A Q&A With the Man Who Brings Flavor to Fort Worth

A Q&A with Russell Kirkpatrick, co-founder of the Fort Worth Food + Wine Festival (FWFWF):

Why did you decide that Fort Worth needed a food and wine festival? It really spawned out of participating in the Buffalo Gap Wine & Food Summit, which we would do every spring. The event would sell out in about five minutes. I was out there with our Reata team as was Jon Bonnell, Tim Love, Michael Thomson and Grady Spears. As I looked around, I realized that if people would flock to see these chefs in the middle of a field 20 minutes outside of Abilene, why don’t we have something in our own backyard. It was also around that time that the culinary scene started to transform in Fort Worth. I don’t mean to pigeonhole Fort Worth, but we used to be a meat and potatoes kind of town. Three years ago, you started to see some other types of restaurants coming to town. The timing for the festival really came into place.

What is different this year? We didn’t want to stray too far from the original skeleton. Instead of changing the signature events, we keep it fresh and new by changing the event venues.

How do you choose participating chefs? We have an extensive chefs’ committee. Getting chefs to participate is not the hard part. Finding ways to keep the chefs engaged and excited is where our efforts lie. Rarely have we had the problem where we’ve had to tell someone they couldn’t participate. We’ve been able to find a home for those who have shown interest.

What are some of the biggest challenges in organizing a festival of this size? My biggest challenge is not growing the festival too big too quickly. Julie Eastman is festival director, and she’s good at keeping us grounded and making sure we execute the six events very well. The biggest compliment I get is that it feels like the event has been around much longer than it actually has.

How does the FWFWF Foundation select the scholarship recipient? We have a scholarship committee that is incredibly solid. In the early spring, they’ll shoot out an email with the application. Once the applicants have sent back their transcripts, we set up interviews. Originally we were just going to select a single recipient, but each year we have awarded more than just one scholarship. 

Do you have a favorite event? Why? No. That’s the great thing. They hit so many interests and demographics and are all so different, but intrinsically the same. I guess if I had to choose, I’m more partial to the outside events because I’m an outdoorsy guy.