Charleston Wine and Food Festival continues to grow as Lowcountry makes its mark on culinary world

pdonohue@beaufortgazette.comFebruary 27, 2013 

  • WHAT: Charleston Wine and Food Festival

  • WHEN: Feb. 28-March 3

  • COST: Tickets vary by event

  • DETAILS: www.charlestonwineandfood.com

What has become, in just eight years, one of the nation's premier food festivals, began unassumingly.

The Charleston Wine and Food Festival, a four-day event that begins Thursday and is expected to attract some of the country's top culinary talent more than 24,000 foodies and wine enthusiasts to the Holy City, was originally organized from a single room in director Angel Postell's house.

"We were lucky that we had a lot of great and knowledgeable people involved initially because I'm not sure we knew what we were getting ourselves into," Postell said. "We were printing tickets ourselves, so the ticketing was a mess. Those were some humble beginnings."

That was then. This is now.

Of the 65 events scheduled for the festival -- which run the gamut from breakfasts to wine tastings to book signings to cooking demonstrations by some of the nation's best chefs -- more than half are sold out and several more are nearly sold out.

Luring a roster of James Beard Award winners and "Top Chef" alums to appear and cook at the festival became easier for organizers after an appearance by a certain chef and Food Network personality in the event's infancy.

"I don't know if there was a turning point but during one of the early years, we had Bobby Flay at the festival," Postell said. "He was our first big star and, frankly, we needed the attention. He was doing a lot of stuff about and in Charleston. He was wonderful to work with and really helped us gain a lot of national attention."

Nearly 50 award-winning guest chefs including Edward Lee of 610 Magnolia and Milkwood in Louisville, Ky., George Mendes of Aldea in New York City, Katie Button of Asheville's Curate, and Naomi Pomeroy of Beast in Portland, Ore., are slated to participate in this weekend's festivities.

While attracting top out-of-town chefs is nice, the festival has always been about highlighting local talent, a task that has never been particularly difficulty, especially this year, organizers said.

A number of Charleston chefs, including Jeremiah Bacon of the Macintosh, Craig Deihl of Cypress, Josh Keeler of Two Boroughs Larder and Sean Brock of Husk and McCrady's were all announced last week as James Beard Award semifinalists.

"It's not all about celebrity chefs for us," Postell said. "We get requests from chefs from all over the country ... but this is really about Charleston, about local chefs and what they do for our community and for Southern food."

Follow reporter Patrick Donohue at twitter.com/IPBG_Patrick.

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