Graham Lewis Fine Photography
Graham Lewis Fine Photography

By Bonnie Glidewell

For the past nine years, the artisan and culinary hub of Southern Oregon, known as Ashland, has celebrated their bounty of food, drink, talent and creativity. More than 30 vendors offering samples and innovative culinary workshops return this year for the Ashland Culinary Festival on Nov. 3-6. The four-day event, headquartered at the Ashland Hills Hotel & Suites, also showcases 12 extraordinary local chefs as they compete for the title of “Top Chef”, using local produce and a secret key ingredient and challenge. Sample food artisans, farms, restaurants, award-winning wineries and breweries. New this year was the Ultimate Top Chef Dinner on Thursday evening, Nov. 3.  Friday showcased wine tours, an evening kickoff event including food demos, a mixology competition, live music and samplings.  On Saturday, the first ever Junior Chef Competition at the festival where local chefs competed for the Junior Chef title and a chance to shadow our festival judges.  On Sunday, visitors were able to learn all about brunch in Ashland at a new workshop sponsored by the Ashland B&B Network.

I loved the venue change this year as all workshops were hosted at one location making it easier for visitors to attend multiple sessions such as us. My husband and I went to the Junior Chef Competition on Saturday then finished the day off by sipping, sampling and visiting away at the main weekend event. Let me tell you, it was so much fun watching those kids compete under the pressuring clock of only 60 minutes, an array of ingredients and one secret one...albacore tuna! There were two sets of two from Ashland High School's culinary program and two sets of two from South Medford High's program. They were tasked with preparing one main entree and one small appetizer. With music booming, an excellent pair of emcees, and dozens of guests watching in awe...these students were able to show off their skills and for a friendly competition. Now, if only we can get some of those teenagers to come to our house to prepare us dinner we would really be in luck! Next year, attending the Thursday night Ultimate Chef Competition is a must! A six-course menu that was paired with fabulous local wines & brews, how could I not have attended this event?

Photo by Graham Lewis Fine Photography

2016 Competing Restaurants and Chefs:

Tom Bates​ - Bella Union
Mario Chavez – Onyx Restaurant & Bar
Javier Cruz – Standing Stone Brewing Co.
Josh Dorcak – Scarpetta (2015 & 2016 Top Chef)​
Skye Elder - Brickroom
Dustin Farley – Porters - Dining at the Depot
Dale Fowler - Regency Grill
Morgan McKelvey - Smithfields
James Moreau - Wiley's Trattoria
Serena Murno - Liquid Assets​
Will Shine – Hearsay Restaurant
Shay Spear – Neuman Hotel Group (Luna Cafe & Mercantile & Larks Restaurant)

2016 Competition Judges:

Lead Emcee, host and head judge
Cory Schreiber
Founder of Cooking from the Source, Wildwood Restaurant and winner of the James Beard Award for Best Chef: Pacific Northwest. Read his bio here!

Fabiola Donnelly, creator and founder of Not Just Baked
Sweet and Savory recipes from a classically trained baker,
Not Just Baked. Portland, Oregon

Judiaann Woo​, Food + Travel + Lifestyle Consultant from Portland
Recently named as one of Portland's "12 Must-Follow Portland Instagram Accounts" 

Photo by Graham Lewis Fine Photography

See the schedule of events below and purchase your tickets.

Ultimate Ashland Culinary Festival Top Chef Dinner on Thursday:
Enjoy a six-course dinner prepared by past Top Chef Winners, with each course paired with a local wine or brew.

Friday's Culinary Kickoff event:
Friday evening kickoff event includes a food demo, a new mixology competition, live music by Doug Warren, samplings by the Bear Creek Wine Trail, small bites and more.

Hands-On Culinary workshops offered Saturday:

  • Branson's Chocolates presents: All Things Chocolate! with Deena Branson
  • The Health Benefits and "How To" of Bone Broth with Kristen Lyon
  • French Comice Pear Tart & Holiday Baking workshop sponsored by Denika Voget of Coquette Bakery
  • New this year: 2016 Junior Chef Competition with winners  Rose and Gabby from Ashland High School- The Ashland Culinary Festival's first ever top junior chefs!

Hands-On Culinary workshops offered Sunday:

  • Blending Bar Edible Beauty sponsored by Zagorska
  • How to Taste Wine like an Expert and The 6 Elements of Wine and Food Pairing with Wine Consultant, Chris Clough and Wine Maker, Gill Anderson of Platt Anderson Cellars
  • Homemade Oregon Granola Holiday Gift Treats with Fabiola Donnelly​ of Not Just Baked, 2016 Festival Judge
  • Stress-Free Breakfasts and Brunches sponsored by the Ashland Bed & Breakfast Network

Photo by Graham Lewis Fine Photography

What vendors were there to “Sip, Sample, & Taste” you ask?

  • Belle Fiore Winery, Estate and Vineyard
  • Bend Distillery (Crater Lake Spirits)
  • Branson's Chocolates
  • Coquette Bakery (Sunday only)
  • Figgy's Food Truck
  • Grizzly Peak Winery
  • Heavenly Fire Salsa
  • Kia's Ktichen
  • ​Kriselle Cellars
  • Latinality - Latin Marinades & Sauces
  • Laurelwood Brewing Co.
  • Naked Winery
  • Platt Anderson Cellars​
  • Roxy Ann Winery
  • Season Cellars​
  • Serra Vineyards
  • Simple Machine
  • Slagle Creek Vineyards
  • The Spice & Tea Exchange of Ashland (Saturday only)
  • Spiritopia Liqueurs
  • Storyville Coffee
  • Summit Beverage
  • Thrive - Rogue Flavor Booth​
  • TonTon's Artisan Affections
  • Trium Winery
  • Wagon Trail Foods / Nut Fusions Peanut Spreads
  • Weisinger Family Winery
  • Zagorska Oasis Express Spa & Apothecary

Photo by Graham Lewis Fine Photography

One thing I absolutely love about going to these events is not only feeling unconditionally spoiled by our local artisan food excellence, but learning about the “new folks in town”, such as three years ago when I met the staff from Platt Anderson Cellars and The Spice & Tea Exchange. It is great being able to meander around with a complimentary wine glass in hand (yes, I point that out because I now have a large collection of these from events over the last few years in Southern Oregon), not on a schedule and without motives. This year, I got to witness Gill of Platt Anderson donate $1,000 as an added scholarship to the winner's high school culinary program! With his donation paired with all the vendors donating a restaurant gift card for $50 to be auctioned off, the two top junior chefs Rose & Gabby are likely to reap the benefits from this fundraiser! So, make sure to check back on the 2017 dates and make your way to the 10th annual Ashland Culinary Festival. 



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