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Willie Nelson Hosted Our BBQ Benefit: Here’s What Happened

The stars at night are big and bright—deep in the heart of Texas!

So go the lyrics to that old country song—and so went our March bbq bash in the magical Texas town of Luck. The stars indeed shone brightly – complete with a “Pot Luck” by star chefs Dean Fearing, Scott Conant, Michael Chiarello, John Mitchell and our CEO Michel Nischan, capped off with a private concert by the one and only Willie Nelson, who hosted the benefit at his private ranch. Best of all, we raised over $80,000 for Wholesome Wave’s work nationwide.

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Willie’s opening act! The Texas feast came courtesy of (left to right) Chefs Dean Fearing, Michael Chiarello, Scott Conant, our CEO Michel Nischan and John Mitchell.

As the sun set, our 200 guests—including more stars like Adrian Grenier and Chip and Joanna Gaines—gathered at farm tables for a Texas feast including “Willie’s chili,” fried chicken, cowboy beans and big hunks of wood-grilled beef. Guests from California, Illinois, New York and of course Texas broke (corn)bread together while raising many glasses to Wholesome Wave’s work.

Chef Dean Fearing, the father of southwestern cuisine, grilled Niman Ranch beef to perfection. #Succlente!

Chef Dean Fearing, the father of southwestern cuisine, grilled Niman Ranch beef to perfection. #Succlente!

As Willie himself says, if you weren’t with us in Luck, you were out of luck. But don’t take our word for it. Read more in Texas Lifestyle Magazine and Modern Farmer. Us Weekly even highlighted our night with the red-headed stranger and Food & Wine shared Chef Nischan’s recipe for Willie’s Chili. (It’s vegan!)

“When you look at what Willie’s been able to accomplish with Farm Aid,” said CEO Chef Nischan, “it’s a great connection to be at Luck, and to have his home base offered to us as for our fundraiser so people struggling with poverty can afford to shop at farmers markets. Farm Aid usually raises money to bail farmers out, to give them grants and loans – but Wholesome Wave raises money so people can buy their stuff. Farmers would love to never take a loan or write a grant. They just want customers who can pay a fair price and keep them in business, which is what we help make happen. So there’s a real continuity of intent, and great spiritual alignment.

“Having those guys support us is huge,” Nischan continued. “And for me, from the personal inspiration perspective, Willie’s one of the most generous people in the world. He’s devoted so much time and energy to Farm Aid, and to helping others. It’s quite a legacy for us to be connected to.”

Guests took a beef break for Chef Nischan’s use-a-spoon chopped salad. (Foodnetwork.com shared the recipe.)

Guests took a beef break for Chef Nischan’s use-a-spoon chopped salad. (Foodnetwork.com shared the recipe.)

The fundraiser would not have been possible without our generous sponsors: Lexus of Austin, Recept Pharmacy, Tito’s Handmade Vodka, Flagship Rehabilitation, Pure Greens, Weed and Whiskey, Lindley Tolbert, Steve Olson, Del Maguey Single Village Mezcal, Karbach Brewing Co., Niman Ranch, Fleishers Craft Butchery, Naked Juice, Community Coffee, Tea of a Kind, Salt & Time, Apis Restaurant & Apiary, Auguste Escoffier School of the Culinary Arts, the Jennings Family and Willie’s Reserve.

Joy Jacobs Photography Wholesome Wave Luck Reunion Dinner Chefs Potluck

“From the personal inspiration perspective, Willie’s one of the most generous people in the world,” said CEO Nischan, left. “It’s quite a legacy for us to be connected to.”

We are deeply grateful to our hosts, Willie and Annie Nelson and all who join us in our efforts to make the world a better place through food. See you next year—in Luck!

Photo credit to Joy Jacobs & Willie’s Reserve.

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