For nearly a decade, Feast Portland has drawn foodies from around the globe to the Pacific Northwest for a four-day food festival with local chefs and international culinary talent. But thousands of folks, elbow-to-elbow, eating and drinking together is not really possible in the midst of a pandemic.
Last year, the festival went on hiatus, but 2021 brings a new “Summer of Feast” with smaller, more intimate events spread over a month.
The reimagined festival also partnered with Claima Stories for a series of events highlighting BIPOC leaders in Portland’s food and beverage community.
OPB’s Crystal Ligori spoke with Emily Crowley, the director of Feast Portland, about the reimagined event.
Hear the full conversation in the audio player above.
Crystal Ligori: Let’s just go back and talk through how Feast came about.
Emily Crowley: So feast Portland came about 10 years ago. I think that Portland, as we know, was on the culinary map, both nationwide and internationally and what we didn’t have yet was a major food festival. And so really what we wanted to do was to provide a platform for our entire culinary community to really spotlight all of the amazing work that everyone’s doing here in Portland, from brewers to restaurant tours, to winemakers, to growers and give it a national platform with the festivals.
We also invited chefs from around the nation and even around the world to come and play with all of their Portland friends. So it really made it so it was a weekend-long celebration of everything delicious here in Portland, and really put the festival on a national scene.
Crystal Ligori: I know in the past, Feast has literally had thousands of people, all together, sampling and tasting things, but in COVID-19 world that seems crazy. How did you go about re-imagining what Feast was going to be like now?
Emily Crowley: So when we started thinking about what Feast might be able to look like this year, we first started going and talking to the chef and restaurant community, just really get a sense of how they were feeling and where their hearts and minds and capacities were. And the first thing that people said before we even sat down to chat was “We want to do Feast, we want to get together, our community needs to be together”. And so when we looked at what the landscape was, we knew that we wanted to bring the community together, but we knew that we wanted to do it differently and doing smaller events, doing events throughout the summer really provided us with the opportunity to get creative around the kind of events that we’re doing… Which is why you see events like the Feast Flicks.
Crystal Ligori: So this iteration, the ‘Summer of Feast’, is going to be three separate, self-contained events?
Emily Crowley: Yeah, so we looked at the Summer of Feast and looked at the different types of events that we wanted to do. So we thought of how all of us turned to film and things throughout the pandemic for comfort and some of our favorite food films are, of course, super comforting. So that’s how Feast Flicks came to be. Then we also really wanted to provide events that could bring groups of chefs together and so that’s where the Family Reunions were born out of. Those events will look probably the most similar to what people think of Feast’s past. We’re also really excited to be partnering with our new charity partner Feed the Mass at those events as well, and we’ll be raising funds for their amazing Fed Program, which has been feeding anyone who needs food in our community.
Crystal Ligori: So we’ve got Feast flicks, the Feast Family Reunions, let’s talk a little bit about Claima Stories.
Emily Crowley: When we were looking at the lineup for Feast, the other thing we really wanted to figure out is a way to have some meaningful conversations with some of the amazing leaders in our community and our friend Bimma Williams has an amazing podcast called Claima Stories, which traditionally interviews folks in the BIPOC creative industry. But Bimma himself is also a food person and has always wanted to do food-related stories.
And when we started talking about how to create conversation at Feast, it seemed like a natural fit to work with Bimma who is a natural storyteller, to talk to some amazing BIPOC leaders in the food community — that could be chefs, winemakers, food stylists — there’s so many amazing paths that I think exist in the culinary world. And so at Claima Stories: Feast Edition, we’ll be talking to folks throughout the culinary world and how they rose to their success. It [will be] be kind of like a happy hour meets, conversation meets Feast meets Claima.
Crystal Ligori: So summer Feast officially kicks off on July 29th, but I have heard the feast flicks may already be sold out though?
Emily Crowley: So our Feast Flicks events are indeed sold out [and] we’re so grateful to our community for supporting those. But we still have tickets left to some of our Family Reunion and Claima events. We have four family reunion events happening at The Redd and there’s still tickets available for three of those. [One of the three Claima events still has tickets available as well.]