The Making of a Food Festival: A Behind-the-Scenes Look

This country sees scores of large-scale culinary events and food festivals each week, and from Taste of the Nation to Slow Food Nation, Party and I are always there. But while a culinary extravaganza merely requires several hours of our time, it takes months or sometimes years to bring all the elements of a production together.

During SF Chefs. Food. Wine., I walked the tents with Dominic Phillips, the namesake of Dominic Phillips Event Marketing and the brainchild producer behind the soirée, to get an idea of all the unseen work that goes into such a large event. Get his surprising strategies for a successful big bash after the jump.

Organize the space to ensure the event feels full. In an effort to make the tents feel as heavily populated as possible, tables were placed on the diagonal.


Keep food aromas and safety at the forefront. Pervasive odors, like fried scallops, will have people wondering why they attended the next day. Only then — or if the safety of the food is in question — will Dominic ask a vendor to pull his food.

Be gentle on the community. "Being green is so much less expensive," Phillips insists. Aiming to divert 75 percent of waste from landfill, he took extra steps such as donating wood signage to Habitat For Humanity, renting living succulent plants rather than buying cut flowers, creating undated banners and tents for reuse, and giving uneaten food to Food Runners.

Walk around and taste everything like a consumer would. When the event takes place, Dominic samples all the food and wine like everybody else, in order to ensure the experience is the way it should be for the consumer.

Hearing Phillips highlight these aspects of the festival made me see food fairs and events from a totally different perspective. In the future, I'll be paying closer attention to food smells, spacial arrangements, and sustainability! What about you?

Photo Courtesy Justin Lewis

Very cool post! I always pay attention to the sustainability of big events, but this food aspect with the scents is not something that has crossed my mind before.
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