Preview of the Atlanta Food & Wine Festival

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Preview of the Atlanta Food & Wine Festival

This week, our team sat down with Atlanta Food & Wine Festival Advisory Council Member, Jennifer Hill Booker,atlanta food festival as well as, Presenter Eli Kirshtein, to learn a little more about the upcoming Atlanta Food & Wine Festival.  Created by civic entrepreneurs Dominique Love and Elizabeth Feitcher in 2010, the Atlanta Food & Wine Festival “is the nation’s first culinary weekend dedicated exclusively to showcasing the rich food and beverage traditions of the South – Texas to D.C.” Love and Feitcher were inspired by Food & Wine Magazine’s Food & Wine Classic in Aspen. During the event, they kept asking themselves,“Why doesn’t Atlanta have a festival like this?” In addition to celebrating the culinary traditions of the Southern U.S.,”[t]he Festival also celebrates the flavors of other Southern regions around the globe including Southern Europe, South Africa, South America, Southern Hemisphere (Australia and New Zealand) and South-of-the-Border for Mexico and the Caribbean.”

What to Expect at The Atlanta Food & Wine Festival

Atlanta Food Wine FestivalThe Atlanta Food & Wine Festival will be taking place Thursday, May 31 to Sunday, June 3, 2018, and it will consist of three main activities: learning experiences, tasting tents, and dinners and events. Learning experiences includes cooking and cocktail demonstrations. Here you will find fun classes such as “Down to the Ash,” where “participants will explore whole animal cooking techniques and how to utilize nature’s elements in each dish.” The tasting tents located in the Greensward Promenade area of Piedmont Park, will offer a wide variety of food and drinks to try. There will also be live music and the Southern Marketplace where you can purchase souvenirs. Dinners and events will include “The Local Palate presents Beat the Heat: Hot, Fried and Saucy,” a dinner in which guests sample variations of the classic Southern staple: fried chicken. Loews Atlanta Hotel, official host for the festival is where most of the festivities will take place. There are also several events taking place throughout the Atlanta area. Tickets range from tasting tents only to the Connoisseur Day Pass, which allow access to all festival events.

This year’s Atlanta Food & Wine Festival is particularly special, thanks to its all-female, 60 member advisory council! According to Advisory Council Member Chef Jennifer Hill Booker, this is unprecedented! “We’re often underrepresented in the culinary field, so our voices are being able to be heard. Our style of cooking gets to be pushed to the forefront, and then you get to work with other like-minded chefs.”

Jennifer Hill Booker | Advisory Council 

While Chef Booker has participated in the festival before, this is her first year appearing on the Advisory Council.Chef Jennifer Hill Booker, Advisory Council Member “This is definitely an honor, and I’m really thrilled to be a part of it! And then I’ll be participating in 3 days worth of activities.” She is very excited to be “able to share myself and meet other Southern chefs and put Atlanta food and wine on the map!” Being on the Advisory Council gives Chef Booker the advantage of being able to be involved with scheduling of chefs as well as the types of cuisine and approaches to food. It makes her feel like she has a say in the process.

Booker will be participating in a masterclass on Friday, June 1, called “Down to the Ash.” During this masterclass, she will be making dishes from hominy. Hominy is made by mixing hot ash with water and cooking fresh, dried corn in it. She will also be offering other dishes throughout the Festival such as Georgia pecan and olive oil poached verlasso salmon, as well as, green onion hoe cakes served with pimento cheese and brown sugar bacon.

When asked about her reasoning for wanting to participate in this Festival, she said, “It’s my town. I cook here. I feel I should be a part of it to represent myself and my style of cooking, and to show the world the chefs that are in the South and that they are female and that they are black and they do cook soul food, so it was important for me to let people know what we’re doing here.”

About Jennifer Hill Booker

Booker’s unique cooking style is described as “Modern Southern Healthy Cuisine with a French Accent.” Strongly influenced by her culinary education at Le Cordon Bleu in Paris combined with her Southern upbringing. Her first cookbook, Field Peas to Foie Gras: Southern Recipes with a French Accent, was released in 2014, and her second cookbook, Dinner Déjà Vu: Southern Tonight, French Tomorrow, was released last year. She is currently writing a cocktail book intended for “the home bartender,” no matter if that bartender is a novice or a professional. It will go over making your own wines and brandies, shrubs, infuser alcohol, and homemade garnishes. It will also include some cocktail recipes. Some upcoming events for Booker include the International Food & Wine Festival at Walt Disney World, as well as, The Bite Northwest Arkansas Food Festival June 21-23.

When asked about what makes Southern culinary traditions so special, Chef Booker answered that it’s a style of food that many people grow up eating, and food can trigger many positive memories for people. “It’s truly, I feel, the first food of the Americas because in the South, you had a lot of different types of nationalities that came, a lot of which were slave owners, and so the slaves learned to cook the food that their masters ate, so we have such a unique opportunity to cook international cuisine but then make it our own Southern cuisine. That, to me, is special. We also have the longest growing seasons in the Southeast, so we get to experience all these fresh fruits and vegetables all year long.” Her favorite Southern dish switches with the seasons, but one of her favorites is fried corn. Sharing some exclusive tips for making Southern food, she says, “choose your freshest seasonal fruits and vegetables. Do your very best to buy local and support your family farmers.” Finally,”get yourself a big cast iron skillet. Season it and use it, and you’ll be surprised at how much better your food tastes.”

Eli Kirshtein | Presenter

Chef Eli KirshteinChef Eli Kirshtein is one of the presenters of this year’s Atlanta Food & Wine Festival. He has participated in the Festival since its first year. He got involved because “I’m really passionate about the city. I’m really passionate about Atlanta as a whole. I always wanted to be part of something that was Atlanta-focused, so I just wanted to make sure I was part of the Festival.” This year, he will take part in the “Brew-zy Brunch: Southern Staple Showdown” on June 3. Kirshtein will be teamed up with his wife Andrea, a pastry chef, and they will be doing “a play on potato hash. Specifically, I’m doing a riff on corned beef hash. Right now, I’ve got a couple of briskets that are in the dry aging room over at Buckhead Beef, and we’re going to do dry aged brisket with potatoes.”

About Eli Kirshtein

Atlanta native, Kirshtein’s start in the culinary world was during high school. “I was at a school that required that we had jobs and things like that. I incidentally was working on race cars of all things, and the season was over, and I had to find something. I was always interested in cooking, and I ended up kind of walking in the back door of The Buckhead Diner of all places, and it kind of grew from there.” While at The Buckhead Diner, Kirshtein was able to work with Chef Kevin Rathbun. He than went on to become the Executive Chef at Eno Restaurant and Wine Bar. If you are a fan of Bravo’s Top Chef: Las Vegas, then you probably recognize Kirshtein, as he competed on the popular series. Currently the Culinary Director of The Revelator Coffee Company, and he was most recently Chef and Partner at The Luminary at Krog Street Market.

He said that in regards to his favorite Southern food, he is “always a sucker for fried chicken. That might sound cliche, but I’m easy to please.” When asked why he thinks Southern culinary traditions are so special, he said that “I’m born and raised in the South. I was born in Atlanta and raised in Atlanta. I’ve always found that Southern culinary traditions are really endemic of just the South. They are uniquely territorial, and they’re uniquely identifiable with being in this region. I always have a sense of identity around those things, so I just try to embrace those kinds of things because I feel like it’s part of my identity.”

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