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Jewels of the Lowcountry

Jewels of the Lowcountry

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Advanced Sommelier Patrick Emerson Joins BB&T Charleston Wine + Food Festival as Wine and Beverage Director

Patrick Emerson Photo


Patrick Emerson, founder of Communion Wine Club LLC. and outgoing Board member at the BB&T Charleston Wine + Food, has joined the Festival as wine and beverage director in a consultant capacity. In his new role, Emerson will nominate and recruit top wineries, winemakers, distillers and brewers to participate in the Festival.  He will also develop innovative seminars and tastings for the beverage program hosted during the four-day Festival at The Culinary Institute of Charleston. In addition, Emerson will partner wineries with participating restaurants for the Festival’s much loved intimate dinner series.  “I have been involved with the Festival since its inception and I’m thrilled to step into an expanded role to help create an awesome 10th anniversary celebration,” says Emerson.

Executive Director Gillian Zettler adds, “Patrick is committed to enhancing the wine and beverage experience throughout our Festival, and I’m delighted to have someone with his beverage expertise working to bring the very best beverage offerings to the BB&T Charleston Wine + Food Festival.”

Since 2004, Emerson has been a leading sommelier and wine director in the restaurant wine community in Charleston. His restaurant wine lists have been awarded 28 Wine Spectator “Award of Excellence.” In November 2012, he was voted as the top sommelier in Charleston and was honored at the Festival’s highly acclaimed Ultimate Critics Dinner. As a founding member of the Charleston chapter of the US Bartenders’ Guild, Emerson is also a celebrated mixologist, garnering praise in GQ Magazine (winner of the Bombay Sapphire Challenge), Southern Living, Food and Wine Magazine (best cocktails), LocalPalate, Charleston Magazine, City Paper and The Post and Courier.

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Nine Lasting Impressions from Year Nine

What a fun, delicious, action-packed blur! It wasn’t easy, but we’ve selected 9  highlights from the 9th annual BB&T Charleston Wine + Food Festival to share with you – enjoy!


The originality and creativity of Chef Nico Romo’s Charcuterie Pyramid at the BB&T Sponsor Recognition Party.

Fish Chef Nico Romo provided hors d’ouvres at this reception honoring the Festival’s top influencers in a very nontraditional format. Taking up almost an entire room of the historical William Aiken House on King Street, Romo’s pyramid featured cured meats, cheeses, pâtés and other snacks attached with miniature clothespins and handmade paper cups. Guests enjoyed conversing about the centerpiece as much as they enjoyed eating it. In addition, the party featured an ice sculpture reminiscent of the 2014 Festival poster by artist Lisa Shimko, and music by the Charleston Symphony Orchestra. Needless to say, this exclusive event set the tone for the rest of the weekend.


The Thrilling Experience (and value!) brought by Charleston’s most talented at Salute to Charleston Chefs: Opening Night Party presented by the Art Institute of Charleston.

Despite the bleak weather outside, guests were quickly transported into a warm lounge atmosphere in the Art Institute of Charleston’s Main Event Tent, where Charleston’s finest served up samples of cuisine, savory and sweet. With one trip around the tent, guests were able to intimately interact with the who’s who of Charleston chefs, from Mike Lata to Sean Brock, Kevin Johnson to Jeremiah Bacon; this event was a rare opportunity to see Chefs from all of Charleston’s hottest restaurants in one place. Dishes did not disappoint, from Chef Kevin Johnson’s Fish Crudo taco to Chef Jason Rheinewald’s Braised Oxtail. Overall, the evening was a memorable spotlight of Charleston cuisine, the true inspiration of the Charleston Wine + Food Festival.


The Gorgeous (and Green!) Dinnerware

Our new sponsor, VerTerra, is literally dinnerware from fall leaves – palm leaves, that is. These stylish, sustainable single-use plates, bowls and cutlery were at almost every event at the Festival, and they got generated a lot of attention. No trees are ever harvested or cut down.  No chemicals, waxes, dyes or additives are applied.  No harmful toxins.  All VerTerra products are BPI-certified compostable and naturally biodegrade within two months after use. And did we mention how stylish these dishes are?  Made from just palm leaves and water, we are delighted with their beauty, their size, and their friendly team. They were a big talking point at the Festival and we had to give them a shout out.

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A full day of exciting opportunities in the 2014 Culinary Village.

