/Inaugural Mississippi Food and Wine festival a new destination on the culinary map

Inaugural Mississippi Food and Wine festival a new destination on the culinary map

Many events are spread over a weekend. This will whet appetites with private chef meals, the
Mississippi Craft Beer Festival with a Grand Tasting Finale. Jim Wilkirson is Fondren Renaissance Foundation’s special events coordinator. “One of Jackson’s greatest assets, its food tourism industry,” he said. In conjunction with Visit Jackson and Mississippi Food and Wine Foundation, BankPlus is the presenting Sponsor. Jennifer Emerson (Wilkirson, Fondren Renaissance Foundation board member) is the founder of this festival. She and her husband, Derek Emerson are partners in Walker’s Drive-In and Local 463 as well as CAET Seafood/Oysterette, Parlor Market, and CAET Seafood/Oysterette. It was thought that if Jackson didn’t start such an event, then the Gulf Coast and Oxford might be able to beat the capital. Events such as the Sante South Wine Festival are very popular and have a large following. Their goal is to create a food-oriented event that emphasizes wine and craft cocktails. Emerson states, “We wanted to do something that was all consuming.” Mississippi Food and Wine’s inaugural event uses the popular Mississippi Craft Beer Festival as its anchor. It is now in its fifth consecutive year and will be held on June 14th at Fondren’s Duling Avenue. Wilkirson states that the beer festival is a “total success out of its gate” and draws over 1,000 people annually to Fondren to sample more than 100 different craft beers from more then 30 breweries. Capital City Beverages, Southern Beverage, and other beer distributors continue to add new products, and that has made it a very positive market for them. It’s that which made it so successful.” The festival’s new food component caters both to the fancy and less-famous, offering private dinners for a deep dive and a superb sampler layout for gastronomic sampling. Tickets for the four private chef dinners (two on Juni 13 and two on June 14 are sold out) are limited to 90 guests each. Each dinner features a local chef, a team of invited friends, and a wine broker to provide multiple courses and wine pairings. “The dinners are definitely a more personal touch, and the chefs like the collaboration,”
Emerson said. Emerson says. Under a tent at Fondren’s Duling Avenue, the Grand Tasting will feature chefs from private dinners, wineries, and mixologists from South’s restaurants. There are three areas that will be focusing on Mississippi’s food: Delta BBQ, Ethnic/Farmer’s Market, and Seafood. Each area will feature five to seven chefs. Single tables will feature additional chefs, while more tables will focus on wine and spirits. A few dinners have already been sold out due to strong response. The organizers expect that some tickets will be still available at the Grand Tasting and at the beer festival gates. Wilkirson states that organizers hope to add an educational component in the future, once the festival has been established. Mississippi Food and Wine is a fundraising event for the Fondren Renaissance Foundation. A portion of the proceeds will go to food-related charities chosen by participating chefs. Visit msfoodandwine.com to find ticket links and additional details. Visit Jackson promoted Mississippi Food and Wine during the Atlanta Food & Wine Festival. Jesse Houston, Fine & Dandy chef, was on hand to promote the upcoming launch. Kim Lewis, Visit Jackson’s local coordinator, anticipates plenty of support for Mississippi Food and Wine’s inaugural year. She also expects to draw guests from the region. Lewis states that “We hope, as it grows and the word spreads,” people will travel to the city for the event. After many years representing Mississippi at events in other places, it’s great that you invite your favorite chefs and friends to showcase their talents on your own turf. Alex Eaton, Manship/Aplos chef, is the lead chef for the Albert’s at Parlor Market dinner June 14. He says that while it is hard work, the camaraderie and friendship at these events can make it a rewarding career. The scene behind-the scenes at private chef dinners is described by him as “a group of men and women in a small kitchen. Most of the time, the restaurant cannot close for the event. And you see all the same problems that every one of you has to deal with every day.” You’re also about to feed a lot of people you don’t know in a small kitchen. But it all works out because everyone has been doing this for so many years.” Eaton said, “It’s almost like a sport.” “You have a new player and suddenly he’s throwing touchdown passes!” These connections are ready to be used for future events. Eaton says, “We hope Mississippi shows up and makes it super cool.” “We spend all of our time helping other countries and other places in different cities — this is good for Jackson. “It’s nice having something worth coming to here for.”