Culinary nirvana descends upon Atlanta this weekend with the much-anticipated return of the Atlanta Food & Wine Festival. Three days of seminars and presentations, tasting tents and sample stations, celebrity chefs and ambitious newcomers, fine food and wonderful wine. We asked the experts — the esteemed AFWF Advisory Council— for tips to make the most out of the experience … without ending up in a food coma. Forks up, folks. Let’s eat!

People get ready... the AFWF crew will take your taste buds to new heights!

People get ready … the AFWF crew will take your taste buds to new heights!

Julie Dalton, CWE — Lead Sommelier/Wit & Wisdom, The Four Seasons Hotel (Baltimore, MD)

  • Must do’s: Ask lots of questions at the seminars! Make most of the expertise that’s in front of you.
  • Don’t: Go in with preconceived notions about the subject matter prior to attending certain seminars — keep an open mind!
  • Tips for indulging: Naps are necessary if you eat everything you’re tasting, but if you nap you’ll miss something! So spit a little along the way, the way you would at a wine tasting! Drink lots of water throughout.
  • Tasting tents: it’s impossible to hit every single table. Go in with a plan — map out the tables you can’t miss.
  • Festival highlight: The tasting tents of course! Tons of energy, everything smells absolutely amazing and everyone is just having a ball … rain or shine!

Kelly English — Chef/Owner, Restaurant Iris & The Second Line (Memphis, TN)

  • Must do’s: Tasting tents and cocktail classes. Also pace yourself, and when you figure out how to do that find me and let me know how.
  • Don’t: Get intimidated by a subject or a presenter. We want to show you what we do.
  • Tips for indulging: I try not to get stuck on one thing in the tents; indulge, but spread the indulgence.
  • Favorite activities: The connoisseur lounge is worth it. Breakfast every day and a place to unwind for a second are really nice.
  • Festival highlight: I love seeing all the people I look up to in this industry, both peers and the people I looked up to when I was just getting started.
  • Anecdote: There are always ham shots in the Loews lobby.

    Serious food, serious drink, serious fun. (Image: AFWF)

    Serious food, serious drink, serious fun. (Image: AFWF)

Chris Hall — Chef/Partner, Common Quarter, Local Three & The Giving Kitchen (Atlanta, GA)

  • Must do’s: Try as many dishes as you can, be adventurous, have fun.
  • Don’t: Ask me as you look at my food deciding if you want to try some if my dish is “good.” Of course I think it’s great; I’m serving it to thousands of people and representing my restaurant. Don’t drive if you’ve been drinking. Get a car. Oh, and ladies, it’s a food festival, not a fashion show. Wear some sensible shoes.
  • Favorite activities: After parties. Chefs always throw good parties. Find out where they are going and head there.
  • Tips for indulging: Invest in your future, i.e., drink plenty of water.
  • Festival highlight: Catching up with old friends and making new ones. I love to wander the tents tasting great food and seeing friends.
  • Anecdotes: Nope. What happens at AFWF stays at AFWF!

Mathew Kajdan — Executive Chef, Parlor Market (Jackson, MS)

  • Must do’s: Tasting tents and demos. You won’t have this much culinary talent in one place at one time very often, so take advantage while you can.
  • Don’t: Be a wallflower. Get out there and talk to the chefs and bar experts about their crafts!
  • Favorite activities: Eating at all of the restaurants in Atlanta.
  • Tips for indulging: Don’t eat breakfast!
  • Festival highlight: Meeting all of the chefs from across the South — a lot of these guys have been our idols for a long time.

    AFWF Tasting Tents test the endurance of both palate and pants seams. (Image: AFWF)

    AFWF Tasting Tents test the endurance of both palate and pants seams. (Image: AFWF)

Anthony Lamas — Executive Chef/Owner, Seviche (Louisville, KY)

  • Must do’s: ​I would highly recommend hitting up the tasting tents, and of course all of the great restaurants in Atlanta.
  • Don’t: Wait until the last minute to buy your tickets! ​​Also you should make reservations in advance.​
  • Favorite activities: Taking in everything that the city has to offer. I love hanging out with the other chefs, especially at the opening party at JCT.​
  • Tips for indulging: ​Make sure you’re drinking lots of water, and find some fried chicken ​to bring you back to life after a late night!
  • Festival highlight: I love interacting with the other chefs and all the foodies at the festival. Having the opportunity to bring a taste of how I’m spicing up the South at Seviche.