This year’s Culinary Village was a spectacular footprint of indoor and outdoor culinary opportunities.  A ticket to the Village offered entry into the Baker Motor Company’s Grand Tasting Tent,  filled with dozens of tasting opportunities from local and nationwide vendors. The airy and inviting Southern Season Open Air Artisan Market featured the latest products and retail. The Southern Foodways Alliance educated guests on such topics as oyster shucking and cured meats. The Chateau D’Esclans Rose Garden + Grilling Area chefs interacted and demoed culinary skills with guests in an intimate sunny setting. The Whole Foods Wine Shop brought Whole Food’s extensive wine retail (and growlers!) to Marion Square. And the new Bay Street Biergarten was popping with brews, nibbles, corn hole and pop-up tables for visiting. The bottom line: this year, the Culinary Village alone provided a full day of eating and drinking for one cost – all-inclusive, educational and delicious.


Roger Gelis (Proof), Dale DeGroff (King Cocktail), Julian Van Winkle, Craig Nelson (Proof), and Mike Morris (Proof)

The rapt audiences at our Beverage Seminars, like the Culinary Institute of Charleston’s Bourbon Born seminar at Proof (above).

The Festival offers an incredible range of beverage seminars featuring a broad spectrum of wine varietals.  This year, we added a Southern spirit. No doubt, bourbon is a beloved brown spirit, and on a chilly wet Thursday, Proof hosted a beverage seminar that highlighted the philosophy and production styles of bourbon hosted by none other than Julian Van Winkle himself.  Each audience member thrilled with the insight of this bourbon diety’s wisdom, proof of how much our guests appreciate both educational and delicious events.


Kevin Gillespie (Gun Show) and Chris Shepherd (Underbelly) compete against Waffle House Master Blaster Jeff in the final round of the Waffle House Smackdown.


From Left: Michael Hudman (Andrew Michael Italian Kitchen), Kevin Gillespie (Gun Show), Mike Lata (FIG), Chris Shepherd (Underbelly), and Master Blaster Chef (Waffle House)

The serious (and seriously funny) competition at the Waffle House Smackdown presented by Charleston City Paper.

Take four of the nation’s most acclaimed chefs and put them in a Waffle House kitchen. This may seem like an unlikely combination, but this juxtaposition drew a packed house in the SCE&G Celebrity Kitchen in the Culinary Village. This year, the participants, who included Chef Mike Lata of FIG (last year’s winner), Chef Kevin Gillespie of Gunshow, Chef Chris Shepherd of Underbelly, and Chef Michael Hudman of Andrew Micheal Italian Kitchen, took the competition very seriously. Ultimately, Chef Chris Shepherd came out on top, but soon after, a twist in the competition revealed that he would have to defeat an actual Waffle House Master Blaster to truly win the title. Despite enlisting the help of runner-up Kevin Gillespie, the Waffle House Master Blaster Jeff, received a perfect score, blowing the two chefs out of the water. What did we learn? After another successful Waffle House Smackdown, people really love a little competition, humor, and the Waffle House.



Chef Edward Lee during his cooking demonstration.

Cookbook pages come to life in Small Batch Bourbons + Hog Heaven Cooking Demonstration + Tasting with Chef Edward Lee presented by SCE&G.

A new ticket this year, the cooking demonstrations in the SCE&G Celebrity kitchen provided guests with intimate education and interaction with some of the culinary industries most acclaimed personalities. Known for his sense of humor and vast experience, Chef Edward Lee tought guests all there was to know about cooking with bourbon. While everyone else in the world can purchase Chef Lee’s cookbook Smoke and Pickles: Recipes and Stories from a New Southern Kitchen to get the insights of his Southern style, guests at his demo were able to interact with him one on one, bringing the book pages to life, and delighting guests with education served up alongside great food, causing his demo, and many of the others that took place throughout the weekend, to stand out as a valuable moment.


New + Notable (Custom)

Chefs Brett Cooper (Outerlands), Justin Burdett (Ruka’s Table), Jenna Hodges (Colt & Gray), Michael Toscano (Perla) at the New + Notables Dinner.

The delicious talent at the New + Notables Dinner presented by SieMatic.

Charleston is a city based in tradition, but constantly recognizing what’s new. This practice was also put into place at the 2014 Festival. This year’s New + Notables dinner recognized some of the country’s top up-and-coming chefs. Nominated by the first participants of the 2013 New + Notables dinner, this elite group included three national chefs, one Charleston chef, a pastry chef and winemaker. As expected, the result was a spectacular dinner with picture-worthy dishes that gave guests a take of what is to come in the Culinary world.


