After bidding adieu to Manhattan, I landed on the sunny and familiar Southern Penninsula of Charleston, SC where my family heritage and childhood beach home welcomed me with open arms. Adjusting to a more provincial lifestyle than NYC offered, I was quick to seek out opportunities that would keep me involved with the food world I had previously enjoyed.
The month I arrived, a few people held a public forum to discuss the feasibility and interest of its tight-knit restaurant community participating in a event of its kind. Ahead of the now obvious popularity that Charleston has met with food and tourism, the idea of a food and wine festival was a risky idea.
I stayed at that meeting and became a member of the Founding Committee and was chosen as the Program Director for the festival. I built the content of the event, types of food-demos and cookbook author demos and worked on attracting national talent to the festival and managing their involvement. In addition, at the launch of the inaugural Festival, I became the acting Kitchen Manager and remained so through the next four festivals (2004-2010).
Partners like Viking, Le Creuset and many others worked with me to build outstanding outdoor kitchens, where chefs like Tyler Florence, Bobby Flay, Tom Colicchio, and Alex Guanarschelli showed off their talents. A list of some of the talent is below. There were years with many chef partners including four stages, two cookbook authors demos going on simultaneously with lunch events sprinkled in on each of the three days of the event.
I managed the lot of events and kept tabs on all my talent, food and wares to make each event move seamlessly into the next. Bobby Flay remarked, “How do you do all this so calmly?” I just smiled and handed him the spatula he was missing at one of his four stations serving a lunch of 500 and ran off to confirm the next chef was starting his demo in Exhibition Tent 2.
The festival grew in size and number as well as reach and it is wonderful to see the impact it had on food, Charleston and festivals as a whole. The third best rated food festival in the country several years in a row only behind Aspen and South Beach meant a great level of passion drove the efforts of those involved.
My best food moment is a tie: stuffing sausage with Bruce Aidells and working the ‘cue with Ed Mitchell, the reigning king of Carolina BBQ.
“Caroline and I have worked together with the Wine + Food Festival for many years now. A consumate professional in handling food and people, her creative talents as well as her experience with nationally known chefs and restaurants have brought great value to the festival and the continued success. It is a pleasure to work with and know Caroline!” – Mitchell Crosby, JMC Charleston
“Caroline is extremely hard working, easy to get along with and organized. I have had the pleasure of working with her on several projects and would welcome the opportunity to work with her again.” Chef Fred Neuville, Fat Hen Restaurant
“Caroline is a top-notch food professional. She is passionate about what she does and gives everything 100%.” Holly Herrick, Cookbook Author
Some of the Chefs, talent and authors I worked with:
David Chang, Tom Collichio, Ruth Reichl, Tyler Florence, Julia Reed, Francois Payard, Richard Blais, Alexandra Guanarschelli, Sarah Moulton, Sam Talbot, Bobby Flay, Ed Mitchell, Sean Brock, Mike Lata, Tory McPhail, Farmer Lee Jones, Craig Diehl, Michael Laskonis, Kevin Rathburn, Danny Meyer, Nathalie Dupree, Bruce Aidells, Ed Mitchell, Wylie Dufresne, Johnny Iuzzini, John T. Edge, Kenny Callaghan, Jimmy Hagood, Frank Stitt, Sam Mason, Matt & Ted Lee, Susan Spicer, Rick Tramonto, Virginia Willis, R.W. Apple Jr. and many, many more!