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Food For All

New events give foodies something to "Shout" about

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Most of the major food events we have had in Charlotte fall into three categories. The first are the large charity events such as Taste of the Nation or the biennial Charlotte Food and Wine Weekend. The second spotlights food along side other cultural aspects in ethnic festivals such as Yiasou!, the annual Greek festival held at the Greek Orthodox Church, and the Latino Festival. The third category involves for profit food events such as Taste of Charlotte, a business, which gives a portion of the proceeds to charity.

Now we have a fourth category: food as a celebration of itself. From October 3 through 5, Charlotte Shout will have a Culinary Arts Pavilion at Gateway Village, in downtown's Third Ward. In addition, there will be related culinary events from Sunday, September 29 through Saturday, October 5.

"The food portion was going to be small, but with Johnson & Wales' involvement, we will make this a huge national-level event," says Chef Chris Ivens-Brown, the person responsible for putting together the culinary events. "The Pavilion will be an experience and a half and will be kind of like a kick start to a new culinary level. This is a new era for Charlotte."

Charlotte seems to have gone culinary crazy this summer. A barrage of media attention after the June Johnson & Wales announcement focused on what J&W would mean to us foodwise. Never mind that the business school of J&W is a bigger component of the school, most Charlotteans zoomed in on the food aspect.

"When you think of Charlotte," says Ivens-Brown, "you look at banking and NASCAR. Charlotte is not recognized for food and wine, yet."

Since 1996, Chef Ivens-Brown, a graduate of Academie Culinaire de France, is the executive chef manager for Bank of America's corporate dining restaurant, operated by a division of Compass Group. Compass Group North America, a division of Compass Group PLC, is headquartered in Charlotte. The Compass Group is one of the major sponsors of the Charlotte Shout's culinary events.

Ivens-Brown continues, "This is not a charity event nor is this to give certain chefs exposure. This event is for everyone. This is for the people of Charlotte, not just the upper echelon. We don't want to turn it into a trade show. Although we will bring in outside "celebrity chefs' we want to showcase what talent we already have."

One of the concepts Ivens-Brown, a native of northern England, is bringing to the event is a competition based on a British television series Ready, Steady, Cook, a cooking game show. An American version of this show, Ready...Set...Cook! airs on the Food Network on Sundays at 3:30am. During Charlotte Shout, two cooking teams will compete against each other. One will be comprised of chef graduates from Johnson & Wales, current students of that culinary school, and a member of the audience. The other team will have a chef from the Compass Group, a culinary student, and a member of the audience. Each team will attempt to produce the winning meal, made with surprise ingredients, in a limited amount of time. This event will take place on a large "MTV-style" stage with multiple television screens and two specially manufactured portable kitchens. Seating for 300 is available in front of the stage area although this event will be broadcast throughout the Pavilion area. The seated audience will select the winning team. On Saturday afternoon a kids' Ready...Set...Cook! contest will be held.

Also planned is the Reid's Fine Foods Beer and Wine Garden. The wine section is being designed to resemble a Napa Valley garden with landscaping and pathways. Over 40 specialty lines of wines will be sampled. The beer section will resemble an Old World brewery garden and feature Carolina brews.

Between the Wine and Beer Garden and the stage area will be what Ivens-Brown referred to as the "Fire and Ice" area. Ice sculptures will be created in one area while chefs from local restaurants will perform cooking demonstrations. Wines seminars will be held in the wine garden. Cooking seminars hosted by J&W lecturers will be given Friday and Saturday.

Notes Ivens-Brown, "Our goal is to educate Charlotte and for them to get out and eat out more and for them to realize what we have. We have fabulous chefs here already, like Tim Groody, Tom Condron, and Sean Minihan, and J&W will drive that synergy. It's an awareness that has been needed."

Tickets for the Culinary Arts Pavilion are $10 in advance or $15 at the door and include admission to cooking demonstrations, lectures, and competitions. Wine, beer, and food are an additional cost. Contact the Blumenthal Performing Arts Center box office at 704-372-1000 or go to www.blumenthalcenter.org. For information about the Culinary Arts Pavilion, call Charlotte Shout Headquarters, 704-332-1800. All the culinary events from September 29 through October 5 will be listed on the website: www.charlotteshout.com.

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