National Food Celebrities in for the Cincinnati Food + Wine Classic this weekend

By Jackie Reau, Publisher/Editor
Video by Madison Schmidt

The Fourth Annual Cincinnati Food + Wine Classic returns this weekend September 22 and 23, at Yeatman’s Cove downtown and features more than 150 local, regional, and national chefs, pastry chefs, bread artisans, pitmasters, mixologists, artisans, sommeliers, winemakers, brewers, baristas and roasters, writers and storytellers. 

For one ticket price, guests will enjoy unlimited samples of food and drink, unique and entertaining programs, and get up close and personal with the chefs and personalities driving the culinary revolution in the Midwest, and beyond.

Tickets are available at the following levels: VIP Weekend Ticket ($330), All-In Weekend Ticket ($240), Friday Evening ($95), Saturday Day ($95) and Saturday Evening ($95). To purchase tickets, visit

We caught up with Founder Donna Covrett who was putting the finishing touches on this annual celebration of Cincinnati’s culinary talent. 

This year, Covrett has been working to increase awareness of the local culinary talent to a national audience, so she invited Kris Moon from the prestigious James Beard Foundation to attend the event.

“The prestigious James Beard Foundation awards are important to chefs and restaurants to recognize their work,” said Covrett. “The Midwest is rich with great innovative dining and we want to show it off to him.” 

Additional national influencers will also attend this weekend’s event, representing Saveur Magazine Eater and The Wall Street Journal, among others.

If you are a fan of Food Network’s Chopped (and who isn’t?), you will have the opportunity on Saturday afternoon to watch the Executive Chef Competition presented by P&G and Bounty on Saturday at 1:15 p.m. where three Procter & Gamble executives and three executive chefs compete for one title. The competition is hosted by Chef James Major, a two-timed Chopped champion and executive chef at Funky’s Catering Events.

And if you fancy yourself a wine connoisseur, you won’t want to miss the Somm Slam on Friday evening and Saturday afternoon, where local sommeliers compete in a double blind tasting with the audience tasting along to guess the vintage of wine.

Full Schedule of Events

VIP & Media Kickoff: Everybody’s Gonna Be Happy Hour, Friday
Friday, Sept. 22, 5:30-6:30 p.m. in VIP Lounge

As the grills fire up, the plates sauced, and napkins stacked, mingle with CFWC’s visiting talent and savor handcrafted cocktails from the ever-spirited barkeeps Molly Wellmann and Mike Stankovich. Open to VIP ticketholders and media passes. 

Grill Invitational, Friday, Sept. 22
A tasting and competition rolled into one big party, featuring more than two dozen local, regional, and national chefs showcasing their best grilled dish and a judges’ panel of esteemed food writers from national publications including The New York Times, Epicurious and Eater

While the writers visit each chef to sample and select Judge’s Choice, guests will vote for their favorite to win People’s Choice. The 2016 Grill Invitational winner, Chef Paul Barraco of 20 Brix returns to take on the challengers including chefs Jackson Rouse, Bauer European Farm Kitchen; Aaron Boehm, Cinque; Brendan Haren, Coppin’s at Hotel Covington; Ryan Rogers, Feast BBQ + Royal’s Hot Chicken, Louisville; Cristian Pietoso & Stephen Carnes, Forno Osteria & Bar; Jonathan Searle, Lockbox, Lexington; Tavis Rockwell, LouVino, Louisville; Jaime Carmody, Out of Thyme Kitchen Studio; Josh & Nicole House, Pickles & Bones Barbecue; Jeremy Manis, Pontiac; Keith Fuller, Pork & Beans, Pittsburgh; Brad Bernstein & Andrew Mersmann, Red Feather; Andy Hiner, Salazar; Sean Pater, Taste of Belgium; Steven Shockley, Anchor OTR; Jeremy Luers, The Presidents Room; Frances Kroner, Sleepy Bee Café; Josh Sweeny, Third and Main, Aurora; Tobias Harris, Lalo; Dana Adkins, Revolution Rotisserie, Fine Cooking and Chef’s Collaborative. 

