The ribs are now stripped and the oysters are shucked. Finally, the biscuits and grits are polished. Charleston Wine and Food Festival managed to squeeze years of deliciousness into five days. Five days of delicious gumbo, shrimp and fish stews, as well as pork, oysters (rice’s, corns), heirloom grains, barbecue, hot sauces, and smokers, made it Southern food at its finest.
The festival not only fed hungry foodies who came to Charleston to eat, but also provided a forum for food experts, producers, purveyors and protectors to share their knowledge. There were many drinks, including fruity cocktails and sharp Ryes. In between the smoking stands, talks took place on a variety of topics, such as the importance of biodiversity and the need for living wages in the restaurant industry.
Here’s a list of Hot Topics at Charleston Wine and Food Festival.
The festival was all about heirloom as producers, purveyors and chefs all praised the virtues and benefits of heirloom varieties. These include the rich and varied taste and important role they play in maintaining biodiversity in the food chain. On the festival site, heirloom radishes were served, as well as heirloom rice, fresh Johns’ Island tomatoes, and heirloom grains, in Charleston’s restaurants. It was great to see such a strong movement supported and promoted by so many players in the supply chain: chefs spoke about their virtues and consumers were able to try them. It is possible to learn by eating. Anson Mills and La Farm Bakery presented Carolina Gold Rice, a Sourdough bread made by Lionel Vainest, to help you learn. The event also featured an ancient grain tasting, where visitors could sample rare varieties of the grains and learn about how Charleston businesses are working together to revive heirloom crops.
It was an interesting conversation and one that should be heard by anyone in the culinary field. Katie Button suggested this idea during Heritage Radio’s debate. Button was joined at the table by several industry professionals. She spoke about her efforts in signing on to support a living wage scheme for staff members of her restaurants. This involves agreeing to pay employees above the minimum wage and pledging that they will follow a set of guidelines provided by a third-party organization. It was refreshing to learn that chefs are working to improve standards, even though the industry is currently debating the minimum wage increase in several States and the tipping system constantly under discussion. Gavin Kayson, a chef from New York, also spoke out on improving kitchen standards. He discussed his personal efforts to balance life and work but also the responsibility that chefs have to ensure a healthier environment for their staff. Much of the discussion was related to The Sustainability of The Chef.
Cultural and Social Change
John T. Edge had one of the most impactful and interesting conversations at the festival. He was joined by Mahama Bailey, Ashley Christensen, Diep Tran and Johnno Morison for a discussion about the need to make cultural and social changes within the industry. They discussed gender and race imbalances as well as how the “abuse” of power within the industry can lead to people taking too much credit of the work of those below them. It was a candid and important discussion that sparked a debate about many of the important issues that will be affecting the industry over the next few years.
Taste of Togetherness
Apart from the delicious and downright deliciousness of the festival, one theme was the camaraderie between Charleston’s chefs and their employees. They worked together to provide food for thousands of hungry guests, but this has been a long-standing tradition to put Charleston on the map. Ashley Christensen shared with us how Sean Brock and her will often call each other after they have eaten their food to inquire about how the sauces are made, what makes them so good, and why the fries are crispy. This approach to building culinary community is definitely worth it. It’s also the same way that has been used in places like Lima, Peru, and Copenhagen, Denmark. Fine Dining Lovers are ready to continue the conversation with Charleston’s Culinary Conversations.
The Cambridge Blue