A look back at the most memorable AFWF moments.
In 2011, Atlanta Food and Wine Festival co-founders Dominique Love and Elizabeth Feichter’s vision for a regional event highlighting the very best of Southern culture, cuisine and libations came to fruition. The scale and magnitude of it was something Atlanta has never seen before. Culinary titans from Texas and Washington D.C. occupied the streets and kitchens of the city’s top restaurants, telling stories of tradition and culture through their food – showing without a doubt that the South has something to say.
But have you ever wondered what goes on behind the scenes of the culinary event of the year? In honor of the fifth Atlanta Food and Wine Festival, we caught up the founders to share with us their top 5 moments from festivals past. From late night bourbon sessions and exhaustion, to imaginative dinners and singing, the ladies of AFWF share their moments.
1. “Year one, worked with two other people non-stop the last 36 hours leading into the Festival. We wrapped up on Thursday afternoon with barely time to spare to get ready for our kick-off event. I dashed to the Loews Hotel to get checked in and had truly not prepared myself for the energy and excitement that filled the lobby of the hotel. I remember thinking to myself – I haven’t slept in two days. I am delirious. I need a shower. I’m disgusting. But, I don’t care! Right here. Right now. This is what it is all about. We made this happen. We’re really doing this!”
2. “Because we were nonstop those few days before the Festival, I couldn’t go home and pack, so my sweet husband offered to do it for me. When I got to the hotel – with only 30 minutes to shower and get ready – I got the first glimpse of what he packed. Our first event was at a farm and he had grabbed a white silk evening suit and stilettos. For the rest of the weekend, bless his heart, he stuck with a winter theme with a few wool pieces, a pair of boots, lots of great cold season, high heeled shoes and there may have even been a scarf in the mix. Absolutely perfect clothing for a Festival in May… in Atlanta! While the silk suit didn’t debut at the farm, it did come in handy for one event and then I paid a friend’s college-aged daughter to run to mall and cobble together clothing I could wear for the rest of the weekend. I couldn’t get home to pack and there was no way I was going to take my chances again with my husband! But, he did get the bill.”
3. “Chorus of Greens at the end of year two. We were so exhausted but really had a renewed sense of confidence that we now had two Festivals under our belts and that we could really make this weekend work. Year one was “easy” in the sense that you don’t know what you don’t know. Year two was downright scary because year one had made us aware – very aware – of what could go wrong.”
4. “Being in-the-know. And by that I mean, we know more dirt than one could possibly imagine. We’ve got it locked in the vault but can guarantee we know who partied all night long, who got sick, who slept walked naked through the hotel, which group depleted the mini bars in three rooms in one evening, who was not having coffee with his girlfriend in the morning and much more.”
5. “Having my very Southern, Mississippi-born and raised father tell me, ‘I’m proud of you. You’ve done good, girl.'”
1. “I had my son about 3 ½ months before our first Festival in 2011 and there’s one moment in particular that I remember when our babysitter had brought him to me at our Production office. I was on the second floor of the building with windows looking out on Midtown and the Tasting Tent lot, holding Dylan and watching in complete amazement as our other ‘baby’ was coming to life all around me, in complete awe that they were all here because of what Dominique and I had created. So many people scurrying around setting up the tents and loading in our supplies, all to welcome the world to the beginning of this amazing new journey.”
2. “There is an energy in the event world – a special kind of magic that happens amongst people who are totally dedicated to something they love. I remember sitting on the floor with our Production Director, Adam, at about 2am in the morning a few days before the second Festival. We were sorting credentials and putting together Welcome packets and laughing hysterically and I remember thinking – this is it.”
3. “Every year, I’ve opened the Tasting Tents each day with a team of volunteers and staff and security. I stand at the our gateway and watch as people gather, waiting to walk through the entrance. I listen to their laughter and excitement, I watch them talk about the amazing talent they spot waiting for them, chatter about the smells that fill the air and recount their favorite class from the morning’s learning experiences. I like to stand right at the entrance with our Director of Security, Brad, and that moment when I give him the ok to open the gates – every year it gets me.”
4. “Last year, on Friday after we had finally kicked everything off and guests were tucked into their first class, chefs were buzzing around the kitchen, volunteers were loading the tasting tents and the hotel staff was preparing for the second class of the day. Abbey and I walked into our media center to find Dominique singing at the top of her lungs with our communications team in tow. There’s just nothing like Atlanta Food & Wine getting kicked off to get you happy.”
5. “I am writing this from our Welcome Center. Ground zero on the hotel side of things. A place that is currently surrounded by 22 palates of supplies – hundreds of Calphalon pots and pans, hundreds of THOUSANDS of napkins, forks, bowls and plates, more kitchen devices than I can even name, piles of signage, and boxes upon boxes of gifts from our sponsors to give to our guests. And I’m giddy with excitement about what the next days will bring. Year 5!”
Have you attended the Atlanta Food and Wine Festival?
Share your favorite moments with us from past years in the comments!