Live Fire Grill Pavilion presented by Sysco
Friday, Sept. 22 6:30-9:30 p.m. and Saturday, Sept. 23, Noon to 5 p.m. and 6:30-9:30 p.m.

Part grand tasting and part demo, watch the flames rise and soak up the wood-smoked aura at our one-of-a-kind Live Fire Grill Pavilion. Less formal than our kitchen demos (and a bit smokier), guests will interact with celebrated chefs and pitmasters as they fire up whole-roasted meats and seafood, ash-cooked vegetables and more, all the while feeding you the gospel of the grill. Featuring:  Mike Randolph, Publico, St. Louis; Elias Leisring, Eli’s BBQ; Dan Wright, Senate, Pontiac, Abigail Street; Master Butcher Marco Pauvert, The Four Seasons; Nick Markwald, Hen of the Woods; Chase Blowers, Eighth & English; Jason Dranschak, Hen of the Woods; Jack Hemmer, The Mercer; Kayla Robison, Nation Kitchen & Bar; Chad Rosenthal, The Lucky Well and Bánh Street, Philadelphia.

Yes, Whey! Demo + Tasting with Steven Clement, Salazar
Friday, Sept. 22, 6:30-7:15 p.m., VIP Lounge

The secret to a crystal clear cocktail? Milk. Ben Franklin’s favorite cocktail has a cult following among cocktail enthusiasts for its intensely flavorful and silky smooth demeanor, its boozy and balanced blend of spirit, spice, and citrus. 

Somm Slam Prequel presented by Water Tower Fine Wines
Friday, Sept. 22, 6:30-9:30 p.m., Masterclass Salon

Think you know a Brunello from a Barolo? Old world from new world? Test your wine knowledge and palate against eight sommeliers as they compete in a double blind tasting. One of Cincinnati Food + Wine Classic’s signature programs, the Somm Slam Prequel returns for its fourth year bringing eight sommeliers to identify five vintages hand-selected by Level III Advanced Sommelier and host, Mary Horn. The four top scorers return on Saturday afternoon to compete against the 2016 winner Keegan Corcoran (Jeff Ruby’s Carlo & Johnny). Featuring: Brittany Marsh, Eighth & English; Jeff Perdue, Jean-Robert’s Table; Gregory Stokes, Pere Jacques Wine Imports; Josh Treadway, Jeff Ruby’s Steakhouse; Jenny Hicks, Ohio Valley Wine; Austin Ferrari, Hillside Supper Club; Stephen Auge, The Party Source and Lauren Gibb, Ohio Valley Wine.

Dessert Pavilion, Friday and Saturday
Find your sweet spot and meet the masters of the last course. Sample bites from top pastry chefs, bakers, chocolatiers, gelato and ice cream makers. Featured on Friday: Amanda Bowman, Commonwealth Bistro; Jon Lewis, Deeper Roots Coffee; Jana Douglass, Happy Chicks Bakery; Danny Plazarin, Holtman’s Donuts; Matt Madison, Madisono’s Gelato & Sorbet; Patrick Bowling, O Pie O; James Avant IV, OCD Cakes; Sara Bornick, Streetpops; Taren Kinebrew, Sweet Petit Desserts and Teeny Morris, Teeny Pies. Featured on Saturday: Shalini Latour, Chocolats Latour; Jon Lewis, Deeper Roots Coffee; Aaron Clouse & Bill Glover, Gallerie Bar & Bistro, Columbus; Jana Douglass, Happy Chicks Bakery; Danny Plazarin, Holtman’s Donuts; Matt Madison, Madisono’s Gelato & Sorbet; James Avant IV, OCD Cakes; Taren Kinebrew, Sweet Petit Desserts; Teeny Morris, Teeny Pies; Sherri Prentiss, Velveteen Chocolate and wine pairings from The Skeleton Root. Included with Friday Night ticket, Saturday Night ticket, All-In Weekend ticket, and VIP Weekend Ticket.

