A group of some of the most respected and well-known players on Asheville’s culinary scene have banded together to create a new food festival that hope will help continue growing the awareness of the city’s vibrant food scene.

Wednesday morning, Asheville tourism officials pledged $75,000 to the culinary event, tentatively planned for September 2019. Chef Katie Button of Curate, and Jael Rattigan of French Broad Chocolates, made the funding pitch.

Button and Rattigan serve as president and vice president, respectively, of the Asheville Culinary Festival Inc. That entity is applying for nonprofit status and will create the branding, and a separate name, for the new event.

The other board members include: Chef Meherwan Irani of Chai Pani; Jess Reiser of Burial Beer; Stephanie Brown and Dodie Stephens of Explore Asheville; Jane Anderson, head of the Asheville Independent Restaurant Association; Chef John Fleer of Rhubarb; Chef Peter Pollay of Posana; Connie Matisse of East Fork Pottery; Kevin Barnes of Ultimate Ice Cream; Aaron Grier of Gaining Ground Farm; and Charlie Hodge of Sovereign Remedies and Ole Shakeys.

The new festival will feature a grand tasting tent, chef demonstration kitchen and maker’s market, as well as immersive culinary experiences showcasing all aspects of the local food scene, from farmers and brewers to chefs and restaurant owners. Rattigan offered a couple of examples, including a a “Clay Baked” experience that would include a tour of East Fork Pottery, a demonstration of making clay cups and a dinner featuring a game hen wrapped in clay and cooked in a pit fire. Guests would get a craft cocktail in the clay cups, which guests would then smash as part of a Bengali tradition to return the artwork back to the earth, Rattigan explained.

The will be directed by Angel Postal, who directed the Charleston Wine + Food festival for nine years from its start. That festival drew about 30,000 visitors this past March and had a $15 million economic impact, Button told tourism officials. She’ll be paid $60,000 to oversee the Asheville event.

Button said the festival in Asheville would drive hotel stays, generate national media coverage and help boost awareness of the city’s food scene. Rattigan noted that the festival also values diversity, charity, environmental awareness and public/private partnerships.

With an estimated first-year budget of $1 million, the new Asheville culinary event could expect to draw 5,000 visitors in 2019, with about 40 percent of them from out of town and the other 60 percent local. Most would be college-educated and likely have a disposable income of more than $100,000.

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