London critic Marina O’Loughlin once called Feast Portland “probably the world’s greatest food festival.” But everything must pass. Signals have been ringing since the 2022 event was put on hold. Now it’s official. According to co-founder Mike Serrin, Feast Portland is trying to stop it. In Portland, we may never see anything like this again.
Consider this: In 2012, the year Feast roared around the world, food festivals were a predictable event.Usually waterfront carnivals and food network A festival hosted by someone named Emeril or Mario. Mike Serrin and Carrie Welch brought something else to life. Feast Portland is the Burning Man of food, and over his three days in September and his four nights, in public spaces, makeshift corners, back rooms of restaurants, parties, after-his-party, frenzied It was an epic temporary food city.
Chefs from around the world are here to make crazy music with Portland chefs at innovative events, sandwich invites, intimate dinners, and spontaneous late-night food jams in this wild dining garden. gathered at Join us at the peak of his Feast in 2019: 20,000 Game for Anything Eater.
Who will forget the annual Smoke! The event turned Northwest Portland’s Fields his park into a vision of stainless steel grills, leaping red flames, tomahawk chops, and he’s year-aged beef hanging from chains on a swing. As only Portland could imagine, the whole place looked like Christo’s exhibit in Dante’s Meat Inferno.
The Feast Dinner features 2018’s ground-breaking five zero-proof chefs (some of whom have won more medals than a four-star general) bare their souls in a small group of diners. The new face of sobriety. 2019 African Diaspora Dinner and Kwame, Washington, D.C. His Onwachi’s inspiring cuisine and Alabama pastry chef Dresser Miles’ famous cakes. Opportunity to savor his craft in an intimate setting still vivid. remember to
The feast seemed too big to fail. What’s wrong? In an extensive Q&A, Mike Thelin explains the decision and his thoughts on Portland today.
Karen Brooks: Why the Feast? Through the smoke of wildfires and muddy fields that inspired one critic to create something lovingly “boisterous and messy, full of delicious discoveries every day.” what is the reason?
Mike Terrin: The Feast, in a way, encompasses the entire food world: chefs, authors, critics, editors, literary agents, James Beard voters, influencers, people who say something about food. It was an excuse to bring me to Portland. That was my mission from the beginning. Ten years ago, I attended these food events in other cities and ran into a Portland chef. We wanted everyone in the Portland food world to feel like they were part of something bigger.
why did you unplug it?
The pandemic has hit 2020 hard, not just for Feast, but for the entire event consulting business. Within two weeks, we had to lay off the entire team from normal. By summer, it became clear that the 2020 Feast would not be possible.
Why were you so optimistic when Feast returned in 2021 for a very small, local-only and brief period?
With the vaccine rolling out, the plan was to bring back several events with heartfelt and timely programming throughout the summer. We had a tailwind while we applied for the federal Shuttered Venue Operators Grant (SVOG), a grant we created to rescue the event. When we started the first event, news broke that vaccinated people could still transmit the delta variant. Masks are back and ticket sales have come to a halt. We stopped marketing and reduced capacity, which seemed like a responsible move. That same week, I also learned that the culinary extravaganza did not qualify for her SVOG. It was a double gut punch. It just killed our momentum. I tried to move things forward in 2022, but there were too many mountains to climb operationally, emotionally, and physically. it broke me
Ten years ago, you reimagined food festivals. Why not rethink the Feast now?
Something like Feast is based on a strong spirit of collaboration. The feast is more supportive than any major food festival in the country. We very much intended to connect our city’s culinary community with other communities in the country and around the world. With so many restaurants still in survival mode, chefs face supply chain issues and staff shortages. Additionally, the needs of our cities, the landscape and politics of our food world are changing immeasurably. I will remain a Portland believer. I am grateful for the opportunities given to me over the last ten years. But it’s time to wrap up this chapter of the Feast. We have accomplished what we set out to do.
You’ve always recognized the importance of new voices, rising stars, and seasoned chefs contributing to the conversation. Who inspires you now?
Because Greg Higgins was one of the last working chefs to set the table for us in the 1990s. And he’s Berlu’s Vince Nguyen, who is thoughtful, fun, and full of interesting ideas. Matt Lightner’s Okta in McMinnville is where Portlanders should pay attention. This is perhaps the most ambitious food project in the state’s history.
Which Feast collaboration are you most proud of?
For the 2017 chili pepper-focused dinner, Mexico City’s Enrique Olvera and his protégé Daniela Soto Inés gathered together with Portland’s Jose Chesa, Andy Ricker and more. David Thompson, a historian of Thai street food, stepped in at the last minute to join in, and Canadian chef Angus Ann drove in from Vancouver, British Columbia, to work in the kitchen. This shows how good ideas can really bring a community of chefs together. A dinner I made with Gregory Gourdet in 2019 brought some of America’s most admired black chefs together overnight in Portland. I will never forget his unofficial first year afterparty at the Beast with Naomi Pomeroy and Sean Bullock in the kitchen. Fergus Henderson Busting on the Dance Floor.
How do we continue to nurture Feast’s core ideas?
We need to support each other in a small way and make sure the culture and region of independent business is thriving. That culture made his Feast possible. That means getting back in the office and making sure downtown thrives, supporting small businesses, choosing local over Amazon, and honestly, not being cruel to each other. There is too much of it now. A small move will make a big difference today. As cities, we too need to stop beating ourselves up. A lot of people work hard to make things better here. We live in a great place, but it’s up to all of us to make it better.
What do you miss most?
I miss the early idealism of this project. We will never forget the pride of the first few festivals. The joy of letting others experience the best our city has to offer. It was absolute magic that Carrie Welch and I made such an impact from her 2011 coffee dream. Literally the first time we met.
Is there anything you would have done differently?
Some events get too big. It cost us early intimacy.
What next for Mike Serrin?
First and foremost, I am taking care of my health from the stress of the last few years. He still owns Hot Luck in Austin with Aaron Franklin (Franklin’s BBQ) and James Moody and is in the early stages of several new projects. As the Feast progresses, I hope to continue creating some smaller events in Oregon and beyond. We still have a great reach and an engaged audience. News from May We have issued a letter and would like to continue. But for the most part, I hope we can give ourselves permission to let things go and find projects/hobbies/spaces that make us happy regardless of what we were doing pre-COVID Otherwise, this entire experience we have collectively endured will be wasted.
If you could write a Feast legacy, what would it be?
I could have taken the easier route and relied on TV talent. And remember: Carrie came from the Food Network and knew most of those people personally. We wanted our festival to reflect this new food movement in America, where Portland is the epicenter. Not just another party for TV talents and Michelin-starred chefs you see at every other festival, but more interesting and often less-famous chefs who have changed the way we eat and restaurant.
That was a big idea ten years ago. We had national media sponsors, but we always had the final say on every show. He raised over $500,000 for us charity. The festival has taken the city by storm not only for official events, but also for informal ones. Then you know it hit. We wanted a creative festival that was true to its location, a festival like Portland, Oregon. We believe we did it.
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