really hard thing to do. So as we make these different festivals we’re trying to figure that out…Musicians want the food, the food guys want music, and we all want to do it together.
It’s a slow build of how do you get that formula together. I feel like each festival we get closer and closer to it which is another reason we get so excited—because we’ve got this goal that everybody wants, and nobody’s gotten it yet. And so we just keep going, like last night Petty Fest [see above image] was just off the charts…it was like an awards show and a bunch of us cooks hanging around thinking “this is like the greatest thing ever!” This is all we want—cocktails and people singing for us…I just think one of these days it’s just going to click, and everybody is going to go—holy shit, that’s how you do it.
Relish: Can you let us in on some things we can look forward to at this year’s Austin City Limits?
TL: It’s two weekends this year, which we’ve never done before…This year I’m roasting a whole steer. Every year I do something bigger and bigger. So we’re doing a 1,100 pound steer. It’ll feed about 400 people—we’re doing it for happy hour on Sunday. We’ll start it on Saturday at about 8pm and I’ll serve it at 5 on Sunday.
Relish: How do you even do that?
TL: Drink a lot of cocktails [laughs]. No—We’re literally building it, so we have a steel tube and a big cranking arm and what you call a super iron cross. It’s got four cross members on one big arm, and we’ll have a crank arm so it can move up and down over the fire. It’s going to take about 20 hours I think.
Relish: Give us some advice for food festival first-timers. What is the one thing you need to bring and keep in mind?
TL: An extra liver…it’s definitely a marathon, not a sprint. So when you get here, and you get all excited to taste 400 different wines, don’t taste them all in one day. It’s two days. You may do it—but the day’s not going to last too long. You only have to drink 200 wines today, not 400.
Relish: What makes these food festivals worth the money? [Music City Eats cost $275 for a two day pass and $500 for the full schedule of events]
TL: You know it’s funny because I’ve had people ask me that and it really isn’t that expensive. Let’s break it down real quick, so people want to go to a five course dinner and it’s 125 bucks—that’s pretty typical. So it’s one dinner for $125 and you can probably have three glasses of wine.
At a festival you’re gonna taste maybe 30 different dishes from 30 different chefs that you can actually shake hands with. You can go to a demo and learn stuff and understand where a chef comes from…and really be one on one and be close as you want.
Then, on top of that, you can walk around and taste different wines, bourbons and whiskeys and whatever it is that you like. And you taste as many as you want, or as little as you want, and you can learn as much as you want about each one. That does not happen, obviously, for free…What’s it really worth to you to learn about 40 different wines? I mean you’ve just got to weigh that out.
Relish: What would you advise attendees to not do at a food festival?
TL: I don’t know about things not to do, but get there early and always plan your day…because there is a schedule of things to do and you can’t do all of them. So think through it, plan your day out and show up early to be at what you want to be at.
Relish: Aside from Music City Eats, what are other must-visit food festivals for you?
TL: Aspen. I would say you wanna go to the Food & Wine Classic in Aspen…It’s the model for sure. The weather is like this [the Nashville weather was a perfect 70 degrees during the interview] in the middle of the summer and it’s just beautiful. The wines they have there are just ridiculous. And the talent drawn in is really, really good…You get to meet, and talk and learn from a lot of really great people.
Relish: What other exciting things do you have coming up aside from festivals?
TL: Gosh everyday of my life is exciting. Well, besides the festivals and Austin City Limits, I’m reopening my restaurant Lonesome Dove—it burned about a month and a half ago. So I’m doing that in 30 days and I’m very excited…When your baby goes down, you freak out, like that’s just everything in my life, my whole career is that restaurant—that’s my whole focus.
And I just recently opened up a restaurant named after my mother, Queenie’s, in her hometown [Denton, TX]…i built her a restaurant so she’d stop calling me so much [laughs.]