Randi Weinstein Leaving Charleston Wine + Food Festival

randi2Randi Weinstein, who spent seven years with the Charleston Wine + Food Festival and became its most recognizable face after the resignation of founding director Angel Postell, today announced her departure.

“There is a short window for me to depart for a smooth transition, and that’s now. I’m sad to go, but excited for new opportunities,” Weinstein, director of events, is quoted as saying in a release from the Festival. “My heart will always be with the Festival, and I believe it will grow and do great things in Year 10 and beyond.”

The Festival’s executive staff has been in flux since Postell stepped down from her position in March 2013. The current executive director, Gillian Zettler, was hired last November after an extensive search, although she didn’t assume the full scope of her duties until this year’s Festival was completed. And director of communications Cathryn Davis Zommer last month replaced Ashley Zink, who held the job for three years before relocating to Washington D.C. Continue reading

Culinary Scholarship Offered to South Carolina Students

Fortunately, most students are pros at putting off assignments until just before they’re due, so the looming deadline for a newly-announced culinary school scholarship shouldn’t scare off too many potential applicants.

On behalf of the Charleston Wine + Food Festival, the James Beard Foundation is offering a $6250 scholarship to a South Carolina resident (the arrangement is payback for the festival hosting a James Beard dinner in Charleston last year.) The program is open to high school seniors and graduates who are already enrolled in culinary school, or plan to enroll.

South Carolinian applicants who don’t receive the scholarship reserved for state residents will be considered for 15 scholarships without geographic restrictions.

The application postmark deadline is May 15. For more information, visit http://sms.scholarshipamerica.org/jamesbeard.

Wine + Food Festival’s Economic Impact Is “Essentially Flat”

cwf3The Charleston Wine + Food Festival’s most successful 2014 innovation may have been a mobile app, according to a visitor survey report released today by the College of Charleston.

According to the report, 100 percent of the 975 attendees who completed the e-mailed survey downloaded the free scheduling app. More than one-third of them credited the app with enhancing their festival experience.

Other introductions weren’t as warmly received: For example, a mere five percent of respondents named the Artisan Market, an element of the remade Culinary Village, as an event they’d like to see return in 2015.

Overall, the numbers closely mirrored those collected last year. “The study is essentially flat in comparison to last year, although out-of-town guests spent more this year than ever before,” College of Charleston associate professor Wayne Smith is quoted as saying in a release, which pegs the economic impact at $9.8 million. Continue reading

Chefs New to the W+F Festival

segalEven if you’ve attended the Charleston Wine + Food Festival every year since the event’s creation, there are still plenty of chances this time around to taste food unlike anything you’ve sampled before. Here is a list of the guest chefs making their festival debut (and if you’re wondering how to buddy up to them successfully, check out Mike Lata’s tips for meeting chefs, printed in today’s print section):

Andy Ricker, Pok Pok, New York City and Portland

Brett Cooper, Outerlands, San Francisco

Chris Shepherd, Underbelly, Houston

Chris Hall, Local Three, Atlanta

Chris Lusk, Restaurant Revolution, New Orleans

Colby Garrelts, Bluestem Restaurant, Kansas City

David Santos, Louro, New York City

Gabriel Rucker, Le Pigeon,  Portland, Ore. Continue reading

A Quartet of Unofficial Events

In addition to the dozens of events on the official festival schedule, a number of venues are throwing their own special events while they have a captive culinary audience. Here is an overview of some of the breakaway fun:

Rioja Wine Dinner

Who: Dhane Chesson of Wines of Rioja

Where: The Macintosh, 479B King St.

When: 6:30 p.m. Thursday

Cost: $85

More info: Chesson has chosen the wines for this three-course dinner, for which the menu includes roasted tilefish and duck galantine. For reservations, call 789-4299. Continue reading

Lambs N Clams Chef Lineup Released

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A dozen chefs hailing from Florida to Virginia will be in charge of the cooking at this year’s Lambs N Clams, the popular Charleston Wine + Food after-party.