Artisan Market Place, Friday and Saturday
Get your shop on with some of the area's best culinary artisans and craftsman showcasing handcrafted goods such as honey, teas, chocolates, cutting boards, ceramics, and many other unique products.   Takes place all weekend, and included with every ticket.

Beverage Grand Tastings, Friday and Saturday
Winding along the riverfront, guests will sip, swirl, and savor from more than 40 labels of wine and beer, many curated to compliment dishes from the culinary grand tasting. Takes place all weekend and included with every ticket.

Demos, Competitions and Seminars, Saturday Day Session
Demos, competitions and seminars will take place in the custom-built kitchen and MasterClass Salon during the day on Saturday, where guests will learn recipes and cooking techniques from star chefs, cheer on heated competitions, hear the latest trends in beer, wine, and spirits, meet your favorite cookbook authors, and listen to national writers tell their favorite stories. 

Saturday Savor Grand Tasting and Rising Stars Lunch
Saturday, Sept. 23, 12-3 p.m., Grand Tasting tents

The Fourth Rising Stars Lunch recognizes the talented chef de cuisines, sous chefs, pastry chefs, cooks, and bartenders that rock palates, satisfy sweet spots, and soothe spirits. Joining the Rising Stars along the winding riverfront are local and regional eateries that make the midday meal epic. Featuring: Jackson Rouse & Andrew Huska, Bauer European Farm Kitchen; Sarah Dworak, Babushka Pierogies; Dan Swormstedt, Court Street Lobster Bar, Chef’s Collaborative; Lauren & Linda Bradley, DECO, Fine Cooking; Ronaldo Gillespie, Injoy; Dionne McCaskill-Alston, Mac Alston + Firelab; Suzanne Church, Metropole; Jeff Poore, Nicholson’s Tavern and Pub; Guy Burgess, Oriental Wok; Jaime Carmody, Out of Thyme Kitchen Studio; Lisa Kagen, Melt/Wellmann’s Brands; James Gadd, Cozy’s Café; Kyle Scrimsher, e+o Kitchen; Melissa Ball, Happy Chicks Bakery; Ben Dailey, Maribelle’s eat+drink; Laurel Meadows, Sleepy Bee Café; Mike Mueller, Forno Osteria + Bar and Val Diehl, Wellmann’s Brands.

Kiribath and Curry: Demo + Tasting with Samantha Fore, Tuk Tuk Sri Lankan Bites
Saturday, Sept. 23, 12-12:45 p.m., CFWC Kitchen

Kiribati is traditional coconut milk rice, served in dense blocks with a sweet touch, and a perfect compliment to spicy and savory curries. Sri Lankan chicken curry weds roasted spices and aromatics, simmered in coconut milk. Traditional lunu miris, a spicy and citrus-laden onion sambol, adds a traditional zing. 

Tuk Tuk Sri Lankan Bites is a pop-up tent concept in Lexington. With its South Asian flavors, American classics, and traditional Sri Lankan dishes inspired by family meals and recipes, Tuk Tuk has amassed a loyal following, and is one of the few representations of authentic Sri Lankan cuisine in the United States. 

Kitchen Convos Live Podcast: “Playing with Fire”
Saturday, Sept. 23, 12:30-1:30 p.m., Live Pavilion

Engineers, artists, and visionaries, Luis Laya and James Payne of Fire Lab are the designers and master builders of Cincinnati Food + Wine Classic’s Live Fire Grill Pavilion. Hear their fascinating and unique story of how their desire to build a local community around the tradition of open fire cooking began with a challenge from their colleagues at Rookwood Pottery.  

It’s A Gin Thing: Demo + Tasting with Molly Wellmann, Wellmann Brands
Saturday, Sept. 23, 12:45-1:30 p.m., VIP tent

Cincinnati’s mistress of martinis and cocktail chronicler takes you on a journey from gin’s medicinal use by Benedictine Monks to London’s gin craze; its long 20th century slump and its resurgence to top shelves and small-batch distilling. Molly will feature a cocktail using local award-winning New Riff Kentucky Wild Gin.       

