ENTERTAINMENT

2022 Chow Chow dates announced for Asheville culinary event series

Tiana Kennell
Asheville Citizen Times

Chow Chow: An Asheville Culinary Event Series will return with three weekends of cooking demonstrations, marketplaces, workshops, discussions and more June 23-26, Aug. 4-7 and Sept. 8-11

For 2022, the organizers are planning an extensive program of immersive, meaningful and educational experiences that are stocked full of premier food and entertainment, said executive director Rebecca Lynch.

“We’ll be continuing to plan events and programming that are deeply centered in our community and our region as well as still looking at those overarching themes — not just of our Southern Appalachian foodways but conversations around racial justice, climate change, resilient agriculture, food insecurity and food justice,” Lynch said.

In 2019, Chow Chow debuted in Asheville, founded by community culinary leaders. It brought chefs, craft beverage producers, regional farmers, artists, culinary makers and the public together with the commonality of the Southern Appalachian foodways.

Food and drink - and their makers - were the stars of the inaugural Chow Chow festival Sept. 14, 2019, at Pack Square Park in Asheville.

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The series has evolved greatly in a short amount of time, but the organizers aren’t shying away from positioning the festival to make a positive regionwide impact for participants and attendees.

“There will still be opportunities for folks to gather with us all summer long -- also these three concentrated weekends of activity,” Lynch said. “We’ll continue planning events and activities that are deeply centered in our community and our region as well as looking at those key themes.”

Pivoting in the pandemic

The first Chow Chow was presented as a four-day, one-weekend event in September 2019.

What was to be the series’ sophomore run the next year was halted by the COVID-19 pandemic.

Printed guides at the inaugural 2019 Chow Chow at Pack Square Park in Asheville. This year's event will focus on a spread of summer-long events.

“In 2020, we didn’t host any Chow Chow programming but took that year as a very young organization with a very committed board to think about what we wanted Chow Chow to be,” Lynch said. “The founding board members always had this intention (for) it to be more than a food festival.”

In 2021, the organizers returned with a more defined purpose and determination in “The Summer of Chow Chow.” People were invited back to share meals together and receive some “food for thought” by engaging in conversations.

“As a chef, I study food, but I don’t always get these perspectives," said Steven Goff, executive chef at Jargon and Chow Chow board member. "As a diner, it’s nice when you have the panel and they talk about their life’s experiences. You come to understand and know these cooks and speakers, which you don’t always get to do at events like this.”

The program schedule was altered as a three-month series with 17 in-person and four virtual programs. In-person events were hosted outdoors with a smaller capacity than the original festival, in response to the pandemic.

Food and drink - and their makers - were the stars of the inaugural Chow Chow festival Sept. 14, 2019, at Pack Square Park in Asheville.

Organizers are fine-tuning the 2022 Summer of Chow Chow programming and schedule, Lynch said. Details and ticket purchasing information will be available soon at chowchowasheville.com.

In addition to the “flights & bites” tasting events, five-course dinners and hands-on workshops, there will be more hearty conversations about issues impacting the community. And festivalgoers will again see open-air events, intimate settings and the kind of impactful forums that were held in 2021.

“The board made a commitment that we were all in and felt that Chow Chow had an important role in our community in celebrating and uplifting our Southern Appalachia foodways,” Lynch said. “We made the plan to come back in 2021 but with an eye on both public health and safety with the pandemic as well as the economic conditions around our culinary community.”

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The multiweekend format is in response to the pandemic so guests may attend smaller-scaled events that are spread out. The service industry responded favorably to the extended format, too, Lynch said. The culinary community will have the flexibility that wasn’t possible in a one-weekend event schedule.

Chow Chow for all

As much as Chow Chow is for residents and out-of-town visitors to attend, it’s a platform for the culinary industry. Objectives are to for the industry members to inspire new ideas, engage with each other, and form new and lasting relationships, Lynch said.

Lane in the Woods creamery is in its early years of operations, said Kevin Lane, co-owner. Chow Chow was an ideal way to connect with other businesses and customers.

“Last year was our first year, and we were attending markets and getting our cheese out there and having people try it,” Lane said. “We met a lot of chefs, so we’re now delivering cheese to some of those contacts we made. For us, it was such a good foodie event that we got a lot of exposure.”

Food and drink - and their makers - were the stars of the inaugural Chow Chow festival Sept. 14, 2019, at Pack Square Park in Asheville.

Attending Chow Chow may result in full stomachs and a hunger to learn more.

“As a chef, I feel like we should be a part of a large community and being a part of an event like this we get to network with each other and meet other industry professionals whether they’re writers or visiting chefs who we might not otherwise come across,” Goff said. “It’s nice cooking with a bunch of different people and you can feel their history and learn from their history.”

Tiana Kennell is the food and dining reporter for the Asheville Citizen Times, part of the USA Today Network. Email her at tkennell@citizentimes.com or follow her on Twitter/Instagram @PrincessOfPage.