Spring marks the beginning of warmer weather and outdoor festivals. For music fans there are rock concerts. For foodies there are food festivals. Outdoor events have a way of amplifying excitement and making people giddy with anticipation. So whether you raise your iPhone to snap a picture of your favorite chef or hoist it above your head to show appreciation for a rock power ballad (lighters are passé), the excited feeling is surprisingly similar.
Thanks to my friends at Foodbuzz.com, I was given a ticket to enjoy a day at the Pebble Beach Food And Wine Festival. The lush green hills, azure blue ocean and crashing waves of Pebble Beach elevated my senses even before I stepped foot into the festival’s grand tasting tent.
With my free pass around my neck, I was able to witness twenty of the country’s top chefs preparing samples of their world famous dishes, sample their food and taste some of the 200 featured wine makers from around the world. There were familiar LA chefs in attendance, like the always elegant and supremely talented Nancy Silverton of La Brea Bakery and Mozza; the fish whisperer Michael Cimarusti of Providence Restaurant; Josiah Citrin of Mélisse Restaurant; and David Myers of Sona, Comme Ca and Pizzeria Ortica. Standing nearby were San Francisco and NY chefs I’ve read about and admired on TV but have never had the pleasure sample their food first hand.
There were plenty of chefs in attendance that I’ve read about and never had the good fortune to meet. But thanks to my pass at the Grand Tasting Tent I was able to meet Traci Des Jardins as she plated delicious food. Nearby I spotted Iron Chef contestant Jamie Lauren as she gushed about meeting Cat Cora for the first time. Chef and occasional butcher Chris Cosentino wowed guests with his charm and sample dishes.
Across the way I met down to earth wine makers like Guy Davis the Founder/Farmer/Winemaker of Davis Family Vineyards. Davis, and other winemakers like him, patiently described his wine making process and the commitment to growing grapes and crafting a handful of incredible wines.
I had the pleasure of meeting pastry chef Gina DePalma, Mario Batali’s number one pastry chef, for dinner and sharing a passionate discussion about service and the new generation of foodies. It was an incredible event that left my stomach full and my mind buzzing with new ideas and flavors. I walked away from the festival feeling like I got a behind the scenes pass to a show I’ve seen more than a handful of times. Being at the Food and Wine Festival gave me a behind the curtains perspective that can only be earned by years of restaurant service.
I’m lucky. I’ve paid my dues at restaurants with great chefs. But even for a restaurant industry professional like me that has dedicated years of service for James Beard winners and Michelin starred chefs—I found myself getting serious goose bumps when I found myself standing next to a few favorite chefs at the Pebble Beach Food and Wine Festival.
I may have gotten butterflies in my stomach when I saw Bruce Springsteen in concert last week, but I was downright roller coaster giddy when I snapped a picture of Jacques Pépin at the Pebble Beach Food And Wine Festival.
There’s nothing more exhilarating for a music fan than the moment when the spotlight cuts through the dark to reveal a beloved rock-and-roll star on stage. But for food-obsessed peple like me, the Pebble Beach Food and Wine Festival offered that once in a lifetime moment where every day people are able to spend time with beloved chefs, artisan food makers and passionate wine makers.
For anyone that’s never worked in a restaurant or have never had the chance to be near a great chef at work, the Pebble Beach Food and Wine Festival is an amazing opportunity to see chefs doing what they do best–outside of their kitchens.