ASHEVILLE – A collective of local creatives are hatching plans for how best to showcase and celebrate the flavors of the Southern Appalachians.
This year, the chef-driven event formerly known as Chow Chow Culinary Festival will return with a new name, new dates and a different venue. And the organizers are introducing a contemporary approach to build support for the local, independent and creative food and beverage community that’s driving the region’s industry “to empower economic resilience.”
“The number one thing that sets us apart is our genuinely intense focus on the Southern Appalachian foodways and the history ― the arc — of that narrative. How did we get there and where are we going?” said Chow Chow’s new executive director, Melissa Scheiderer.
Scheiderer shared details about what the nonprofit organization’s cooking up for Chow Chow 2023, and why it’s an event weekend not to be missed.
Here are five things to know about this year’s homegrown culinary extravaganza.
Chow Chow has a new name
Chow Chow Culinary Festival was founded by a group of local visionaries that included James Beard Award–winning chefs Katie Button, Meherwan Irani and John Fleer and East Fork’s co-founder Connie Matisse in 2019.
As of this year, the event will have a new name going forward ― Chow Chow Food & Culture Festival.
The change is to better communicate what the event is about, which goes beyond what’s on a plate.
“The term culinary, it makes a lot of sense, but it doesn’t really include all the farmers that are in our ecosystem and the makers and all the creative spirit of Asheville, especially as it relates to food,” Scheiderer said. “We wanted to be inclusive, we wanted to be durable. We know that it’s more than just a food festival, so where we settled was two simple words: food and culture.”
The organization’s Board of Directors has new and returning members representing the local restaurants, food and beverage businesses and community-focused groups.
Shay Brown, of the local events agency Shay & Company, will resume her role as festival director.
The festival series has new dates
Chow Chow 2023 is set for Sept. 7-10.
It’s a significant change from last year, when the event series spanned over three weekends during the 2022 Summer of Chow Chow.
A condensed calendar
For 2023, the festival will scale back to one weekend, as it was in its debut year. However, the series will be even more robust.
The schedule details will be announced in the upcoming weeks and will include a host of dinners, workshops, performances, tastings, talks and demonstrations.
In addition to food tastings, a wide assortment of beverages will be available that include local, craft spirits and zero-proof drinks, beer, sodas and more.
A new venue
Chow Chow will return to its original home in Pack Square Park in downtown Asheville.
The main stage and maker’s market will be in the open-air venue, and the organizers teased that some festival programming will be hosted across the city.
“The bulk of our events will have this gravity in the heart of downtown Asheville, which I think will be fun and different from the previous years,” Scheiderer said.
Tickets will go on sale in April ― the exact date to be determined.
The price to pay to mix and mingle with Chow Chow’s chefs, makers, artists, farmers, storytellers and entrepreneurs will vary from low and no-cost events to paid, ticketed sessions.
The cost for each program will be announced later, too.
“We want the event to feel welcoming to folks from different socioeconomic backgrounds, folks who might be interested in food and food culture or dining or agriculture, and folks who just want to learn about the region and the history and want to feel more connected to the place that they live,” Scheiderer said.
The organizers welcome visitors to the area to partake, learn and take what they’ve learned about the Southern Appalachians back to their homes.
Partial proceeds go toward Chow Chow’s mission to generate money in the local economy, which includes paying those working the festival.
“We understand that asking them to step away from their revenue-generating activities of their life is a big sacrifice,” she said. “We are spending, it will probably be close to a quarter to a third of our budget just on honorariums. … We see that as a direct infusion of cash into the community that we are celebrating.”
For announcements about ticket sales, speakers and more, visit chowchowasheville.com and follow on social media, @chowchow_avl.
Save the date for these local foodie festivals
Wine and Chocolate Festival. March 11. wineandchocolatefestivals.com
Grindfest. May 26-28. grindfestavl.com
Heritage Fire. July 16. heritagefiretour.com/asheville/
Goombay Festival. Sept. 1-3. ymiculturalcenter.org/goombay
Asheville Veganfest. Oct. 8. ashevilleveganfest.com
Ciderfest NC. Nov. 4. ciderfestnc.com
Tiana Kennell is the food and dining reporter for the Asheville Citizen Times, part of the USA Today Network. Email her at firstname.lastname@example.org or follow her on Twitter/Instagram @PrincessOfPage. Please support this type of journalism with asubscription to the Citizen Times.