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Memphis Food & Wine Festival

Culinary for a Cause

Story by Emily Adams Keplinger  | Photos by Baxter Buck

More than 40 chefs, some local and some from around the country, were joined by almost 40 vintners for this year’s Memphis Food & Wine Festival. The event, held at The Live Garden of Memphis Botanic Garden, was a feast for the senses as tantalizing aromas of culinary items mingled with the sight of rows of tented tables ringing the perimeter of the area under starry skies. Amy LaVere, Will Sexton, John Paul Keith and Ghost Town Blues Band brought their musical talents to the scene, performing from the stage for the crowd, and adding to the party-like atmosphere.

This year’s festival chef chairperson was José Gutierrez, chef/owner of River Oaks and one of six participating French Master Chefs. 

James Beard Foundation winner Wally Joe, chef/owner of Acre, was the festival’s co-chef chairperson. Other local chefs included Erling Jensen from Erling Jensen: The Restaurant; Andreas Kisler and Konrad Spitzbart from The Peabody; Patrick Reilly from The Majestic Grille; Ben Smith of Tsunami; and Ryan Trimm, whose restaurants include Sweet Grass, Next Door, 3rd and Court, and 117 Prime.

The roster of local culinary stars continued with Andrew Adams of Acre; Nick Scott from Alchemy; Russell Casey from Bounty on Broad; Raymond Jackson from The Cafe at Crosstown Arts; Josh Burkeen from Capital Grille; David Krog of Dory; Zach Nicholson of Lucky Cat Ramen; Franck Oysel from Interim; Jonathan Magallanes, chef/owner of Las Tortugas Deli Mexicana; Jimmy Gentry of P.O. Press Public House & Provisions; Valarie Hall, executive chef at Ridgeway Country Club; Chad Getchel of River Oaks; and Phillip Ashley Rix of Phillip Ashley Chocolates. The iconic Charlie Vergos’ Rendezvous was also represented.

Out-of-town chefs included Tory McPhail from Commander’s Palace in New Orleans, Deb Paquette from Etch in Nashville, and Ken Frank, Michelin starred chef-owner of La Toque in Napa Valley and Michael Smith of Farina in Kansas City, Missouri. Smith is a James Beard Best Chef-Midwest Award winner. 

And to go with each exquisite bite were more than 200 wines from vintners across the country. Sweet treats were also a part of the evening’s offerings and included miniature bourbon pecan pies, raspberry beignets with crème brûlée, espresso coffee mousse with coffee sponge cake and vanilla bean glaze served in edible dark chocolate teacups, a variety of flavors of gelato and more.

“Gutierrez, Al LaRocca, and Bob and Sherry Chimenti founded the festival three years ago,” explained Sandra Lewis, relationship manager at Le Bonheur Children’s Hospital. “Since 2016, Memphis Food & Wine Festival has raised more than $225,000 for FedExFamilyHouse.  

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