Lyndsay Burginger

North Carolina Hosts First Chow Chow Festival

Nestled in the heart of the Blue Ridge Mountains, Asheville, North Carolina is on the move to be one of the foodie meccas of the South. Influenced by Southern Appalachia heritage and local agriculture built by generational farmers, the food culture in Asheville far exceeds what you would expect from a city of its size. This year Katie Button, Chef, and Owner of Cúrate and Button & Co. Bagels, Meherwan Irani, Chai Pani Chef & Chief of Chaiwalla, Jael Rattigan, Co-Founder and CEO of French Broad Chocolate, and Jessica Reiser, Co-Founder of Burial Beer were among some of the visionaries behind bringing Chow Chow, an Appalachian food festival to Asheville.

All About Chow Chow Festival in Asheville, NC

Founded by a group of community-committed volunteers, Chow Chow was created to showcase the culinary scene of Southern Appalachia along with the many creative makers in the community. Along with high-end, luxury experiences like the Mountain Top Soiree Party and local farm dinners, Chow Chow Asheville also included free or affordably priced chef demonstrations and panel discussions, a Makers Market, and a Food Truck Rodeo.

While it is named Chow Chow, the festival is not entirely focused on the southern relish and topping. There's no eating contests, no chow chow recipe competitions. No deep-fried chow chow on a stick. Instead, the name Chow Chow Festival encompasses all foods found in the region.

My Chow Chow Festival Experience

One of the main reasons I moved to Asheville, North Carolina two years ago was their local food scene. Not only is Western North Carolina home to over 74 different breweries, but it is also home to a variety of different culinary experiences ranging from grabbing a steamed bun from a local food truck to foraging in the woods for your own mushrooms on a guided tour. Food in Asheville has soul and Chow Chow: an Asheville culinary event, harnassed it beautifully.

I was invited by Chow Chow to attend their Grand Tasting (promptly named Pickled in the Park), and participate in some of the immersive experiences. Walking around the food tent was fun and filling, as I snacked on bites and confections from local restaurants. But the real magic happened when the keynote speakers took the stage at Pack Square Park. Culinary celebrities like Vivian Howard of A Chef's Life on PBS and Jose Andres shared their thought on the food world. Vivian explored how the pickle (and chow chow) was created through an interactive pickle history map while Jose shared his thoughts on philanthropy in the food industry.

Understanding the history and origin of regional recipes is one of my favorite things to learn about. While at the festival I got the chance to speak with Pat and Ann Gassenheimer of Vegetable Kingdom. Check out what they had to say about Chow Chow and regional favorite: Brunswick Stew.

It was hot and sweaty but I loved every minute of it. I can't wait to see what next year's festival

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