Seems everywhere in the world has a food and wine festival, from the World Grits Festival in St. George, SC to the Cheese Rolling festival in Cooper’s Hill, England–an event based on pagan rituals where participants run down a hill after an 8-pound bouncing wheel of local Double Gloucester.
But the somewhat more high-brow type of food and wine gala that’s so ubiquitous today is thought to have originated with Park Hyatt Hotels and its Masters of Food & Wine weekend repast at the Park Hyatt Carmel in California over two decades ago. The property is no longer a Park Hyatt but the die was cast.
The event grew into almost legendary status over the years, celebrating local food prepared by top chefs and exquisite small batch wines served by the grape growers themselves. This was revolutionary in the 80s. Eventually, Park Hyatt properties from South America to Washington, DC to Zurich have since offered their own “Mini Masters” over the years, always careful to maintain the local flavor and cultural authenticity.
Due to that success, Park Hyatt is scaling up the Master of Food & Wine concept globally in 2012.
Starting in January, the 28 Park Hyatt properties will offer four Masters F&B events on select dates annually revolving around the change of seasons. These are specifically sold to hotel leisure guests, but planners can take advantage of the same network of local purveyors for customized group events. Due to seasonality and availability, the specific Masters events might not be able to be duplicated exactly, but the overall esprit is easy enough to manage.
“We’re seeing from the market more of a demand for local culinary experiences, so our strategy is to make this into a brand-wide program that’s truly interactive and enriching,” says Tristan Dowell, director of brand sales. “What we’re really trying to do is create a behind-the-scenes take on food and beverage and sustainability, where the guest comes away thinking, ‘Wow, I know how to prepare a new food item, or I learned about a new farming method, for example, and I had an incredible experience.'”
Sample programs might include:
Park Hyatt Maldives: Sail out at sunset to catch your own fish with local fishermen and meet local growers on neighboring islands.
Park Hyatt Chicago: Local crafted beer tastings paired with regional dishes prepared by the group and executive chef.
Park Hyatt Mendoza: Olive oil tastings at a nearby grove and pairing dinners with the winemaker at one of Argentina’s famous wineries.
Park Hyatt Zurich: Take part in a Swiss grape harvest and workshop with Swiss female winemakers, followed by a boat ride across Lake Zurich for a picnic.
Park Hyatt Aviara: Private access unavailable for individuals to the Carlsbad Aquafarm to learn about harvesting oysters and mussels, followed by a lunch onsite with the facility directors.
Here are a few photos from last month’s Masters of Food & Wine event at Park Hyatt Aviara. Dowell highly recommends the Chalk Hill sauvignon blanc with fresh oysters…