Food and Fun at the Atlanta Food & Wine Festival

We dish with festival co-founders Dominique Love and Elizabeth Feichter

Dominque Love and Elizabeth Feichter love to give back. The entrepreneurial duo run a philanthropic consulting firm; clients includes The Coca-Cola Company, Delta Air Lines, The Home Depot and NASCAR, to name a few. But it was their work for Food & Wine magazine that led them to create the Atlanta Food & Wine Festival (May 29-June 1), which celebrates the food and drink of the South. Let’s dig in.

Q: So how did you two meet?

EF: We’ve known each other forever it seems. We first met when Dominique was managing Corporate Contributions for The Coca-Cola Company and I was the Development Director for Hands On Atlanta. We found a common passion in philanthropy and built our agency, Corporate Community Outsourcing, to help corporations and nonprofits maximize their impact in communities. It’s incredibly rewarding to have a job where you are inspired by one another every day and in awe of the work your clients engage you to be a part of. 

Q: What personality traits or strengths do you each have that make you work well with other?

DL: We are really proud of our partnership. It has been an exceptional journey from starting our agency to launching Atlanta Food & Wine Festival—and it has worked because we know how to balance each other.  I tend to be a bit of a mess, and Elizabeth is more disciplined and structured. She likes logistics and numbers and figuring out how to bring ideas to life.  I like coming up with the ideas. I’m more of a dreamer and a risk taker. She grounds me. And, while we have our personality differences, we are also very similar in our work ethic, our drive and our strong desire to leave a lasting impact on this community.  

Q: What sets the Atlanta Food & Wine Festival apart from other food festivals?

DL: We take our mission to shine an international spotlight on the rich food and beverage traditions of the South very seriously and offer a carefully curated weekend of classes, dinners and events and tasting activities to tell our region’s story. Our classes are exceptional and have been referred to by industry leaders and media as “PhD-level programming for food and drink lovers.” All classes are designed by our Advisory Council of 90 of the region’s food and beverage superstars—it is a competitive process and they literally send us pages of class ideas. Our goal is we want guests to walk away from the weekend, saying “I heard it first, I tasted it first, I experienced it first … at Atlanta Food & Wine Festival.” 

Q: What’s the biggest misconception in terms of Southern food?

DL: That it can be described by a few dishes. The depth and richness of our region’s food and drink traditions is astonishing. We host 100+ classes on the topic and are barely scratching the surface. This year, we’re looking at topics like the history of the Julep (wasn’t always the Julep we drink at the Derby), the Asian influences on the South and how the migration of slaves and other immigrants throughout our region has shaped our foodways.

Q: Can you give us a taste of what we should expect?

EF: The most amazing food, drink and people you will ever meet. Gracious and engaging chefs, mixologists, sommeliers, distillers, craft brewers, etc. It is an incredible atmosphere filled with people who really want to learn about our region’s food and drink and to indulge while they’re at it. 

Q: Any good gets or specific things you’re REALLY excited about this year?

DL: I’m flipping out over two classes and an event we’re doing with Russell Jones and Scott King of Condiment Junkie in London. Russ and Scott did the first scientific study in the world on the impact of color, sound and texture on our perception of taste. We have made them honorary Southerners because their work is so amazing. Working with Kevin Ouzts from the Spotted Trotter, they will explore three flavor profiles of Southern food—sweet, sour, spicy—and how color, music and other environmental factors can intensify these flavors. For example, the color red intensifies sweetness. This will be the first time Condiment Junkie’s research is shared in the U.S. Very exciting!

EF: I can’t wait for everyone to see what we’re doing with the Tasting Tents this year. We’ve moved them (with the help of some very kind friends in the Midtown community) just a block north of where they have been in years past.  Selig Enterprises owns the land where we’ll be setting up the tents and has been amazing about helping us at every turn.  We’ve expanded the footprint of the tents and will be spread out between 12th & 13th Streets along Peachtree Walk and West Peachtree. We’ll continue to take our guests on a culinary journey of the South and we promise hours of eating and drinking and enjoying ALL that is Southern! 

Q: Care to comment on today’s food trends or forecast an upcoming one?

EF: Breakfast. We’re seeing more and more chefs talking about breakfast and opening breakfast joints. 

Q: What emerging Atlanta chefs should we look out for? Who’s coming up big?

DL: Adam Evans from The Optimist. The restaurant has gotten a lot of big nods but we need to pay attention to him as a chef. He is a quiet, emerging force. I’m also eager to see how Angus Brown’s food evolves after his stint in Vietnam and with the opening of Lusca. Without sounding like a personal ad, I’m also actively seeking great female chefs who are killing it in professional kitchens. We should also watch out for the team at Orpheus, Atlanta’s newest craft brewery. Go-getters with a great product.

Q: What are your favorite Atlanta restaurants?

EF: It would be easier for me to share which restaurants I don’t like because there are maybe two or three versus the hundred that I like. Naturally, we’re both big fans of eating out in Atlanta. The list of fantastic spots—from great date nights (we both have kids and look forward to a little time out!) to casual fare. It seems like every month something terrific is opening in one of our favorite neighborhoods. 

Q: So many new spots are opening in the next year—any that you’re particularly looking forward to?

DL: Krog Street Market and Ponce City Market. They are going to be quite the destinations for great food and drink! And you can’t beat the already amazing line-up planned for both. 

Q: Let’s end with a drink. Where are you and what’s in your glass?

DL: I’m at work and wasn’t drinking until I saw this question. I’m going to make myself a moonshine cocktail. A little ‘shine boosts productivity.

EF: These are the benefits of a well-stocked liquor cabinet at the office.