Tim Love’s Summer of Cooking for the Biggest Names in Music

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Chef Tim Love, wearing jeans, a navy t-shirt, rubber gloves, a yellow kerchif, and a baseball cap, works with slabs of meat. Behind him are stacks of wood and a grill.
Getting ready to serve the masses of VIPs and performers during summer music festival season.

Fort Worth’s celebrity chef is kind of a big deal

by Courtney E. Smith

Photos courtesy of Tim Love

Tim Love isn’t trying to change the world, he just wants to feed it delicious food. We checked in with the man, the myth, the massive music fan ahead of one of his bigger gigs of the year at Austin City Limits in October, and he shared photos from his summer cooking for rock stars.

April — Two Step Inn in Round Rock, Texas

“This was the first festival of the year, and we did artist catering, platinum ticket catering, and fed the producers/promoters of the show. I created a new way to feed the artists — we set up a food court. Artist catering at this festival is a smaller job, and that gave me a chance to try this idea. It went so well that we will launch it at Austin City Limits.

“Artists want food that’s simple, filling, and tastes good. But you also have to give them many options: vegetarian, shellfish, stuff for finicky eaters. It turns into a difficult task. Most companies, including myself, try to design a buffet that covers every dietary restriction. I despise buffets. So, at this festival, we took our first foray into creating five different booths that served different foods and addressed dietary restrictions.

“In the morning, we opened two booths. One was coffee with all the options, including cappuccinos, lattes, matcha, and a fresh juice bar. We had another booth with breakfast tacos and omelets. And there was a rotating build-you-own option: avocado toast, the next day an acai bowl. We have to address orders when the artist wants meals to go, and it needs to be fast, and that lets them order 18 tacos and get down the road.

“We had four booths open at lunch and dinner, with different features daily, like a build-a-burrito Chipotle-style, which was awesome if you’re in a hurry. We did a birria taco station with goat, beef, and duck plus lots of options to add on. We always have a bad ass cheeseburger and a chicken sandwich wrapped up and ready to go. As you can tell by the way I’m non-stop talking, a lot goes into it. We built an entire kitchen to do this, and had another kitchen that did platinum ticket holder meals for around 785 people.”

Tim’s Review: “The headliners, Zach Bryan and Tyler Childers were great. Zach had probably one of the better encores of the summer, he had 25 band members on stage playing a version of “Revival” that lasted probably 30 minutes.”

June — Bonnaroo in Manchester, Tennessee

“It was my seventh year working with Bonnaroo. It was a banner year for the epic weather, and because my son was there — he’s doing an internship at LiveNation. He was digging ditches, hanging fences — not much with music [laughs].

“I cooked for the producers/promoters, six people. I cooked on one of those little $65 Walmart Weber grills, and my son and his cronies joined us a few nights, so we had nine. You can get about four steaks on those, and that’s all [laughs]. I also used my new trailer with a two-burner stove. Those dinners were entertaining. Some of the best food came from them, honestly.

“We also did platinum catering, where it’s like a dinner party at your house. We did Mexican, with birra tacos, chicken and cheese enchiladas, grilled fajitas, fresh tortillas, several salsas, and tres leches cake. After that, we did Italian with crispy skin branzino, rigatoni alla vodka, vegan sausage bolognese, pizzas, crudo, and more. Then, a New Orleans night with a seafood boil. On Sundays, we always do a fried chicken basket to eat in the field for lunch.

“On Saturday mornings I like to get 150 breakfast tacos, bottles of vodka and tequila, and orange juice and then drive my buggy to the furthest campsites, which can be two miles away. I wake people up to give away tacos and a screwdriver and they freak out.”

Tim’s Review: “The shocker was Sheryl Crow. Her show was really good. Also Shaq’s DJ set took me by surprise. He went on at 2:30 a.m. I made myself see what it was all about, and it was insane. I also liked Portugal. The Man and Noah Kahan. He’ll be headlining festivals in two years. And Tyler Childers, who came out with a 24-piece band — I’m a huge fan of bringing big bands back.”

August — Hinterland in Saint Charles, Iowa

“It’s in the middle of nowhere in a natural amphitheater with one stage and quick changeover. At this festival, we cook for ‘the saints,’ their version of platinum, all the artist catering, and the crew and staff — anyone who goes on stage or works there. So we combine the staff and band food areas, which is rare but works well.

“We also do themed meals here, and on Saturday night, we do a dinner party for the producers/promoters. This year’s dinner was an Italian-forward theme of fra diavolo (a spicy tomato sauce) over poached lobsters, tomahawk steaks, and confit potatoes. I’d just eaten them in London and did a poached version you slice and layer in a pan like a lasagna with salt, creme fraiche, and duck fat, and it’s crispy all the way through.

“And we had a Mexican lunch with a bunch of salads: elotes, a Mexican melon salad with chiles and corn chips, pickled watermelon salad with Tajin — all fun meals.”

Tim’s Review: “I met Wildrado, who are going to play at Tannahill’s this fall. I think a lot of artists at this festival will play there, we riff off the talent they book.”

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