What’s lined up for us at the festival this year? Our kickoff party at Billy Bob’s has a barbecue theme, which I’m really excited about. I was raised in Lockhart, so I’ve always had an admiration and respect for a good pit master. One of my favorites, Chef Tom Perini, will come in from Buffalo Gap. Folks can feast on smoked specialties from a dozen of Texas’s best pit masters, drink great beverages, and enjoy the Texas Country/Red Dirt music of Wade Bowen. I think that this all really fits the Billy Bob’s venue well.
Our Grand Tasting at The Worthington will showcase more than 100 wines and beers, paired with food from our best local chefs. It was a big success last year so we really didn’t make too many changes. The same goes for our most popular event, Burgers, Brews & Blues on Saturday night, where 11 chefs will grill their best burgers, to be enjoyed with suds from 22 craft breweries, and music from live blues bands.
Also on Saturday is Rise +Dine at The Worthington Hotel, featuring the best brunch dishes from noted area restaurants along with craft beer, wines, plus fun mimosa and Bloody Mary bars where folks can draft their own eye-openers.
A new event on Friday night, Desserts After Dark, will have local pastry chefs and artisans making small bites. On Sunday, our food-truck event at the Coyote Drive-In will be family friendly, and kids under 12 are free.
What about the chefs? We are going to continue to place a big spotlight on our local talent. If you can name them, they’ll be there. Lanny Lancarte, Jon Bonnell, Molly McCook, Blaine Staniford, Marcus Paslay…. I could go on all day. And we’ve got several friends coming over from Dallas as well. As the festival progresses, we will slowly continue to bring in some chefs from around the state, but our priority will always be to highlight those talented people we have here close to home.
The festival is a non-profit event. How does that aspect work, and how does this benefit our community? Proceeds from the festival directly benefit the Fort Worth Food + Wine Foundation. It’s a 501c3 non-profit organization we started to directly impact the culinary community of Fort Worth and North Texas. A lot of festivals throughout the country have a nice charity tie-in, but we are run by an all-volunteer group of chefs, restaurants and business leaders that all have the same goal – to highlight our local restaurants and artisans while giving something back.
I think that the restaurant community in Fort Worth is stronger because of the festival. The number of high-quality restaurants that have opened in the last two years is pretty unbelievable. I think the combination of some great young chefs and the influx of new residents has made it possible for so many different cuisines to succeed. We have all participated in charity events together in the past, but never before had we all really worked together to produce such an event.
The festival awarded wonderful culinary scholarships last year. Who receives these, and how many are you expecting to give this year? We were blessed enough financially from the first year to be able to award two scholarships totaling more than $8,000 to local high school seniors. They both went through an extensive interview process, and we couldn’t be more pleased in helping both of these young ladies further their education. One of the main criteria for the scholarships is the desire to begin work in a Fort Worth restaurant, hotel, country club or other food service business upon completion. Our goal is to help cultivate this young local talent to see them become the next generation of great chefs here in town.
We are hoping to at least match, if not exceed, our scholarship giving for 2015, but of course that depends on how financially successful we are.
What is the schedule of this year’s events?
Wednesday, March 4, 6 p.m.
Food and Art Centerstage - an exclusive dinner honoring Chef Walter Kaufmann.
Thursday, March 26, 6-8 p.m.
Barbecue Bash at Billy Bob’s
Friday, March 27, 6-9 p.m.
Lone Star Grand Tasting
9 p.m.-12 a.m.
Desserts After Dark
Saturday, March 28, 11 a.m. – 2 p.m.
Rise and Dine
11 a.m. – 6 p.m.
Festival on the Sundance Square Plaza
Burgers, Brews and Blues
Sunday, March 29, 2-5 p.m.
Family Sunday Funday