This morning, the Charleston Wine + Food Festival kicked off with the requisite opening ceremonies.
Mayor Riley started it all off by basically saying the same stuff he always says. Isn't Charleston wonderful? Aren't Charlestonians just wonderful? Isn't this festival wonderful? Yes, it is! Let's get on with it already.
Circa 1886 Chef Marc Collins, one of the festival founders, presented his eponymous award to former Charleston Grill chef Bob Waggoner, who got up to the podium, said the word "shit" at one point ("I can say what I want, I don't work for a big hotel anymore.") and then made a pretty pointed dig at one of his former co-workers. I might not have this completely right, but basically he said he'd seen a new monument around town dedicated to Mickey Bakst and then asked if anybody else had seen that little gnome around (referring to the Travelocity Gnome, which has been showing up all over the place). Hard to tell if the joke was good-natured or sour grapes. I guess only those two would know for sure. (Note confused faces of crowd surrounding Waggoner in photo below.)
Then former chair Laura Hewitt gave her culinary legend award to Martha Lou Gadsden, who came up to the podium, was given her big old plate, and then basically sent on her way. It was a little abrupt and weird, and I was pretty disappointed to see Miss Martha Lou get the short shrift. Even if she didn't want to speak, Hewitt or somebody could have asked her a couple of questions to get her talking.
After that, the Mayor was teamed up with Top Cheftestant Brian Voltaggio for a cooking competition against Collins and Waggoner. Matt and Ted Lee emceed and judged. It smelled good. A surprising number of people in the crowd had never eaten boiled peanuts — say what?
Ultimately, I can't even tell you who won. I tuned out and was simply waiting for the sommeliers to saber open their champagne bottles. I love when they do that. It was quite dramatic, and then poor Rick Rubel of Charleston Grill was unable to get his bottle to open and he had to resort to the old-fashioned popping of the cork. No matter, the festival was officially underway and everyone headed to the line to get into the Top Chef Challenge.
As for me, I stopped by the Lowcountry Local First tent to check out artist Karin Olah's seasonal prints that they're selling to raise money before heading inside the Grand Tasting Tents for a sneak preview.