Two weeks ago, Charleston was awash in food and wine as the sixth BB&T Charleston Wine + Food Festival took over Marion Square and the rest of the city.
On the Eat blog, we covered the festival, with writers and photographers attending a raft of parties, dinners, and events across town. We heard lots of chatter over the course of four days, and one thing was made clear. This festival was a great one. All of the chefs, both local and visiting, seemed to have a positive experience.
Attendance was up from around 17,000 last year to 19,000 this year, and the festival sold out roughly 95 percent of its events. It started off on a high note, with the fest receiving the 2011 Governor’s Cup award from Gov. Nikki Haley for its tourism-related impact on the local and state economy. An impressive feat for a rather young event. The event was also recognized by its partner Fisher Recycling for efforts to green up over the past two years (9.795 tons of waste were diverted from landfills in 2010).
At the opening ceremonies on Friday afternoon, Martha Lou Gadsden of Martha Lou’s Kitchen on Morrison Drive received the Laura Hewitt Culinary Legend award for her soulful contribution to the local food world, and former Charleston Grill Chef Bob Waggoner received the Marc Collins Award for his leadership, dedication, and innovation in the field.
All in all, the biggest critique we have for organizers is to figure out a way to prevent visiting chefs from canceling. In addition to two-time-no-show Michael White (who canceled on Ken Vedrinski in 2010 and Mike Lata in 2011), there were several chefs who pulled out, including a dramatic cancelation by Chef David Burke, who bailed on Chef Robert Carter of Peninsula Grill two nights before his dinner. Oof. No worries, though. Carter saved the day with help from actor Bill Murray, who performed basically a two-hour comedy skit for diners. Final numbers on how much was raised for signature charity Lowcountry Local First are still pending as organizers pull that information together.