Last year, the Los Angeles Food & Wine Festival replaced Wolfgang Puck's annual Meals on Wheels event as the big game in tasting events around town. The new event offered an exciting opportunity to catch up with some of the country's most famous chefs over three days of scheduled seminars, restaurant collaborations, demos, and tasting events, with different hooks like a tribute to Daniel Boulud, Roy Choi organizing a taco party at Paramount Studios, and a barbecue on the Santa Monica Pier with chefs like Chris Cosentino and Charles Phan. The event returns next week with a shorter stable of events than last year's, but basically the same scheme of having a famous name lead one specific segment along with various seminars spread throughout the weekend.
This year, chefs you see on television play the lead roles. the festival kicks off next Thursday night with Giada DeLaurentiis the face of a Festa Italiana with talents like Scott Conant, Matt Molina, the chefs from Sotto, Tony DiSalvo, and Gino Angelini, among the many heavyweights of Italian food. The following evening, Graham Elliot takes the reigns for "Summer at the Shore," a beach-side tasting with Stephan Pyles, Nyesha Arrington of Wilshire, and Marcel Vigneron, among the 23 chefs who will each offer dishes. At the same time, Andrew Zimmern will join Eater in hosting an Asian Night Market in Downtown
At the peak of Saturday night, Downtown will play host to Lexus Live on the Plaza with Wolfgang Puck, his homie-for-life Paul Prudhomme, our homie-for-life Mark Peel, Francois Payard, Hubert "Song Pon da Replay" Keller, Dean Fearing, and Sam Choy, as well as many other high-caliber chefs joining Puck that evening. The night will culminate in a performance by Third Eye Blind, reminding us exactly how lame the music was last year, too (we recall Randy Jackson pressing some buttons on a laptop and Uncle Cracker torturing our cillia with their country fried crap).
Tasting events are spread throughout the weekend, while the festival also includes restaurant-specific meals, like a haute "delicacy dinner" at The Montage, power lunches at ink., Cut, WP24, and Patina, among others, demos with Richard Blais and the Voltaggio bros., and sessions on cheese, wine, and chocolate with a host of chef experts.
Now, we didn't pay a red cent to attend last year as we posed as media spies, so take it as you'd like, but sticking only to the bigger tasting events, we found the food was definitely a few cuts above what we expect at these things (and trust us, we go to a lot of these shits). We tried to keep our skepticism over the big flashy, corporate-sponsored food event but were consistently charmed (and consistently pretty fat and drunk).
Check out the full roster of the weekend to come online, where tickets span the gamut from $50 for chef demos to $75 for Zimmern's Asian Night Market to $125 for the grand tastings and $2,000 for 24 moneyed individuals to attend Wednesday night's founder's dinner.