Taste of Atlanta celebrates 15 years of food, festivities

Foodies, home-grown master chefs and even those still learning to boil water can find something to interest them at Taste of Atlanta, returning Oct. 21-23 for its 15th year.

The outdoor food festival is set to take place at Technology Square on 5th Street, from Techwood Drive to West Peachtree Street, and on Spring Street, from Biltmore Place to Armstead Place.

More than 90 local restaurants will be represented on the full festival days of Saturday and Sunday, each offering two or three sample-size food items from their menus.

Those samples can be purchased with Taste Points, a system implemented at last year’s festival. The Taste Points are uploaded to a wristband each patron gets, which will allow them to purchase food with pre-loaded money. Each patron gets 10 free Taste Points with every ticket purchased.

Aside from the convenience of not needing to reach for your wallet every time you want to snack on samples, this system also will send you an email at the end of the festival with a list of everything you ate, and from which restaurants.

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Dale DeSena, founder and president of Taste of Atlanta, said this helps fulfill the festival’s mission of turning tasters in diners.

“You go to festivals and you eat a lot of great food — you keep eating and eating, but you have no idea where that food came from,” DeSena said. “This way, when you get this nice summary email, it reminds you what you had.”

Another festival goal, DeSena said, is to help its participating restaurants with promotional and marketing support.

Taking full advantage of the festival’s marketing arm is Sean Yeremyan, co-owner of Communitas Hospitality and director of operations at Hobnob Neighborhood Tavern in Midtown, which will return to Taste of Atlanta this year.

“It’s a great opportunity to come face to face with the consumer. You do that in the restaurant, too, but it’s a different atmosphere,” Yeremyan said. “We can get feedback (here) without bothering people at their tables.”

That’s important for Hobnob, because the restaurant will feature seasonal menus for the first time this fall. At Taste of Atlanta, it will offer two of those seasonal items: a New Orleans-style barbecue shrimp dish and a veal and pork meatloaf.

Veteran Taste of Atlanta festivalgoers shouldn’t worry about déjà vu. On top of a variety of new restaurants and dishes, DeSena said the event schedule is almost completely new this year.

Among the festival’s many events are four demo tables, a bartending competition and a silent auction that benefits Open Hand, a nonprofit that helps people prevent or better manage chronic diseases.

At 1:45 p.m. Saturday, at the Chef’s Table, the All in the Family event will have chefs talk about family recipes. Stephen Franklin, pit master at Das BBQ, is one of the participating chefs. He’ll talk about how he learned to cook Texas-style brisket.

“Where I learned everything I know about barbecue comes from Thanksgivings out in south Texas,” Franklin said. “We just want to let people know our barbecue story and the role family has played in it.”

This is Das BBQ’s first year at Taste of Atlanta, and Franklin said he was invited because of an article about his father — and the role barbecue and food played in their household — that ran in Flavors Magazine.

Franklin’s family history with food ties in well with DeSena’s purpose in having the All in the Family event.

“We want people to understand how important it is for families to have dinner together at their own table, and how, really, food connects us all,” DeSena said. “Every important family gathering, people remember the food and remember the experience.”


Friday night kickoff party: Friday at Taste of Atlanta is set up completely differently from Saturday and Sunday, as it is a one-price, all-you-can-eat-and-drink affair. For $65, patrons can sample the food of about 20 local chefs in what DeSena called a “smorgasbord” that will benefit Georgia Organics. There also will be live music performed by the band Moontower.

Barcraft competition semifinals:VIP ticketholders on Saturday not only get to sample more than 200 beers and dozens of wines, they also get to judge the semifinal round of the barcraft competition, from 12:30 to 2 p.m. Five bartenders have competed over the past two months to make it to this point, and VIP members will get a say in who wins the competition.

Kitchen workshop classes:There are four live cooking classes on both Saturday and Sunday that patrons can sign up for. Each will be taught by an Atlanta chef and is free, but attendees can only sign up for one per day. There are only 40 spots in each class.

Big Green Egg grilling stage: Big Green Egg will be at the festival both days, and its representatives will teach a variety of ways to use the cookers. From grilling to smoking to even baking chocolate chip cookies, this stage will help owners get the most out of their Big Green Eggs.

Chef Gerry Garvin: An Atlanta native and Food Network personality, Garvin will be at the Chef’s Table at 1:45 p.m. Sunday. He had his own show on Food Network, “Turn Up the Heat With G. Garvin,” and he’s a frequent judge on “Guy’s Grocery Games.”

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