The festival is known for championing diversity in its programs.
In the past several months, sexual assault allegations against chefs and restaurateurs such as Mario Batali and Ken Friedman have rocked the food world. In the wake of these revelations, more women have come forward urging their peers to, in the words of pastry chef Lisa Donovan, "own your stories," while influential members of the industry such as Anthony Bourdain have highlighted the need to create a more welcoming environment for women in kitchens. The Atlanta Food and Wine Festival has decided to respond to an environment where the voices of women are sometimes ignored or underrepresented by putting together an all-female Advisory Council for this year’s festivities. It’s hard not be reminded of the wave allegations when considering the festival’s decision, but regardless, any gathering of experts in the food world that prioritizes diversity is a welcome change for an industry that is still dominated by men.
“When you gather the intuition and perspective of women as a group, you get a rare chance to see and taste food through the heart. That indeed is truly exciting, and I appreciate the Atlanta Food & Wine Festival for making women a priority,” Sarah Gavigan chef and owner of POP Nashville, Otaku Ramen and Little Octopus, said in a statement from the festival.
The festival was founded by two women, Dominique Love and Elizabeth Feichter, and has never shied away from addressing potentially controversial topics during its programming. In fact, one of the festival’s main goals in past years has been to highlight diversity: Past programs have included a class called ““Where are the Black Chefs?” and “Powerful and Delicious,” a dinner focused on the contributions of women chefs from the South.
“AF&WF has always been a pioneer in bringing to light female chefs, especially female chefs of color. I've been involved with the Festival from its inception, and my career trajectory has in so many ways been defined by the spotlight the Festival shined on me. Year after year, I'm awed by the cutting edge programming the Festival brings to the table, it is no different this year. I am proud to be a member of the 2018 Festival Advisory Council with such magnificent women who will reshape the work environment for future generations of girls around the world," says Asha Gomez chef at The Third Space in Atlanta.
The festival will take place from May 31 to June 3 and will be sponsored in part by Kentucky-based company Woodford Reserve, which said that it is “delighted…to support the many women, including our own Chef-in-Residence, Ouita Michel, who have made and continue to make great strides in the food and beverage industry. Their dedication and passion for their craft is inspiring to all of us.” You can find the full list of the Advisory Council members—which boasts an impressive level of diversity—here.