Pitmaster Rodney Scott serving guests at Rigs, Pigs, + Swigs.

The quintessentially Southern, laid-back atmosphere of Rigs, Pigs, + Swigs presented by the Charleston Harbor Resort.

Imagine 24-hour-cooked barbecue, beverages, and good music all against the backdrop of a picturesque views of the Charleston skyline. Sounds great, doesn’t it? That’s why Rigs, Pigs + Swigs stands out as the finale to remember. At the Festival, we’re all about reflecting Charleston’s friendly and hospitable culture, and what better way to bid farewell to guests than with a barbecue complete with some of the South’s finest pitmasters including Rodney Scott and Fox Bros. Barbecue. Country singer Mark Cooke performed original songs in addition to classic covers, serving as the soundtrack to the sunset of the 2014 Festival – we think the best one yet!


We hope you enjoyed our 9th Festival as much as we did! We’re already hard at work to create an amazing celebration – our 10th anniversary! — next year.

Save the Date: March 5-8th, 2015

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From Brunch to Bar-B-Que: Day Four at the Festival


Nothing’s better than brunch on a sunny Sunday morning, and the final day of the Festival held no exception. Guests arrived at the Governor Thomas Bennett House to find the beautiful gardens decorated for the Lowcountry Jazz Brunch presented by the Post and Courier and Motley Rice LLC. Bartenders served up mimosas and bloody marys under the Spanish moss as a quartet of musicians including Charlton Singleton, Lee Barbour, Kevin Hamilton, and Quentin Baxter played a collection of jazz tunes. Guests were seated for a three-course brunch, provided by some of Charleston’s best restaurants and caterers including BLU Folly Beach, Fleet Landing, Kitchen 208, Mediterra Catering, and Poogan’s Porch. As if the bright décor, perfect weather, and delicious food didn’t make this event great enough, add in the sharp dressed guests and southern hats, and it was a home run!

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That perfect weather also brought out droves of people back at the Culinary Village in Marion Square. The Festival saw a huge increase in sales on Sunday as many locals, who received a discounted price on Sunday tickets, decided to treat themselves to all of the options that came with their Culinary Village ticket. The Bay Street Pop-up Biergarten was just about full the entire day as people enjoyed sampling brews outdoors. Overall, this year’s Culinary Village concept was highly successful, and according to guests, well worth the ticket price.

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The 2014 Festival wrapped up with the popular Rigs, Pigs + Swigs event presented by the Charleston Harbor Fish House and took place at the Memorial Waterfront Park located beneath the Ravenel Bridge. You could smell this event from a mile away! Some of the South’s best pitmasters including Aaron Siegel of Home Team BBQ, Rodney Scott of Scott’s Bar-B-Que, and Jonathan + Justin Fox of Fox Bros Bar-B-Q posted up along the edge of the Cooper River and served up succulent barbecue dishes. Guests snacked and enjoyed beer, wine, and cocktails all while enjoying the entertainment of Mark Cooke. Cooke, a country music singer-songwriter, kept the crowd dancing with contemporary country tunes and classic covers well past sundown. The event was the perfect end to what seems like the best Festival yet!

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Can you believe it’s already over? This weekend was a delicious blur, and we hope guests enjoyed every minute of it! We sure did, and we’re already planning for next year! Save the date: March 5-8th, 2015 – our 10th anniversary!

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Saturday Smackdown and More: Day Three Recap

Shepherd. Gillespie. Lata. Hudman. Four chefs came in the hopes of earning the coveted title of Master Blaster. Saturday morning, the SCE&G Celebrity Kitchen was filled with guests hungry for steaming grits served alongside heated competition for the Second Annual Waffle House Smackdown presented by the Charleston City Paper. After being recognized as one of the best events of last year’s Festival, staff brought it back, and it (not surprisingly) sold out almost immediately. At the event’s 10:30am start time, every chair was occupied and each guest feasted on grit bowls as they awaited the beginning of the battle. Judges for this year’s competition included representatives from the Charleston City Paper, Thermador, Waffle House, and audience members who received special Golden Tickets in their copy of Charleston City Paper’s food issue given upon entering.