Craig Rogers of Border Springs Farm and Travis Croxton of Rappahannock Oyster Company are returning the event to The Grocery, which hosted the party last year. “It turned out to be the most perfect venue,” Rogers says.

According to Rogers, the pair selects Southern chefs who deserve the attention of the Wine + Food crowd. As a press release proudly notes, previous participants have cropped up on the list of James Beard Award semi-finalists. “Travis and I feel a bit like coaching fielding an all-star game,” Rogers is quoted as saying. Continue reading

Frank Lee’s Band of Tamed Male Chefs Gathers for Tribute Dinner

FrankLeeTickets are still available to the Charleston Wine + Food Festival’s dinner honoring Frank Lee, the chef who sits atop Charleston food tree.

The festival on Dec. 9 is assembling 11 chefs (six from Charleston; five from out-of-town) to pay tribute to Lee with a five-course dinner at The Grocery. The chefs will be joined by two “culinary experts,” longtime Columbia chef Malcolm Hudson – who festival events director Randi Weinstein credits with converting Lee from “vegetarian to a meat-loving fool” – and Justin Hammerstrom, a former sous chef and mixed martial arts fighter who now serves as corporate trainer for a kickboxing franchise.

Although Hammerstrom last cooked professionally in a high school cafeteria, his participation in the program is fitting, since the featured chefs say they’re indebted to Lee for much more than kitchen know-how. Continue reading

Deihl Looks Forward to CWF Rolling On Under New Director

nimishgogriIf the newly-hired executive director of the Charleston Wine + Food Festival brings with her just one thing from her previous festival, Cypress’ Craig Deihl is hoping it’s the transportation set-up.

As director of Euphoria Greenville, Gillian Trimboli-Zettler secured the sponsorship of car manufacturers with factories in the upstate, so participating chefs and VIP guests are ferried around by on-call BMWs.

“I love being able to pick up the phone and say, ‘can you get me from point A to point B?’,” Deihl says of his experience at Euphoria, where he’s cooked the past two years. Continue reading

CWF Ticket Buyers Apparently Gravitate Toward Xiao Bao, The Macintosh and Hash Browns

BB&T Charleston Wine + Food Festival

BB&T Charleston Wine + Food Festival

Remember earlier this week, when I advised you snatch up tickets to the Charleston Wine + Food Festival’s Perfectly Paired dinners at Two Boroughs Larder and The Macintosh? If not, you’ve (possibly) already missed your chance.

As of noon today, tickets to the Two Boroughs Larder dinner featuring Atlanta’s Ryan Smith and Ryan Hidinger were listed as available in “limited quantity.” And tickets to The Macintosh dinner co-starring Jeremiah Bacon and Houston’s Chris Shepherd were flat out “not available.”

But here’s the catch: Just because tickets aren’t available, it doesn’t mean the event’s sold out. As spokesperson Ashley Zink explains, “some events have tickets held back for hotel packages or sponsors, and if they are not needed, those tickets will be released and available to the general public again at a later date.” Dinners, though, rarely fall into that category: If tickets aren’t available, it’s usually because the small stock of seats has already been claimed. Continue reading

Five Must-Buy Charleston Wine + Food Festival Tickets

cwfpcTickets to the Charleston Wine + Food Festival go on sale tomorrow, and they have a tendency to sell out quickly, which means planning your purchase is essential. While the schedule‘s crammed with lots of intriguing events, here are the five tickets I’d buy if I had the extra cash.

1. Two Boroughs Larder Perfectly Paired Dinner, Thursday, 7 p.m. $175

I fear this ticket could be a hard sell, since the supper conflicts with the extraordinarily popular Opening Night party. But you know what? Sample plates are for amateurs. The real culinary fireworks are bound to fly at the splendid Two Boroughs, where James Beard-nominee Josh Keeler is teaming up with Ryan Smith and Ryan Hidinger, the duo behind Atlanta’s long-planned (and eagerly-awaited) Staplehouse. Smith’s known for his willingness to smartly bend Southern cooking conventions, and the dining room’s likely to be crowded with Atlantans wondering what the Empire State South alum’s planning for his new restaurant. Continue reading