How do you dispel the myth that southern cuisine is not as sophisticated as other regional fine dining? You bring together chefs, educators and plenty of food and wine fans for the Atlanta Food & Wine Festival, a celebration of the South’s rich culinary traditions.
“The Southern food experience can be so so different depending on what region of the south you’re in, what influences you have,” said Chef Kevin Gillespie of Atlanta’s Woodfire Grill. “People think that it’s just fried chicken and gravy – and it is that, it’s just so, so much more.”
There was plenty of fried chicken at the tasting tents, the festival’s main draw. Local and regional chefs shared their version of the southern staple.
Festival attendees got to taste much more than just chicken. Restaurants visiting from as far west as Texas and far north as Virginia offered barbecue, pork, seafood, tacos and beyond. Plus there were plenty of Georgia peaches, pecans and Vidalia onions – and beer, bourbon, whiskey and wine to wash it all down.
Learning experiences offered an in depth look at both the comfort and gourmet aspects of southern food and drink. While sharing standout wines produced in Georgia, Texas and Virginia, winemakers demonstrated that the west coast has some competition.
Said Mary Ann Hardman, owner of Persimmon Creek Vineyards, “I think it is very very important for restaurants, who especially espouse a fork to plate, or a local sort of push in their food . . . how can you say you are serving food that is local when you don’t have one wine that’s from Georgia on your list?”
For both chefs and festival attendees, the weekend was more than just a chance to eat great food and sip a variety of wine and spirits – it was a way to honor the South’s unique culinary heritage while getting a taste of the dining trends to come.
Said Chef Gillespie, “we have cultures from the entire globe coming together and we want to show people that southern cuisine is a modern, moving, evolving cuisine and hopefully this festival will show that.”