VOL. 132 | NO. 189 | Friday, September 22, 2017
Memphis Food & Wine Festival Returns to Celebrate Local Talent
By Andy Meek
Back in 2014, when food blogger and Memphis public relations professional Cara Greenstein was attending the Austin Food & Wine Festival, she remembers thinking how great it would be if Memphis could host its own version of such an event.
Which is why the creator of the food and lifestyle blog Caramelized says she’s excited that a group of volunteers came together to launch such a festival in Memphis last year. The inaugural Memphis Food & Wine Festival attracted 1,600 foodies and raised $100,000 for FedExFamilyHouse, a home-away-from-home for families of patients being treated at Le Bonheur Children’s Hospital.
But more important, the festival is preparing to return in a little more than three weeks for its sophomore year.
The event – the presenting sponsor of which is FedEx – is set for Oct. 14 from 6 p.m. until 10 p.m. at Memphis Botanic Garden, 750 Cherry Road. It will bring together 34 chefs, vintners showcasing more than 150 wines, and live Memphis music to entertain guests. And it will again benefit FedExFamilyHouse.
The celebration of local, national and international food culture that will be on display at the festival, Greenstein says, is the ultimate example of “culinary camaraderie for a cause.”
“The caliber of international culinary talent has never been so high” in Memphis, she said. “We’ll be able to taste internationally acclaimed dishes in our own backyard and drink the finest wines in our own take-home Riedel glasses. Most importantly, this festival reaffirms our reputation as a food-focused city.”
A look at the festival details so far shows why that’s the case. Sherry Chimenti, one of the organizers who also handles marketing for the event, said two of the sponsors will also have their own tents this year, so one change is that “we’ll have more food and more wine, for sure.”
It will also have big-name chefs like Guy Savoy, the French chef who owns restaurants in Paris and Las Vegas and who’s known for training celebrity chef Gordon Ramsay.
“Last year we had (celebrated French chef) Jean-Georges Vongerichten,” Chimenti said. “This year Horseshoe is one of our big prominent sponsors, and Horseshoe is Caesars in Las Vegas, and they helped us through that connection to get Guy Savoy. He had another engagement, but we ended up talking to him and he said, ‘OK, I’m going to change my plans, but here’s the deal: I want Memphis barbecue, and I want to hear blues on Beale Street.’”
Among the other chef attendees, meanwhile, will be Ken Frank from La Toque in Napa, California; Tory McPhail from Commander’s Palace in New Orleans; Deb Paquette from Etch and Etc. in Nashville; and local names like Jose Gutierrez, Nick Vergos and more.
Tickets for the festival are available at its website, memphisfoodwinefestival.org, as well as Ticketmaster and the Memphis Botanic Garden box office.
Chimenti said the event has a capacity for 2,500 and that it’s aiming for a sellout crowd for its second year.
Organizers last year were adamant about using the festival to tell a story about food in Memphis that extends beyond staples like pulled pork and fried chicken.
“We’re trying to grow Memphis as a culinary hotspot and a culinary destination,” Chimenti said.