In just a few short days, the 3rd Annual Feast Portland will commence. Feast is the Pacific Northwest’s flagship food and beverage event, aimed at showcasing the region’s bounty. This year’s line-up boasts some of the world’s greatest chefs, innovators, and mixologists (plenty of whom happen to be women), who are all making the trek to Portland, Oregon, to show off their culinary prowess in a four-day eating extravaganza. RENDER had the privilege to speak with Feast's leading lady and Co-Founder, Carrie Welch, about this year’s festival highlights, her favorite food thinkers, and her goals for the future.
According to Welch, this year has been dubbed “The Bedazzle Year,” since a major focus was placed on recreating favorite events from past years, but with even more pizazz. “The challenge is besting ourselves each year. It’s like trying new things at your favorite restaurant. There’s something that makes you keep coming back.”
In particular, the Dinner Series has expanded to include more robust events, giving feasters the opportunity to enjoy “the meal of a lifetime.” The dinners range from extravagant, star-studded line-ups, such as “The Hot 10,” to more intimate affairs that focus on collaborations between chefs with similar cooking styles, such as Aviary’s Friday dinner featuring its own Sarah Pliner cooking alongside Alma’s Ari Taylor.
A quick glance at this year’s events and you will also notice an impressive list of female participants. “We’re cognizant of the number of women and the diversity of cuisines represented,” said Welch. The contributions women are making to the food and beverage have not gone unnoticed by the Feast staff, which is comprised mostly of women as well.
On the topic of women and food, Welch commented on the region’s burgeoning “unrestaurant” scene. “Pop ups are having a big movement and they’re here to stay.” All over the country, aspiring chefs have turned to the supper club business model to build their culinary businesses. This model requires less initial investment than a traditional brick and mortar restaurant, but still gives them the opportunity to receive invaluable feedback from their peers and future customers on their menus. It’s especially conducive to female chefs, who sometimes require more flexibility as they balance family and work life. Welch, who just welcomed a new baby with wife Jannie, noted that she was recently one of eight pregnant women in Portland’s food scene.
Perhaps this is why Welch hopes to add more family friendly events to future festivals. With the planning for the Feast 2015 already underway, she says a big focus is on inclusivity. The team plans on expanding the larger events, raising more money for charity, and creating more affordable options so that a greater number of people are able to attend.
To conclude our conversation, I asked Welch to list some of her favorite food thinkers. They included the infamous Alice Waters, Food Network President Brooke Johnson, Chef April Bloomfield (The Spotted Pig), and Chef Dominique Crenn (Atelier Crenn), who uses Instagram to offer a unique perspective on food that demonstrates her intelligence while presenting it in a fun way.
Feast Portland events will take place around Portland, beginning this Thursday, September 18th and concluding on Sunday, September 21st. To buy tickets to the events, visit feastportland.com.