Wasted: Reducing Waste from Farm to Fork
Saturday, Sept. 23, 2:45-3:30 p.m., Masterclass Salon

“A staggering 40 percent of the food produced in America goes uneaten each year, while millions of Americans go to bed hungry each night,” says James Beard Foundation Vice President, Kris Moon. Moon talks with local chef and farmers who all are working to reduce prevent, recover, and recycle wasted food. Featuring: Suzy DeYoung, La Soupe; Tony Ferrari, Hillside Supper Club; Richard Stewart, Carriage House Farms and Alexa Abner, Covington CSA. 

Executive Chef Competition presented by P&G and Bounty
Saturday, Sept. 23, 1:15-2:15 p.m., CFWC Kitchen

Three Procter & Gamble executives. Three Executive chefs. One Title. Sure, they are good home chefs, but what happens you are on the line without the luxury of time? P&G executives Craig Buchholz, Andrea Wilkerson, and Jon Powell take the stage alongside their local chef mentors to check their knife skills against the clock, their culinary chops for the judges, and a win for charity. Whose dish will earn them the title of Executive Chef? Featuring: Craig Buchholz, Vice President of Global Company Communications with Chef Suzy DeYoung, La Soupe; Andrea Wilkerson, Associate Director of Consumer Strategy & Insights with Chef Derek Dos Anjos, Anchor OTR, and Jon Powell, Associate Director of Global Surface Care with Chef Jeremy Luers, The Presidents Room. Judges include: Ronne Day Fine Cooking Magazine and FOX 19’s Rob Williams.

Napa Rocks: Conversation + Tasting with Mary Horn
Saturday, Sept. 23, 12:45-1:30 p.m., VIP Lounge

Journey through the sub-regions of the prestigious Napa Valley AVAs with advanced sommelier Mary Horn and taste why the flavors in these Cabernet Sauvignons are quite unique. Nothing but pedigree here—some of Napa’s finest names from the Mountains to the Valley Floor just waiting to be tasted and understood. 

Kitchen Convos Live Podcast: “Slightly Opinionated and Delightfully Irreverent: Writers Speak”
Saturday, Sept. 23, 2-3 p.m., Live Pavilion

Join four of the brightest and chattiest award-winning food journalists as they talk about how cities are redefining themselves through constructing a food culture, the celebration and exploitation of regional foods, the importance of local food coverage, and the responsibilities of food writers to be conversation setters beyond top ten lists. Featuring: Keith Pandolfi, Saveur, Serious Eats; Dara Moskowitz Grumdahl, Minneapolis/St. Paul Magazine; Beth Kracklauer, The Wall Street Journal and Helen Rosner, Eater.

Woodford Reserve Flavor Wheel: Conversation + Tasting with Whiskey Pete presented by Brown Forman
Saturday, Sept. 23, 1:15-2 p.m., Masterclass Salon

It’s all whiskey business with Brown Forman’s ambassador, Pete Wagner. Sample Woodford Reserve and Woodford Reserve Double Oaked while learning the nuances of barrel aging, and how bourbon and food influence each other. Pete will also pour Old Forester’s Statesman Bourbon, a special selection batch made as a tie-in with the film Kingsman: The Golden Circle.

