Prepare to be immersed in Asheville’s vibrant culinary and beverage scene. A new festival named Chow Chow comes to Asheville Sept. 12 – 15, with fun, unique events to satisfy the taste buds — plus give event-goers up-close access to culinary experts and makers.

There’s something for every taste. Enjoy grand tastings at Pack Square Park, chef demonstrations in large and small venues, farm dinners, tours, brunches, yoga, artist demos, seminars and music — all “at the intersection of craft and creativity.”

The genesis of Chow Chow

What is Chow Chow? As a food, Chow Chow is a favorite vegetable-based pickled relish, served in the South. As a festival, it’s a four-day culinary extravaganza.

This is not an average festival; it’s made up of more than 45 events, with limited tickets for each event, so the experience will be more rewarding.

The four-day festival is the brain child of Cúrate’s Katie Button, French Broad Chocolate’s Jael Rattigan and Chai Pani’s Meherwan Irani.

“Chow Chow is a festival born of a passionate community of culinary and beverage professionals, alongside farmers and makers, to celebrate the diverse food shed in which we’re all lucky to participate,” Rattigan said. “We’re a values-driven nonprofit organization, volunteering our time to create this festival that will share the stories that make our corner of Appalachia the special place that it is.”

The three, plus other movers and shakers in Asheville’s culinary and beverage scene, planned Chow Chow to “highlight Asheville’s creative table through meaningful events, immersive experiences and charitable programs.”

Chow Chow is partnering with MANNA FoodBank to raise awareness for the children’s backpack program.

Dazzling programs

“The star of the festival is Asheville,” said event director Angel Holmes. “The events will shine a light on Asheville as an amazing entrepreneurial community.”

In addition to involving the “who’s who” of the Asheville culinary scene, the inaugural festival is hosting celebrity chefs, including Vivian Howard, of The Farmer and the Chef, Sept. 13; Nobel Prize-nominee chef José Andrés, preparing a large paella in the park with chef Katie Button, Sept. 14; and Ashley Christensen, of Raleigh, winner of the James Beard Award 2019 Outstanding Chef in the U.S.

The participation of so many local and nationally-known chefs is notable — especially delightful with the addition of Andrés.

“Beyond Chef Andrés’ celebrity, he is an amazing human who has devoted his fame to helping others and changing the world,” Rattigan said. “This kind of values-aligned participation is priceless. If people are drawn to his presence, and that motivates them to experience this festival and learn about the food culture here, it’s a win-win.”

Start with the schedule

There are so many Chow Chow events and hands-on sessions that people may not know where to begin.

Holmes suggests starting with the schedule online: www.exploreasheville.com/chow-chow-culinary-festival/2019-schedule/; then, narrow it down, according to one’s interests.

Note that some events (including The Life of an Apple Pie, Brown in the South, Lazoom: A Moveable Feast and Nobel Dirt Sunday Brunch) are sold-out. Word to the wise, get tickets soon for seminars and events.

A tantalizing sampling of events

Thursday, Sept. 12

Mountain Top Soiree: opening party 6 – 9 p.m. Highland Brewing Company ;$130. Enjoy brewers, distillers, James Beard Award-nominated chefs, cocktail creators, wine stewards and live music.

Friday, Sept. 13

Food Truck Rodeo 11 a.m. — 4 p.m.,in front of the Asheville Art Museum. Free admission; pay for food.

Hands-on workshops and seminars 10 a.m. – 5 p.m. Aloft Hotel, Hotel Arras, and Rhubarb; from $15 to $75.Talks and tastings by some of Asheville and Appalachia’s best chefs and makers.

Makers Market noon – 5 p.m. Pack Square Park.Shop a curated market of local food products and wares by local artisans. Free admission.

Pickled in the Park Grand Tasting 1 – 4 p.m. Pack Square Park;$125. Enjoy 50 local restaurants and brewers, plus chef demos.

Cacao, Confections & Cocktails 7 — 10 p.m. French Broad Chocolate Factory;$60.

“As an entrepreneur passionate about chocolate, I’m excited about this event,” FBC co-owner Rattigan said. “We’ll bring celebrated pastry and mixologist talent to pair chocolate and pastries with amazing cocktails, wines and spirits. We’ll also have a spread of Hickory Nut Gap charcuterie and Looking Glass cheeses — and a live jazz band.”

Saturday, Sept. 14

Sips & Sun Salutations 9 – 11 a.m.Pack Square Park; $50. Outdoor yoga, followed by fresh air breakfast stations.

• Food Truck Rodeo 11 a.m. – 4 p.m. Pack Square Park.

Hands-on workshops and seminars 10 a.m. – 5 p.m. Aloft, Hotel Arras, and Rhubarb; from $15 to $75.

Makers Market noon – 5 p.m. Pack Square Park.

Pickled in the Park Grand Tasting 1 – 4 p.m. Pack Square Park; $125. Visit the grilling area, enjoy the making, baking and flavors of Asheville.

Sunday, Sept. 15

Food Truck Rodeo from 11 a.m. — 4 p.m. Pack Square Park.

Plant All Mighty 11:30 a.m. — 2 p.m. Omni Grove Park Inn; $75.Think vegan comfort food and sophisticated dining entrees.

Makers Market noon – 5 p.m. Pack Square Park.

Pickled in the Park Grand Tasting 1 – 4 p.m. Pack Square Park; $125; local rate Sunday only, $75 per person.

Chow Time Closing Party 5 – 8 p.m.Salvage Station; $100. Sunday supper of barbecue, fried chicken and iconic sides, by eight Southern chefs.

If only one day

For those with budget or time constraints, Holmes recommends choosing one day of Pickled in the Park – Grand Tasting, from 1 – 4 p.m. Friday – Sunday, at Pack Square.

Note the special $75 rate for locals on Sunday, Sept. 15.

Enjoy the free events

“We want Chow Chow to be accessible to all in the community,” Holmes said. “So, in addition to high-end luxury experiences, there is programming that is more affordable.”

The Food Truck Rodeo each day is open — just pay for food. Likewise, the Makers Market is free admission.

The small seminars Friday and Saturday start at $15. With interesting topics like the perfect picnic, setting a seasonal table, distilling mountain botanicals and flights of tea, there is something for everyone.

“Beyond the Bean is an intimate seminar where I’m hosting some of my favorite craft chocolate makers from the country to share their chocolate and their stories,” Rattigan said. “At $20, this is a real bargain.”

Experience the tastes and creativity of Asheville

Chow Chow is a collaboration of some of the best chefs, restaurateurs, brewers, distillers, culinary experts and food-related artisans of Asheville.

Many Chow Chow events are expected to sell out; those interested are urged to get tickets soon.

The Chow Chow board and event planners have been working hard to craft a stellar inaugural event.

“We’re all busy local business folks,” Rattigan said. “But by sharing the load, working together and each giving what we can of our time and talents, we are creating a truly magical experience.”

To purchase tickets, visit www.exploreasheville.com/chow-chow-culinary-festival/.

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