The Atlanta Food & Wine Festival (AFWF), to be held May 31 through June 3 in Midtown, announced Wednesday the appointment of the first, all-female advisory council made up of over 60 women chefs, bartenders, distillers, and sommeliers from around the South.
The female-lead council is seeking to push the Southern food narrative deeper in order to continue showcasing the evolution of the region’s culinary diversity. This includes highlighting the many women who play a significant role in the Southern food and drink industry yet continue to be under-represented in commercial kitchens, at large food festivals, and in the food and beverage media.
Founders Dominique Love and Elizabeth Feichter told Eater Atlanta they don’t want the festival to be part of the problem but hope its impact on Southern food, its professionals, and festival attendees continues being positive.
“We’ve been working on creating this council since the end of last year’s festival. We made the advisory council all women because it was time and timely,” Love said of the decision. “It’s time for us to cast the spotlight on new talent, and in time with a changing South and a changing food and beverage industry.”
Love recalled the first year council member Atlanta chef Asha Gomez entered the festival spotlight. After hearing of the then supper club chef’s Kerala fried chicken, organizers asked Gomez to be part of the tasting tents. Gomez would walk away that weekend with not only one of the festival’s best bites but features in The Daily Meal and Garden & Gun for her work in highlighting the relationship between the foods of India and the American South.
This isn’t the first time Love and Feichter have sought to bring women into focus during the festival. In 2015, the programming and tasting tents centered around women. The council that year also created the female-centric dinner event called Powerful & Delicious. The evening celebrated one hundred Southern women-owned businesses and community leaders who dined in support of the South’s female food and beverage leaders. The event remains a part of the festival line-up.
Another first for the festival this year is the partnership between the advisory council and bourbon brand Woodford Reserve. Global brand director Mark Bacon said Woodford is “delighted to join forces” with the festival in support of women in the industry and on the council. This includes Woodford’s chef-in-residence, and long-time festival council member, Ouita Michel.
“I love that in a very male-dominated spirits industry, their chef-in-residence is Ouita Michel who has been with the advisory council for many years, Love added. “Their master taster is also a woman—Elizabeth O’Neill McCall.”
The late Spring festival of 10,000 brings people together from all over the South and the country to attend classes and three days of tasting tents in Atlanta. Over one-third of the festival is programming, allowing chefs and beverage professionals to bring more than just bites and booze to attendees.
Love said the council is a key component to making programming decisions and fleshing out the overall theme of the festival which is woven throughout weekend into the classes, dinners, and tasting tents.
“This year’s council takes me back to year one. No one was doing what we were doing eight years ago and no one is really doing this [all-female advisory council],” said Love. “There is a renewed enthusiasm in 2018 with the council. It’s new territory for us, and I’m excited.”
Meet the members of the 2018 Atlanta Food & Wine Festival advisory council.
Tickets for the Atlanta Food & Wine Festival go on sale March 16, 2018 at atlfoodandwinefestival.com.