When it comes to opulent food and wine festivals, Pebble Beach Food & Wine might be the pinnacle. Going on 13 years, the four-day annual gathering takes place in one of the most beautiful enclaves on the California Coast. The line-up is always a Who's Who of the Culinary World and offers a sellection of the legends to the rising stars. Michelin stars from one to three, James Beard award winners, Best New Chef award winners, Rising Stars, Forbes 5 Star award winners, we have had the recipients of just about every culinary award imaginable. Over the years, the event has been graced by Jacques Pepin, Gerard Boyer, Alan Passard, Phillipe Legendre, Thomas Keller, Daniel Boulud, Charlie Trotter, Eric Ripert, Ming Tsai, Tom Colicchio, Michael Symon, Joachim Splichal, Wolfgang Puck, and Pierre Gagniere to name just a few. Regarding teh wines, the festival brings togetehr over 250 wineries from around the world.
The festivities include lunches, dinners, chef demos, playful themed events like Gone Fishin' With Chef Masaharu Morimoto and the epic Lexus Grand Tasting. Guests at Pebble Beach Food & Wine Festival will be among the first to see acclaimed chef, television personality and cookbook author Ludo Lefebvre
don the Lexus apron and show off his talents. There he teams up with Chef Dean Fearing, another Lexus Culinary Master, to present Chef’s Table Lunch-Bon Viviants D’Epicure, a collaboration that showcases the flavors of the French Quarter. The festival comes around in April, but since tickets, starting at $125 and going up to $7,500 for the VIP experience, the event sells out fast and hotel rooms book quickly that weekend, we suggest making plans as soon as the dates are announced. Here are five reasons the extra effort is worth it.
1. The Setting
Pebble Beach is located on the Monterey Peninsula. You might recognize this area’s thrilling coastal cliffs, alabaster beaches, thick forests and palatial homes from the 2017 HBO hit series “Big Little Lies.” Pebble Beach is the home of the 17-Mile Drive, considered among the world’s most scenic roads. In short, one of the most gorgeous and pristine corners of the West Coast, if not the country, serves as the backdrop for Pebble Beach Food & Wine.
2. The Celebrities
If you geek out about the national restaurant scene or keep up with shows like “Top Chef,” “Chopped” and “Iron Chef,” you’ll probably get a bit starstruck when someone like Michelin-Starred chef Rogelio Garcia of San Francisco's Spruce Restaurant prepares an epic dinner for you and personally swings by your table to chat.
3. The Wine
Imagine sitting down to a dinner paired with six Delamotte Champagnes, culminating with a generous pour from a 1970 magnum. Or starting your lunch with a glass or two of Laurent-Perrier La Cuvée Brut Rosé, or wandering a tent where 200 prestigious wineries, hailing from Italy to Napa, many represented by the winemakers themselves, pour you whatever your heart desires.
4. The Access
This is a chef’s festival, with many high-profile culinary names eager to accept an invitation or make a repeat appearance. For them, it’s an opportunity to network and mingle with some of the industry’s most talented professionals. They get inspiration from peers around the world and have a stage to show off their own skill, ingenuity and charisma. “It’s fun to cook outside the kitchen. I’ve met a lot of new chefs and tasted a lot of wines I didn’t know before,” said Chef Ludo Lefebvre of Los Angeles’ Trois Mec and Ludo Bird, who was invited to attend the 2018 festival for the first time. "I discovered a peekytoe [crab] savarin that I want to put on my menu as an homage to chef Daniel [Boulud]." And, as evidenced by the energetic after parties and the stream of Instagram posts, the festival serves as a spring break of sorts for chefs, many of whom let loose and indulge with their colleagues and fans. “As chefs we work so much. Restaurants are so stressful now. It’s good for all of us to get out and have fun for the weekend,” Lefebvre said.
5. The Grandest of Grand Tastings
Hands down, the most hedonistic event on the festival lineup is the Lexus Grand Tasting. The three-hour epicurean extravaganza takes place on Saturday and Sunday afternoon in a 70,000 square-foot tent. Guests have 300 wine options and can try decadent samples (so much foie gras!) from over 70 celebrity chefs, some of whom dish out the bites in person and graciously pose for selfies. This is a hot ticket experience that consistently sells out.
Lexus sponsors the festival, so if you’re a Lexus owner you’ll want to take advantage of some special perks, such as complimentary valet parking and $100 credit at Pebble Beach Resorts. And guests of the resorts are chauffeured to and from their hotel in a Lexus vehicle. And even if you don’t own a Lexus or end up booking a room at a Pebble Beach Resort, as a festival attendee you can sign up for a two-hour Lexus test drive. That’s enough time to cruise the legendary 17-Mile Drive in luxury, an excursion you’ll definitely want to make before leaving the area.
Festival sponsor Lexus offers a range of models for scenic test drives. (Courtesy Lexus PBFW)