Biz Buzz: Planning the Newport Beach Wine & Food Festival

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Lindsey Henn, Kelly Jawor, Stefanie Salem, Katy Higgins — NB Indy Photo ©
Lindsey Henn, Kelly Jawor, Stefanie Salem, Katy Higgins
— Photo by PencilBoxPhoto.com

We hear buzz words all the time. One of the many we cannot always properly define is “foodie.” What, or who, is a foodie?

If you:

·    Think about food when you first awake and think about dinner after just finishing breakfast—you may be a foodie.

·    If your social life is more focused on what you eat than who you are with—you may be a foodie.

·    If you take pictures of your food and share on all your social media sites, there is no “might” about it—you are a foodie.

Those with foodie tendencies will have a great time at the inaugural Newport Beach Wine & Food Festival to be held at the Civic Center grounds September 19 – 21.

Newport Beach has been lacking a major food event since the end of the “Taste of Newport” in 2012, and though this is not designed to take the place of that iconic event, Newport Beach Wine & Food Festival is meant to be an annual event that puts Newport Beach on the worldwide food stage.

For two days, those that love food and want to see the pros in action will be entertained and fed by world-renowned chefs such as Bravo’s “Top Chef Masters” winner Rick Bayless, “Top Chef” Richard Blais, Newport’s own Jamie Gwen (“Cutthroat Kitchen” winner), “Chopped” winner Joe Youkhan, and many more.

There will be cooking demos, a sommelier panel, cuisine from top local restaurants and chefs, more than a dozen wineries, and musical offerings including James Torme (son of Mel), Carol Weisman and others.

Those are the basic facts, but I was more curious about the “who” and the “why,” so I met with Festival founders Stefanie Salem, Kelly Jawor and Lindsey Henn (missing was Event Director Katy Higgins).

These four powerful and impressive women are a wealth of resources, experiences, connections, and above all, passion.

I wondered if this is designed to be a new iteration of the “Taste of Newport?” The answer is “no,” but is modeled after similar events throughout the world. The focus is to create a worldwide food and wine event for the city.

Stefanie sent notes to famous chefs and got a great response, so she submitted their ideas to the city for approval, and also to use the Civic Center as a venue.

After a positive response, Stefanie gathered and grew her Lady Power team and put their plan in action.

These self-professed foodies enlisted chefs, wine experts, musicians, and sponsors, and designed an event to support the community as well as charity. The charities they chose are Project Hope Alliance which is committed to helping homeless children, and Hoag Hospital Foundation, the philanthropic arm of Hoag Hospital.

After all expenses are paid the net revenue will be split between these two great causes.

This event is not looking to draw crowds of people that some “taste of” events do. Instead, they are looking for enthusiasts, wine lovers, students of cooking, and those that want to meet in an “intimate environment” those culinary geniuses they admire. The ultimate goal is to bring in an audience from outside Southern California and create a food-centric introduction to the city.

The Lady Power team will be entering this festival in the “Global Events Award” competition. Team member Katy has been a previous winner of that prestigious award.

Partnering along with the city is the Newport Beach Restaurant Association, the Newport Beach Visitors Bureau, and a host of others.

When asked “Why Newport?” Stefanie responded: “I have lived in Newport Beach for more than 10 years and have been fully immersed in its incredible culinary scene, and saw an opportunity to bring a world-class food and wine experience to Newport Beach—and I took it!”

Kelly is also a long time resident of more than 10 years, and her husband grew up here. Lindsey is the daughter of Councilmember and former Mayor Mike Henn, so Newport Beach blood runs through her veins as well.

Southern California is not without world class food and wine festivities. All three ladies attended the recent Los Angeles Food & Wine Festival, which celebrated its 4th anniversary.

When asked if they saw or learned anything at the L.A. event, Stefanie said “Trying Richard Blais’ food and chatting with him at the Festival made us even more excited for what we can do here. While the L.A. Festival brought a grand tasting experience on a larger scale, ours will be more intimate and full of special touches. We also provide guests unlimited access to all daytime programming for the price of one ticket, including eight live cooking demos each day.”

Single day passes are $195, or $350 for both days, which begin at 11 a.m. and conclude at 5 p.m. For more information contact NewportWineAndFood.com.

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