Changing Tastes

It isn’t surprising to see people coming to Savannah to try some of our world-famous Southern cuisine, but we haven’t seen this many foodies flock here all at once until the Savannah Food & Wine Festival kicking off next week.
If you haven’t heard about it, it’s become quite the week’s worth of events with various meals that will be created by celebrated chefs like Steven Satterfield, Hugh Acheson, Chris Hastings, and Kent Rathbun. The celebrities are great, but I'm most excited about the participation and support of so many of Savannah's very own. Throughout the festival you'll see many familiar faces: Joe Randall, Tim Rutherford, David Landrigan, Patrick McNamara, Christopher Nason, Vinnie Burns, Roger Michel, to name only a few. These culinary professionals have made us proud to live and dine in Savannah.
On the wine side, several vintners and distributors have come together to pour hundreds of amazing wines during the festival. You’ll even have a chance to taste a rare Mondavi Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon from the 1971 vintage at the Mondavi Family Estate Dinner.
It’s truly going to be a spectacular festival.
Of course I’m excited. I’ve been working on this festival for many months, and it’s my organization producing it. The Tourism Leadership Council board of directors decided to take our signature, 13-year old Taste of Savannah and go further to celebrate what has quickly become a foodie town.
Now, we’ve long since been a destination for our famous Southern cuisine, thanks in no small part to our famous chef Paula Deen. She helped paved the way for what our food and wine culture has become in Savannah.
For years, people have been talking about the need for a festival to celebrate what we have to offer.  
This year, it’s been more than talk. It’s been hundreds of volunteers who’ve tirelessly worked to make the festival possible.
And it’s been years of preparation from student programs to on-the-job training.
Savannah’s tastes have elevated because of people like Chef Jean Yves Vendeville, department head of the Culinary Institute of Savannah Technical College. He runs a tight ship and strictly trains students to provide the highest quality of food and service – the likes of which we wouldn’t know without someone training the workforce. You can see his living legacy in restaurants all around Savannah.
It’s happening over at Virginia College’s new Culinard program as well. They are building a gifted workforce that leaves us, the public, demanding more out of every dining experience. Both sets of students will continue their training by volunteering at the festival alongside the nation’s top chefs.
We also have distributors who regularly hold wine classes not only to educate us consumers, but they also train serving staff on wine etiquette.
More than food and wine, it’s also about the service. The Tourism Leadership Council offers customer service training for free to any member organization. We’ve educated hundreds of frontline staff on how to deliver impeccable service to match the public’s changing tastes.
The festival is more than just a week’s worth of delectable events. It’s a commemoration of the years of hard work the industry has poured into our city so that we could enjoy the finer things in life. I hope you join me in celebrating next week at any one of the Savannah Food & Wine Festival events.

Tuesday, March 11, 2014