Monday, June 24, 2024

Wilmington, ‘Foodie City’ — Feast Down East to illuminate city’s path to culinary status

Feast Down East food
A feast from down east, at the 2016 Local Food Conference. (Courtesy Feast Down East)

WILMINGTON – Feast Down East will hold its 7th annual Local Food Conference next week, bringing together foodies, farmers and food business professionals.

The event will center around three workshop sessions, covering a range of issues from the ever-changing tastes of the “food to fork” scene, cutting-edge agricultural techniques for local and amateur farmers and business planning and marketing tips for those in the local food system. (The concept of “food system” is central to Feast Down East events and covers – in essence – all the stages between the farm and the dining table.)

Related: Growing the ‘best damn oyster’: Inside the effort to get local oyster farming up to speed

The event also will also feature a strong advocacy component, with several workshops relating to the keynote speech on food councils in North Carolina. Center for Environmental Farming Systems Director Nancy Creamer will deliver the speech, farming the related roles of research, outreach and education in building a sustainable local food chain.

(Information on the all the workshops and talks is available on the event page.)

Jessica CaboAdvocacy and education have always been a part of Feast Down East’s mission, according to Executive Director Jane Steigerwald. But the event also celebrates local chefs and restaurants.

As Steigerwald told Port City Daily last year, when planning of the Local Food Conference was still underway, “It’s important that people are educated about food systems, about policy, ecology, and economies. But it’s also important to celebrate the chefs who fly that flag for the public to see – and it’s also the fruit of our labor. We focus on the farm, but it ends up on the fork.”

To that end, one workshop during the event will be solely dedicated to ecological and culinary resurgence of the North Carolina Oyster. Local chefs, including Jessica Cabo – who rose to fame after appearing on the first season of Gordon Ramsey’s “Hell’s Kitchen” – will discuss the return to the table of this once-ubiquitous coastal food staple.

In addition to specific workshops celebrating the local food of southeastern North Carolina, a separate workshop will discuss the phenomenon of the ‘foodie city.” The panel, moderated by Chef Craig Love, of the Surf House Oyster Bar, and featuring acclaimed Wilmington chef and sustainable seafood advocate Keith Rhodes, will discuss what turns a city from a place with a few good restaurants into a culinary destination. The complicated interaction of city planning, agri- and aquaculture, food systems and the dining public will be the topic of the panel, answering the question: how does Wilmington become a food destination?

Keith RhodesFeast Down East is a nonprofit group dedicated to healthy, accessible local food as well as the economic success of the farms, fisherman and restaurants that are part of that food system. Feast Down East was established in 2010 and grew out of the 2006 Southeastern North Carolina Food Systems Program, affiliated with the University of North Carolina Wilmington.

Registration runs from $20 for advance tickets for farmers to $45 for at-the-door tickets on the day of the event. Information – including scholarships for those in financial need – is available at the Feast Down East website. The event will be held from 8 a.m. – 3:30 p.m. at the UNCW Burney Center.


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