Farm Aid staff members at Luck
Farm Aid staff at PotLuck. Photo © Suzanne Cordeiro

Blog | April 10, 2024

An Ode to All Things Heirloom at PotLuck 2024

by Caroline Malcolm Fiore

For a few days in March, the Farm Aid team shed our parkas, pulled on our Western boots and headed to the Texas Hill Country for a potluck. No, not the traditional casserole and coleslaw affair…it was THE PotLuck, an incredible dinner experience that celebrates good food, music and community on Willie and Annie Nelson’s Luck ranch.

Many folks will recognize Luck, an Old West-inspired town designed by Willie in 1986 for the iconic film Red Headed Stranger. After filming wrapped, the Luck set remained on Willie’s ranch and has been shored up so it can be the set to another iconic production – the annual Luck Reunion music festival. Each year, the Luck Reunion kicks off with the PotLuck, which brings together a crew of stellar chefs to cook an intimate dinner for a couple hundred attendees. This year, the event featured music from Jason Boland and John Muq followed by a truly special performance by Willie Nelson & Family under the Texas stars.

Willie Nelson is joined by Kermit The Frog to sing “Rainbow Connection” at Luck Reunion 2024

Willie Nelson is joined by Kermit the Frog to sing “Rainbow Connection” at the 2024 Luck Reunion. Photo © Suzanne Cordeiro

Farm Aid is luck-y to be a part of this magical evening and to benefit from it, too, as proceeds from the PotLuck support our work and that of Wholesome Wave and Texas Food and Wine Alliance. It’s an honor to bring Farm Aid to Luck and we are so grateful for the generous support the PotLuck provides.

This year’s PotLuck, hosted by Chef Brian Light (Ronin Farm & Restaurant), was “an ode to all things heirloom,” and featured a talented team of James Beard Award-winning, Top Chef-competing, and up-and-coming chefs who cooked up a heritage-inspired farm-to-table meal. The chefs imbued each course with their own deeply personal takes on the meaning of heirloom.

Potluck Menu 2024

Chef Gabrielle Hamilton (chef and writer) kicked off the meal with grilled head-on gulf shrimp with anchovy butter, a recipe she and her family have been making for over 30 years. Smoked BBQ beetroot with sweet onion, nuts and grains followed from Chef BJ Smith (Sit Tite/Swift Lounge), a dish that celebrated his childhood memories of cooking and preserving beets with his Polish immigrant grandmother. Next, Chef Zak Walters (Sedalia’s Oyster & Seafood) offered coal-grilled beef heart chorizo, heirloom veggie hash, peanut-aji Amarillo sauce and mixed lettuces – an heirloom anticucho from his wife Silvana’s memories of growing up in Bolivia. New Orleans chefs (with Texas roots) Jordan and Amarys Herndon (Palm&Pine) served up lemongrass fried chicken gumbo with LaPlace andouille, dark coconut roux and sweet potato salad, paying homage to the generations of cooks and chefs that came before them.

Roasted heirloom cauliflower served with Mexico’s “first” mole (3 dried chiles and 29 other ingredients), and crunchy garnishes celebrated the home and history of Mexico where Chef Rick Bayless (Frontera Grill/Topolabampo) came of age as a cook. Chef Michel Nischan (Wholesome Wave) shared his mother’s family heirloom recipe for smothered shoulder pork chops with rich ham hock stock gravy and highlighted its inspiration from the African diaspora that has powerfully shaped American food culture. Before Willie took the stage, guests capped off the unforgettable meal with a collaborative dessert of rice pudding with heirloom strawberry and paintbrush flower garnish.

While the tables are cleared and the music fades, the memories of the PotLuck’s flavors, sounds, and camaraderie endure for all those lucky enough to be together on the ranch. Over the years so many Farm Aid supporters have joined us around the long PotLuck tables – and we have made many new friends from the Luck family.

John Muq performs at PotLuck 2024. Photo © Suzanne Cordeiro

Our shared love of music, food, community (and Willie!) are the ties that bind us. THANK YOU to the chefs for the wonderful meal, to the Luck team for a magical experience, to Willie and Annie Nelson for welcoming us all to the ranch to break bread, and to all those in attendance who supported Farm Aid, Texas Food and Wine Alliance and Wholesome Wave.

Want to learn more about what heirloom means to this year’s chef crew and catch some behind-the scenes footage from the PotLuck? Check out the video below:


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Photo Gallery

Thank you to Suzanne Cordeiro for sharing these wonderful photos from this year’s PotLuck:

Further Listening

We recorded an interview with Rick Bayless for our Against the Grain podcast. Listen now to hear about how he worked with other chefs and local farmers to organize the first farmers markets in Chicago and how his Frontera Farmer Foundation has invested $3.5 million in the city’s local agricultural economy, primarily through small grants to farmers seeking to expand production.

Learn more and listen here.

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