Audi FEASTIVAL may be virtual, but is more meaningful than ever

FEASTIVAL 2020 kicks off this week
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In the City of Brotherly Love, the food scene and the art scene are vastly impressive. The care and dedication that Philly’s culinary and culture connoisseurs put into their creations garner admiration from many and it’s easy to see why. Audi FEASTIVAL is typically an annual celebration featuring the perfect combination of both pillars of talent in Philly; this colorful event features some of the best dishes and drinks cooked up by some of the most notable chefs in the city (over 70 hotspots have been slotted in the past), incredible interactive performances (past years have featured 20 aerial performers and dozens of local artists), and more over an overall memorable night full of rich experiences. The charitable event also normally raises money every year for the 1,000-plus arts performances at Philly’s annual Fringe Festival, but obviously, 2020 is going to look a bit different.

“Traditionally it’s a 1200 person event that takes place on the Delaware River Waterfront with performances and amazing tastings and it’s really a beautiful time for people to come and check out the Philadelphia culinary community and the Philadelphia art community,” says Sabrina Carter, Marketing Manager for FEASTIVAL. “But unfortunately, we can’t celebrate in the same way.”

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“For the last ten years we’ve been doing an event where we are lucky enough to partner with 70 restaurants and 10 bars who all do these amazing tasting and we showcase performing arts throughout the whole event,” adds Joanne Marder, the Senior Director of Development of the Governor’s Woods Foundation and FEASTIVAL. “It’s a very celebratory party, it’s the best culinary event in the city.”

Despite not being able to celebrate in person this year for the gourmet extravaganza hosted in years past by restaurant giants such as Nick Elmi, Stephen Starr and others, both Carter and Marder are excited for what this year has to hold with an all-new way to celebrate Audi FEASTIVAL to help keep people safe while raising money for new beneficiaries on top of FringeArts as well.

According to a release, From October 8 – October 11, 2020, the Audi FEASTIVAL Dinner Series will present a curated collection of five interactive culinary experiences that deliver a signature mix of food, drink and performance right to participants’ homes. As always, the proceeds of Audi FEASTIVAL will benefit FringeArts, Philadelphia’s home for contemporary art. In light of the COVID-19 pandemic’s impact on the hospitality and restaurant industries, Audi FEASTIVAL will be donating to two additional organizations as well: The Pennsylvania Restaurant and Lodging Association’s Hospitality Assistance Response of Pennsylvania (HARP) fund, an emergency relief fund administering financial grants to unemployed restaurant workers, and Cooking for the Culture, an organization dedicated to highlighting black culinary talent in our city and across the nation and tackling inequity in the kitchen.

“It’s been a lot of pivoting, a lot of self-education, reaching out to people and getting the right information. Ultimately we decided it was safer to do a virtual format, and we’ve had the wonderful ability to have partners throughout this event who have really made it easy for us to come up with some interesting and different kind of multi-layered virtual event,” says Marder. “It’s been an adjustment for sure, but it’s also been an opportunity to learn a new way of doing things. But also it’s giving us the opportunity to look at the event as a whole and figure out ways we want to change it going forward and giving us an opportunity to connect with some new partners as well.”

What Philadelphians buy varies on what experience they want. Audi FEASTIVAL’s 2020 offerings include a demonstration into what Malaysian, Dutch and Indonesian cooking have in common with Ange Branca, Joncarl Lachman, and Diana Widjojo; a class where Mixologist Resa Mueller will teach participants to create three blueprint cocktails; Audi FEASTIVAL’s very first cooking competition where Food Network alum Elijah Milligan will challenge three chefs to utilize a mystery ingredient in a dish to be judged by our panel of culinary experts and more. Full purchase details are available online, and all ticket buyers will also receive a box of snacks curated by the chefs.

Aside from the virtual format, 2020’s event will also be showcasing some new faces, which according to the organizers has been a long time coming.

A snapshot from FEASTIVAL 2019Provided

“Sabrina and I have really kind of taken a look at the event and thought about ways that we could really celebrate diversity and do a more accurate representation of Philadelphia’s culinary community, so it’s been a very good representation of the fine dining community,” explains Marder. “But there’s a lot of really wonderful culinary giants who are doing other things, so we really introduced new chefs this year and we also have two new beneficiaries.”

“That has been a big—looking at how we can support diversity in Audi FEASTIVAL and making sure we are supporting the restaurant industry and those workers,” adds Carter. “I’m really proud of the work that we’ve done and the department we’ve worked with this year, but it’s also been such a positive spot in all of this COVID chaos because I’ve really gotten a front-row seat to see how people are really supporting each other. It feels so different from what it once was, [but] I think there’s still positivity and still a bright spot there.”

According to the release, tickets for Audi FEASTIVAL are now available through fringearts.com. Each event ticket will provide access to a box containing the items needed to actively participate in the digital experience from home. As always, the Audi FEASTIVAL events will be paired with a unique performance brought to you by FringeArts.

“I’ve been doing the event for eight years, it’s always been the highlight of my year and I’ve been overseeing it for a long time and I’ve seen it grow and change,” says Marder. “This year is more fitting than any year in a way because it’s been the most challenging year we’ve ever had, but it also feels like this is the year that we’re really trying to join our communities in this difficult time and say whatever it is, we’re going to support each other.”

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