Bravetart: Demo + Tasting with Stella Parks presented by Mackey Advisors 
Saturday, Sept. 23, 3-3:45 p.m., CFWC Kitchen

Serious Eats’ award-winning pastry wizard and spirited storyteller, Stella Parks, returns to CFWC to share a recipe from her New York Times bestseller BraveTart: Iconic American Desserts. Named as “one of the most engaging baking books to be published in years,” Bravetart features upgrades of American supermarket sweets such as Oreos and Pop Tarts, while lending Stella’s considerable talent to classics such as devil’s food cake, sour cherry pie, and ice creams galore. Stella will teach you how to make her version of Oreos—and we’ll supply the milk for dunking. Book signing immediately following at Joseph Beth Booksellers, Artisan Marketplace    

Bar Modern: Demo + Tasting with Cecil Usher
Saturday, Sept. 23, 2:15-3 p.m., VIP Lounge

Traditionally assigned to the kitchen, sous vide techniques have made their way to the front of the house. Join one of Pittsburgh’s most renowned bartenders, Cecil Usher, as he shows methods to extract flavor and infuse pure, fresh flavors into spirits.  

Kitchen Convos Live Podcast: Rising Stars
Saturday, Sept. 23, 3:30-4:30 p.m., Live Pavilion

Two rising stars in Cincinnati’s culinary industry get behind the mics with host Rachel DesRochers to talk about what fuels their creative drive.  Featuring: Melissa Ball, Happy Chicks Bakery and Laurel Meadows, Sleepy Bee Café.

Somm Slam presented by Water Tower Fine Wines
Saturday, Sept. 23, 4:30-5:30 p.m., Masterclass Salon

Think you know a Brunello from a Barolo? Old world from new world? Test your wine knowledge against five sommeliers as they compete in a double blind tasting. One of Cincinnati Food + Wine Classic’s signature programs, the Somm Slam returns for its fourth year bringing five sommeliers to identify five vintages hand-selected by Level III Advanced Sommelier and host, Mary Horn. The four top scorers from Friday night’s Somm Slam Prequel go palate-to-palate against the 2016 winner Keegan Corcoran (Jeff Ruby’s Carlo & Johnny). It’s your turn to be part of the action as you sip, swirl, and score along with the sommeliers. 

Pizza from Scratch, The Pizzeria Locale Way: Demo + Tasting with Lachlan Patterson
Saturday, Sept. 23, 4:15-5 p.m., CFWC Kitchen

James Beard Award winning chef Lachlan Patterson shares the recipe and classic techniques that have made Pizzeria Locale renowned. Using simple ingredients found in most home kitchens, guests will learn how to make pizza dough, stretch a perfect crust, and create a sauce that could take an Italian grandmother to task. 

Feast in the Park Grand Tasting
6:30-9:30 p.m., Grand Tasting tents

Toast, savor, and celebrate with dozens of renowned local, regional, and national culinary stars showcasing signature dishes with top-notch ingredients and vibrant flavors. With the gorgeous riverfront as your backdrop and live music as your soundtrack, stroll along the Serpentine Wall as more than 40 renowned local, regional, and national chefs pull out all the stops with creative dishes showcasing top-notch ingredients and vibrant flavors. Pair them with boutique wines and craft beers in the Beverage tents or your sweet spot in our dessert pavilion where you’ll sample bites from top pastry chefs, bakers, chocolatiers, gelato and ice cream makers. Featuring:  Peter Lipson, All Hands, Brooklyn; Yousef Shtiewi, Abigail Street; David Bever, Bistro Grace; Danny Combs, Boca; Dan Carlton, Butcher & The Rye, Pittsburgh; Ryan Rogers, Feast BBQ & Royal’s Hot Chicken, Louisville; Tony Ferrari, Hillside Supper Club, San Francisco; Suzy DeYoung, La Soupe; Tavis Rockwell, Louvino, Louisville; Mike Florea, Maribelle’s eat+drink; Josh Wamsley, Mazunte; Jared Bennett, Metropole; Leland Cummings, Occam Dining; Mandira Jacob, Oh Little Mustard Seed; Megan Ketover, Orchids at Palm Court; Brad Bernstein & Andrew Mersmann, Red Feather; Brett Crow, Jean-Robert Cincy/Restaurant ; Sean Pater, Taste of Belgium; Cristian Pietoso & Mark Bodenstein, Via Vite; Matt Conroy, Virginia’s, New York City and Seth Lassak, Wolf’s Ridge Brewing, Columbus.