“Each year, we strive to bring attendees an extraordinary lineup of the nation’s top celebrity chefs, San Diego’s best restaurants, and award-winning wineries, breweries and spirit companies,” said Michelle Metter, event organizer. “This year’s festival experience was nothing short of spectacular.”
A week-long series of events, including cooking classes, fundraiser lunches and a “grand tasting” held at Marina Park North, where upward of 5,000 people gathered to sip wine and sample fare from San Diego’s top restaurants, helped boost San Diego as a destination that is as desirable for its sautés as its sunny days.
Beach-area culinary talent was one of the many stars at the festival, including several local chefs placing in the “Chefs of the Fest” competition. In the top ten were chef Stephen Window from Roppongi Restaurant & Sushi Bar in La Jolla, chef Amy DiBiase from The Shores Restaurant and Jaison Burke from the Pearl Hotel in Point Loma. Burke took the People’s Choice Award.
Chef Bernard Guillas of The Marine Room also helped host a festival luncheon to benefit culinary scholarships for the next generation of chefs.
One of many highlights of the festival was its array of cooking classes. Held at the Macy’s School of Cooking in Mission Valley and The San Diego Wine & Culinary Center downtown, guests were taken on a culinary world tour.
Stops included a sherry and Spanish tapas class hosted by chef/owner James Campbell Caruso of La Boca in Santa Fe, N.M., and a celebration of Julia Child with modern twists on her classic French cooking by former “Iron Chef America” stars Katsuya Fukushima and RJ Kooper. This was not your mother’s apple Charlotte and chicken liver mousse. Fukushima and Kooper count cooking for Julia Child before her death in 2004 as one of their memorable culinary career accomplishments.
The festival was also a way to catch up on trends in the restaurant industry. For example, it captured the trend of moving toward small plates and high-energy eating environments.
“It’s part of a revolution across the U.S. People want to have an experience, to eat in a room that feels good,” said Caruso, who has extensive knowledge of Spanish culinary culture and features a wide variety of tapas and wines at his restaurant. “You should have the right space that brings people together.”
The San Diego Wine & Food Festival has been growing and adding new features every year and is already gearing up for 2013.
“We are looking forward to topping this year with our 10-year anniversary in 2013,” said Metter. “We’ve got some exciting things in the works for 2013, so stay tuned.”