Andrew Knowlton, Restaurant Editor of Bon Appétit magazine, served as emcee for the event, and introduced the contestants, who included Michael Hudman of Andrew Michael Italian Kitchen in Memphis, Kevin Gillespie of Atlanta’s Gunshow (actually a former Waffle House Employee), Chris Shepherd of Houston restaurant Underbelly, and Mike Lata of FIG, who took home the title and the Golden Waffle in last year’s competition. Chef Gillespie and Chef Hudman were up first, with Chef Gillespie reigning supreme. Chefs Shepherd and Lata battled next, and Shepherd ending up ousting last year’s defending champion. In the final round, Chef Gillespie and Chef Shepherd were paired up, with Chef Shepherd taking the prize due to his high scores in accuracy, measured by the contestant’s ability to follow the Waffle House plate marking and arranging protocol that the chefs learned during their training sessions at Waffle House locations in their respective cities.

Just when Chef Chris Shepherd thought he had grasped waffle glory, actual Waffle House Master Blaster, local grill operator Jeff Appleman, who has worked for the company for six and a half years, entered the tent, adding a new twist to this year’s competition in which the winner would have to cook against a Waffle House team member. Chef Shepherd was visibly worried about this added challenge, and enlisted the help of runner up Chef Gillespie. Ultimately, even two top chefs couldn’t match the taste, presentation, and accuracy of Jeff, who was given a perfect score. Despite Master Blaster Jeff’s obvious victory, Waffle House representatives still awarded Chef Shepherd with a golden omelet pan, and also gave the additional participants plaques that aptly read, “I got scattered, smothered, and covered at the Waffle House Smackdown.” Once again, the Waffle House Smackdown was a major success.

The Waffle House event ended just in time for Stacked: A Sandwich Showcase presented by Every Day with Rachel Ray magazine and featuring Brown’s Court Bakery Bread and Creminelli Fine Meats. The Art Institute of Charleston Main Event Tent was transformed to resemble the perfect picnic, complementing each of the participants’ takes on the Italian sandwich.

Saturday evening, guests arrived back at the reinvented Art Institute of Charleston Main Event Tent, entering into a disco paradise full of drinks and munchies provided by participants such as Outta My Huevos food truck and CO. Guests were dancing and having a great time, but when Quiana Parlor and the Shiny Disco Ball Band took the stage, the crowd went wild as they performed a variety of tunes including everything from Marvin Gaye to Beyonce, ending the night on a memorable note.



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Thursday Night at the Festival: What Rain?

The countdown is over. The Festival is here and rain or shine (literally), Festival staff put on quite a start Thursday night to the 2014 Festival.

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The William-Aiken House served as the backdrop for the Official Sponsor Recognition and VIP Party presented by BB&T. Guests enjoyed escaping the chill and exploring the historic rooms and sampling hors d’oeuvres prepared by Nico Romo of Fish. Each room had a new surprise to intrigue guests, from a representation of the Festival’s poster in ice sculpture form to a pyramid of clothes-pinned charcuterie.


Directly after the VIP Party, doors were opened to the Salute to Charleston Chefs: Opening Night Party presented by the Art Institute of Charleston, which returned to its home in the Main Event Tent in Marion Square. Guests were immediately transported out of the chill into a cozy lounge environment complete with rich draperies and leather furniture, surrounded by the best of Charleston’s chefs presenting tastes of dishes, savory and sweet.

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Hallie Arnold, who won the Festival Mixologist Competition back in February, served her cocktail named Swan Song to guests eager to try the 2014 Festival’s Signature Cocktail. Everyone enjoyed its fresh, unique taste with flavors of guava, fennel, and Szechuan peppercorn.


The Festival’s Executive Director Gillian Zettler said a few words of thanks to the chefs and sponsors making this weekend possible, as well as acknowledged the vision of the Festival staff. Dillon Snider from the Art Institute of Charleston spoke positively of the Festival’s benefits to the students and the schools in the Charleston area. Randi Weinstein, Director of Events, presented the Chef Mark Collins Award to Chef Frank McMahon of Hank’s Seafood restaurant, raving about his enthusiastic involvement in all aspects of the Festival.

Randi Weinstein awards Chef Frank McMahon

Braised Palmetto Beef Oxtail, Oyster Mushrooms, and Geechie Boy Grits prepared by Jason Rheinwald of The Ocean Room

Braised Palmetto Beef Oxtail, Oyster Mushrooms, and Geechie Boy Grits prepared by Jason Rheinwald of The Ocean Room

Soft Corn Taco with Fish Crudo and Spring Vegetable Guacamole prepared by Chef Kevin Johnson of the Grocery

Throughout the rest of the evening, guests enjoyed the sounds of Charlton Singleton and his  band and mingled with some of Charleston’s finest. It was a great event; here’s to a great Festival!


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