**Guest Post by SF Chefs Co-Producer Andrew Freeman
I love to eat, drink and mingle with my favorite chefs and fellow food-lovers, and so August is my favorite time of the year – It’s SF Chefs!! SF Chefs 2011, San Francisco’s premier food, wine and spirits festival returns August 1-7! We’re taking over the legendary Union Square Park for a culinary extravaganza like no other.
SF Chefs 2011 was conceived by the Golden Gate Restaurant Association (GGRA) to showcase our city as the greatest restaurant city in the country. When Kevin Westlye, the former Executive Director of the GGRA and the founder of SF Chefs, approached me with this idea, my team was immediately excited by the possibilities. Here in the Bay Area we are fortunate to have incredible farmers, writers, winemakers, spirits distillers, artisans and of course, vibrant, independent, chef-driven restaurants. This year, the third year for the festival, our initial vision has truly become a reality. We can’t wait to share it with you! Here are my picks for events not to be missed!
The Grand Tasting Tent on Union Square:
The core of our activities for the week, The Grand Tasting Tent will be open from Friday, August 5th to Sunday, August 7th. Unlike previous years, attendees can choose from four unique Grand Tastings in the Grand Tasting Tent on Union Square. Each event is themed and will feature a different group of chefs, wineries and entertainment. These delectable themes include “Classic San Francisco,” “Decadence after Dark” and “The Culinary Innovators.” If you simply cannot choose between these enticing events, we have a new VIP Weekend Pass this year. It’s $425 and includes access to all four Grand Tastings and VIP early entrance for each event.
The list of participating restaurants reads like a “who’s who” list of top Bay Area chefs. We’ve got Tyler Florence, Charles Phan, Gary Danko, Michael Mina, Elizabeth Falkner, Dominique Crenn, Emily Luchetti, Craig Stoll, Joanne Weir, Martin Yan and more! There are wines from Sonoma County Vintners, Russian River Valley Winegrowers, Rhone Valley, Bordeaux and many more wineries and appellations. On Friday we have a string of the city’s hottest bartenders who will be mixing and muddling all kinds of fantastic cocktails. Join us for one or all of these Grand Tasting events, and celebrate the good life!
Classes & Demos
One of my favorite parts of the festival is the chance to see these amazing chefs up close and personal in classes at the Westin St. Francis. This year there are wine tastings and cocktail classes as well as demos and challenges featuring celebrity chefs.
One event sure to be a big hit this year is The Illy Chef Challenge: As Seen on TV! Chris Cosentino (Chef vs. City, Incanto) and Elizabeth Falkner (Top Chef Masters, Citizen Cake & Orson) will take on Dominique Crenn (Next Iron Chef, Atelier Crenn) and Russell Jackson (a.k.a. "The Dissident Chef", Lafitte). Each pair will be presented with a surprise market basket provided by the Ferry Plaza Farmers Market and will be challenged to create a dish that creatively showcases the key ingredient, Illy coffee. Jan Newberry (San Francisco Magazine) and Margo True (Sunset Magazine) will determine which dynamic culinary duo will take home the prize. Our friend, Liam Mayclem from Eye on the Bay and Foodie Chap will host. Chase Sapphire Visa Signature will present the winning team with $20,000 to donate to the charity of their choice! The runners up will also receive a $5,000 donation to their team's charity.
Another new aspect of the festival is some programming we’ve put together for little foodies and their parents. Four Star Family Meal will feature Chefs Michael Mina (Michael Mina, Bourbon Steak), Craig Stoll (Delfina, Locanda), and Gerald Hirigoyen (Bocadillos, Piperade). These dads have used their culinary talents to raise adventurous, smart eaters and with their kids they'll demonstrate recipes for healthy meals the entire family can make and enjoy together. You can check out the full class and demo schedule here.
Of course, there will be fantastic parties too! Happy hours, cocktail parties and after-parties take place throughout the festival. I recommend the Sugar & Spice Party, on August 4th. This party gives you an opportunity to treat your taste buds to spices used in sweet, savory and liquid applications. In the sparkling setting of the Westin St. Francis, guests will be guided on a culinary tour de spice by some of San Francisco's favorite chefs and pastry chefs including David Lawrence (1300 on Fillmore), Bill Corbett (Absinthe Brasserie & Bar), Terri Woo (Farallon), Pascal (La Boulange), Luis Villavelazquez (les Elements), Scott Soule & Nancy Pitta (Mayfield Bakery), Lincoln Carson (Michael Mina), Alan Carter (Mission Beach Café), Ethan Howard (Murray Circle), Ranjan Dey (New Dehli), Leena Hung (The Restaurant at Wente Vineyards), Jean Francois Houdre (The Westin St. Francis), Hoss Zaré (Zaré at Flytrap) and Joseph Humphrey. As an attendee, you can venture from one table to another enjoying culturally driven savory items, surprising sweets and handcrafted cocktails. Dress code is sweet or spicy...
Every year I look forward to seeing the enjoyment of old friends and new faces at this delicious week of events. See you under the Tent!!
Andrew Freeman & Co. | SF Chefs Co-Producer