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Why Does Portland (and Not Seattle) Get to Have Feast?

Seattle magazine asks a good question.

A tasting panel at Feast
A tasting panel at Feast
Bamman/EPDX

In this month's issue of Seattle magazine, an article by Food & Dining Editor Allison Austin Scheff appears titled, "Why Does Portland Have the Coolest Food Festival on the West Coast?" Scheff begins by applauding Feast's ability to get so many "recognizable chefs" in one place—especially Fergus Henderson, of London's St. John. It shows that "Feast would be the kind of event that chefs and winemakers want to be a part of, not just grudgingly agree to participate in."

Thus Scheff kicks off the hunt for an answer to her title question. She runs through a list of reasons why Feast became so great:

Feast co-founders Mike Thelin and Carrie Welch "were dreaming big from the start."

In 2011, "Portland, Oregon, was a national media darling."

"Welch’s deep national food industry connections meant VIP access to chefs and media" at the New York City Wine & Food Festival, where Feast was first promoted.

Bon Appetit, which became Feast's long-running National Media Sponsor, wanted to take "a new direction" at the time it was approached by Thelin and Welch.

She compares Feast to Taste Washington, which bills itself as "the nation's largest single-region wine and food event," and she concludes that Feast has "a generally smaller, more boutique feel." Additionally, compared with "cavernous CenturyLink Field," most Feast event spaces, such as Pioneer Courthouse Square and "an open riverside space under strings of sparkling lights," are scenic.

But ultimately, "what sets Feast apart," writes Scheff, "are its celebrated night events, such as the Night Market, Smoked, and especially the collaborative chef dinners (and the after-parties!), which feature star chefs from all over the world cooking alongside Portland chefs." She notes that these events usually sell out first.

Scheff, having completed her first appraisal of Feast's origins and attractions, asks a new question—one specific to some Seattle-area chefs: "Why not us? Why doesn’t our city have a festival like this? And why aren’t Seattle chefs invited to Feast more frequently?" She reflects on Seattle's "coffee culture," "Asian food culture," and recent "culinary innovation," and points out that many culinary Seattleites have discussed throwing a festival similar to Feast.

Then, on comes the final cadence of her article, in which Scheff points out two conditions for bringing a Feast-like festival to Seattle. First, Seattle chefs would need to embrace a Feast-like festival as eagerly as Portland chefs, something that Scheff says "remains to be seen." Second, she says that "it’s the vision and the taste level that cofounders Welch and Thelin [...] bring to the event that makes Feast what it is."

Why do you think that Portland has Feast?

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