Inaugural food and music festival invites attendees to relish the fun and flavor of local dining and entertainment
While it has always been a necessity for survival, food – from its production and preparation to its consumption – has also become something more than what we simply put in our bellies. You could say food has moved from nourishment to entertainment, with more and more people taking the time to become versed in different aspects of cooking and in diverse cuisines, while also supporting the restaurants and chefs making bold and innovative culinary decisions.
Here in Lexington and the Bluegrass region, food’s fanfare has been bubbling over the lid, and some people felt that it was high time for chowtime to become a weekend-long celebration. The inaugural “Crave Lexington” festival should be an appetizing option Sept. 21 - 22 at the MoonDance at Midnight Pass amphitheater in Beaumont Circle.
Crave Lexington organizer Robbie Morgan says it’s easy to see that a food festival would be popular, if the sudden proliferation of dining options in Lexington is any indication.
“We’ve all seen it in the past five years: this explosion of restaurants downtown and outside of downtown,” she said, “and people being incredibly excited about it.”
Morgan is also the director of events and sponsorships for Smiley Pete Publishing, this magazine’s parent company, and she’s quick to point out that Crave is not just a festival for people interested in food, though “foodies” will also have plenty to enjoy during the weekend.
“It’s a festival for ‘locavores,’” she said, “and it’s also a festival for people who don’t even know what locavore means.” (A locavore is someone with a penchant for eating food sourced as locally as possible.)
Along with bringing together dozens of local and regional food vendors (from farmers and restaurant chefs to food truck operators) in one setting where people can get a taste of the area’s varied culinary landscape, part of Crave’s purpose is demystifying the notion that cooking delicious food is an unattainable skill that only trained professionals can achieve.
A number of demonstrations, from breaking down a local heritage pig into usable parts to harvesting and cooking mushrooms, are scheduled to take place throughout the weekend at the festival’s four demonstration stages, where participants can learn firsthand about various aspects of the kitchen.
“What we didn’t want this festival to look like was food television, because it’s unrealistic about the way people live,” Morgan said. “People don’t have these kinds of kitchens, and people don’t have prep staffs.”
For the demonstrations, the festival relies on a number of well-known and respected chefs – such as Azur’s Jeremy Ashby, who will be assisting in a demonstration on breaking down a local lamb, as well as producing the large Sunday breakfast buffet – but also well-groomed home cooks who will be working alongside trained professionals. Prior to Crave Lexington, there were a number of “pop-up events” to help promote the festival, such as a Best Home Chef Competition, where three teams of amateur finalists cooked head to head at Sullivan University in August – the winning team will host their own demonstration on Saturday.
There's a lot going on during the weekend, and Morgan's biggest hope for the festival is that is is an "explosion of exposure" from local dining options, to learning about the farmers and food producers in our region to the innovations in our agriculture. Partial proceeds from this year's festival will benefit FoodChain, Kentucky's first commercially-scaled aquaponics facility. Located in the Bread Box on West Jefferson and 6th, this indoor farming facility grows micro greens and tilapia in an enclosed and sustainable system. Chef Ouita Michel of Holly Hill Inn will be opening a fish and chips shop using both the foods created by this system.
As an accoutrement to all the food offerings and happenings, and in keeping with the festival’s mission to expose people to things they may not have experienced, there will be free music concerts by artists from Lexington or with ties to the area throughout the concert. And just like the diverse cuisine, the artists will be playing music from a wide variety of genres, from Bollywood song and dance to chamber music.
“How do you tie all this stuff together, and what’s the easiest way to get people engaged? Food. Where does everybody hang out at a party? The kitchen,” she said. “So what kind of party do we need to throw that asks everybody who lives here to the kitchen?”
Sounds like Crave Lexington has a great recipe to get people in the kitchen.