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Love of learning meets love of teaching at Savannah Food & Wine Fest Master Class Series


Love of learning meets love of teaching at Savannah Food & Wine Fest Master Class Series

02 Nov 2016

Every year, the Savannah Food & Wine Festival gives the community a chance to get up-close and personal with renowned chefs and sommeliers through its Master Class Series. The intimate, classroom-style environment provides a chance to not only learn about their craft but to also hear stories and secrets of the trade. Designed for all levels, this year’s series includes classes on pairing wines and tapas, creating craft cocktails, preparing foie gras and more.

All Master Class Series presentations have a limited ticket availability for each event, depending on location, and the full list of classes and costs can be found at

While these classes are led by some of the biggest names in the culinary and hospitality world, guests shouldn’t be afraid the subject matter will be over their heads — these professionals agree they enjoy sharing their knowledge in a casual and fun environment.


Artisan breads with the master baker

For example, Lionel Vatinet, chef and owner of La Farm Bakery in Cary, N.C., will lead a class from 10-11:30 a.m. Nov. 10 at Savannah Technical College called “Artisan Breads with the Master Baker.” Cost for the event is $45 per person to take this baking, tasting and learning class.

Vatinet is a James Beard Foundation award semi-finalist for Outstanding Baker and is known for his depth of knowledge, from growing and milling to fermentation and baking. He has been one of the foremost forces in American artisanal bread baking for the past 25 years, traveling the world teaching as a consultant to well-known bread brands.

But when asked if he should be referred to as Master Baker, he laughs.

“No title,” he says. “When I’m in the kitchen, I am very low-key, casual. I enjoy sharing the knowledge I have gained.”

Vatinet’s passion for bread began at age 16 when he joined France’s prestigious artisans’ guild, Les Compagnons du Devoir. He apprenticed with European bakers and formed lifelong friendships with other Compagnons. Vatinet would emerge with the hard-earned title of Maitre Boulanger and pledged to devote his life to teaching, sharing and preserving the ancient art and science of bread baking.

“I was lucky to find my calling so early ... I was able to grow with it and share every moment.”

He says this will be his first trip to Savannah and he plans to talk about the basics of artisanal breads and how to become your own baker.

“You have to start on a strong base and become who you are by continuing to develop your skill ... I plan to put them on the right track. I plan to share, to teach it to them ... It’s always such a pleasure to be surrounded by people who love to learn.”


Saké east meets saké west

Another expert in his field who says he is anxious to share his knowledge is Brian Lynch, Saké One vice president. He will lead “Saké East Meets Saké West” from 10-11:30 a.m. Nov. 10 at The Westin Savannah Harbor Golf Resort & Spa. Tickets for the class are $45 per person or you can purchase a $99 package for all three classes taking place at The Westin that day. The other classes are “Big Green Egg Grilling Demo” from noon-1:30 p.m. with The Westin culinary team and La Crème brand ambassador Marita Esteva and a wine seminar with Morgan-Leigh Norman of Greg Norman Wines and Heath Karesh of Treasury Wine Estates from 2-3:30 p.m.

At the saké demo, Lynch will lead a session to explore the distinctive styles of premium-grade saké while sipping Japanese saké and Oregon craft saké side by side. The class will also take a look at nigori, sparkling saké and saké cocktails.

Lynch says he enjoys what he does because so many people don’t know much about sake.

“I’ll have people tell me, ‘I tried saké and I don’t like it,’” he says. “Well, if Pabst Blue Ribbon was the only beer you ever tried, would you say you don’t like beer? We are a multi-category industry that needs to be explored. The truth is, it’s probably one saké that you don’t like.

“This educational piece can make you more knowledgeable than 80 percent of the drinking world. After this class, you can learn what to buy with what very quickly.”

While Lynch began his career in the wine business in Napa Valley, he’s quick to point out the fact that saké is not wine. “It’s a completely different brewing process.”

“I was hesitant to leave the wine business ... because I didn’t know much about saké ... When I was asked if I wanted to get involved in the saké business, I said, ‘Does anyone actually drink it?’”

Once he was introduced to the craft saké made at Saké One, he says he fell in love with the product.

“We are a craft brewer in Oregon and we want to show everyone the different styles of saké and to see the difference between what’s made here and what is imported and get people out of the idea that saké is served warm; most good saké is served cold.”

He also says saké is starting to expand as people look to remove certain things from their diets.

“Saké is gluten-free, sulfur-free, it doesn’t contain tannin, it is low in acid ... and has no additives ... It’s also becoming really popular as a base for cocktails.”


Beef on the grill

And if you enjoy grilling and want to hear some fun family stories, you’ll want to catch brothers Kent and Kevin Rathbun from 3-4:40 p.m. Nov. 11 at the “Beef on the Grill” Big Green Egg Grilling Demo at The Mansion on Forsyth Park.

Kent is the executive chef for Kent Rathbun Concepts in Dallas and Kevin is the executive chef and owner of Rathbun’s Restaurants in Atlanta. The duo has created successful careers separately, but enjoy chances to come together for these types of events.

Kent says they always like to keep things casual and fun and talk about the best practices to use on grills with meat or fish. For this event, they plan to “work with some nice steaks.”

“When we teach, we want to make sure people are getting the best practices on grilling and smoking meats ... We love for people to come to us with great questions.”

Kent says one of the biggest mistakes people tend to make with grilling meat is not getting the grill hot enough.

“Some people don’t the start fire early enough so they don’t get the grill really hot. Or maybe they use too small of a fire or grill ... You want to get a nice sear, and it’s kind of what we are looking for in restaurants. The trick to go from there once you sear it ... is to have an area on the grill where it’s cooler ... so when you get the sear going, you can move that piece over to let it slow roast.”

He also says his parents’ passion for food lit the fire in the brothers to become chefs.

“They loved to entertain friends and family ... and it’s the way Kevin and I are.

“Sure, there’s always a little competition between us, but it’s all very healthy. My brother is my best friend, always has been ... We love cooking together.”

The brothers will also be at Q-Masters, Chefs + Vets from 8-11 p.m. Nov. 11 at Service Brewing Co.



The Master Class Series runs from Nov. 7-11. For the full schedule of Master Class Series events, go to