Tiffany MacIsaac — Executive Pastry Chef, Neighborhood Restaurant Group (Washington, DC)

  • Don’t: PANIC! I know there are a ton of great places to eat in Atlanta and a bunch of amazing AFWF events to attend but it will be impossible to get to them all. But stay calm, do what I do and start planning your return trip next year before you even leave this year’s events.
  • Tips for indulging: One pro tip is go against your instincts. I know you are probably thinking, “I won’t eat a lot the week before the festival so I’m super hungry and I can eat more.” TOTALLY AMATEUR MOVE. What you really want to do is eat extra the week before so you can get your stomach all stretched out and ready to be filled with tons of delicious food!
  • Favorite activities: Don’t miss the fried chicken trail. I mean, it’s 4-6 booths in a row serving fried chicken. What’s not to love?

    From seminars to after-parties, AFWF packs education and entertainment into every moment of the Festival weekend. (Image: AFWF)

    From seminars to after-parties, AFWF packs education and entertainment into every moment of the Festival weekend. (Image: AFWF)

Kent Rathbun — Chef/Owner, Abacus, Jasper’s & Rathbun’s Blue Plate Kitchen (Dallas, TX)

  • Must do’s: Rathbun’s Watch Party to see the up and comers.
  • Don’t: Get drunk, fall down, get sunburned.
  • Favorite activities: Hang out at Kevin’s pool.
  • Tips for indulging: Go early. Stay late.
  • Festival highlight: Hobnobbing with the celebrity chefs.

Brooks Reitz — Founder, Jack Rudy Cocktail Co./Leon’s & St. Alban (Charleston, SC)

  • Must do’s: Proper breakfast at General Muir to erase the previous evenings wrongdoings. Coffee at Empire State South, up the street from the Loews, for the very same reason.
  • Favorite activities: Enjoying favorite Atlanta haunts, as well as checking out the new spots that have opened since last year.
  • Festival highlight: Find Julian and/or Preston Van Winkle, become friends, and hope they share some of their special flask with you.
  • Tips for indulging: The after parties…

    The Advisory team all have their stories of Festival camaraderie and craziness, but keep stories sealed as secret as a special sauce recipe!

    The Advisory team all have their stories of Festival camaraderie and craziness, but they keep stories sealed as secret as a special sauce recipe! (Image: AFWF)

Steven Satterfield — Executive Chef/Owner, Miller Union (Atlanta, GA)

  • Must do’s: Be sure to hit the classrooms to gain fun and interesting knowledge from talented experts of the South.
  • Don’t: Rush. Pace yourself; it’s a marathon, not a sprint. Also, please don’t drink and drive. There are countless alternatives!
  • Favorite activities: Rub elbows with the chefs, sommeliers, bartenders and food experts. A lot of these folks are visiting from other states and it is the one opportunity to find everyone in a central location.
  • Tips for indulging: Sample as many things as you can but don’t overdo it. Try to taste as many bites as possible. You don’t need to finised every taste, but allow yourself to explore as much as you can stomach.
  • Festival highlights: Watching the hijinks from the chefs. Just camp in the lobby of the Loews at the end of the night and you will see some funny stuff.
  • Anecdotes: Too many to list.

Is your curiosity piqued now? Salivary glands on overdrive? Elastic-waist pants ready? Then get your game plan mapped out and head to Midtown to wrap your jaws around the epicurean event of the year. Atlanta Food & Wine Festival calls taste buds out on the mat for a workout, so indulge with fervor! Stay hungry, people, stay hungry.

Every possible taste imaginable converges on Midtown this weekend at Atlanta Food & Wine Festival,; don't miss this celebration of all things edible.

Every possible taste imaginable converges on Midtown this weekend at Atlanta Food & Wine Festival,; don’t miss this celebration of all things edible. (Image: AFWF)

For more information, visit the website: atlfoodandwinefestival.com.