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Savannah Food & Wine Festival showcases Hostess City’s growing pool of culinary talent

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Savannah Food & Wine Festival showcases Hostess City’s growing pool of culinary talent

31 Oct 2017

Brian Cripps took over at Pacci Italian Kitchen + Bar as the executive chef about three months ago. It’s been non-stop work since he walked into the kitchen — leaving very little time for him to sample local restaurants or meet local chefs.

Which is why he says he is excited to participate in his first Savannah Food & Wine Festival.

“I’ve been wanting to meet more local chefs and try their menus, and this is the perfect way to do that.”

The annual event takes place Nov. 7-12 and features a wide array of events and classes. And while the festival brings in a wealth of talent from outside of Savannah, it has quickly become a stage for local talent to shine as well. Cripps says with the level of culinary talent coming into Savannah, the local scene is “definitely coming up.”

“I think the Savannah food scene is on the cusp of an explosion,” he says. “We’ve seen what’s happening at The Grey, we’ve got Sean Brock setting up a new place. I ate at the Atlantic one night — one of the few places I’ve been able to get to — and it was probably one of the best meals I’ve ever eaten. We’re just seeing a lot of talented people coming this way.”

He says he witnessed a similar food scene explosion when he worked in Providence, R.I.

“There were a lot of chefs from Boston and New York that left the big city and went to that middle point in Providence … and it became this city where you had these really great chefs doing great food in that town and it just exploded — I see that happening here.”

Cripps should finally get that chance to meet his peers and sample some of Savannah’s best cuisine when he makes an appearance at the Secret Savannah Speakeasy at 8 p.m. Nov. 9 at the Georgia State Railroad Museum.

The event features some of the city’s brightest “taste-makers” with hand-crafted cocktails and craft brews, entertainment from local favorite Laiken Love & Fellowship of Love and a Prohibition-era costume contest.

Joining Cripps that evening are Dusty Grove of Edgar’s Proof & Provision; Kurtis Schumm of Tybee Island Fish Camp and Tybee Island Social Club; Brian Whittington of St. Augustine; Pat McNamara of Noble Fare; David Landigran of Circa 1875; Shaun O’Neale of Las Vegas; Anthony Smith and Greg Garrison of Prohibition; and Michael Gottlieb and Laurence Gottlieb of Wood’s Kitchen and Gottlieb’s Bakery.

Another local chef joining the group that evening is Will Herrington, executive chef at Kitchen 320 at B Historic Savannah.

Like Cripps, Herrington believes the culinary scene in Savannah is really starting to take off.

“It’s a great place to be right now,” he says. “The competition is here and it’s just a beautiful time to be in the culinary world in Savannah.”

Herrington says he’s excited to be a part of this year’s Savannah Food & Wine Festival. “We have a whole week to showcase what Savannah has to offer.”

He admits he’s so excited to be a part of the festival this year, he’s asked to be a part of as many events as possible. For the Speakeasy event, he plans to make his Lowcountry paella.

“I like to think outside the box and do something different but utilize all the wonderful ingredients we have here in the Lowcountry.”

While his dish sounds tempting, he’s looking forward to these events so he can try a little of everything and “speak to these chefs and hear their great stories.”

“I love to talk to people and I think these events are a great way to meet the person behind the dish.”

Herrington will also be at Whisky at The Whitman from 6:30-9:30 p.m. Nov. 7 at The Whitman Mansion, 611 Whitaker St. Tickets are $150 and all proceeds go to benefit local charity The 200 Club of the Coastal Empire.

The event features several local chefs and their culinary creations paired with a variety of whiskeys. Along with Herrington, chefs include Francisco Jimenez of Hilton Head; Jennifer Booker of Atlanta; Michael Sullivan of Arkansas City, Kan.; Michael Roher of Sea Pines Resort; Jean Yves Vendeville and Gearry Caudell of Savannah Technical College; and Bob Vardzell of The Whitman.

Herrington is also participating in the sold-out Dinner in the Park as well as Taste of Savannah on Nov. 11.

“We are excited to be a part of the festival and I can’t believe how much this event has grown — I think that speaks to the people of Savannah. We want to be able to compete with cities like Charleston and Nashville and this event shows we are definitely moving in the right direction.

“It truly is a great time to be a part of the culinary scene in Savannah.”

IF YOU GO

What: Savannah Food & Wine Festival

When: Nov. 7-12

Where: Downtown Savannah

Cost: Varies per event, some events sold out

Info: savannahfoodandwinefest.com

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