By Emma Castleberry | Photos by Tim Robison
Those who are even cursorily involved in Asheville’s food scene have likely heard the buzz about Chow Chow: An Asheville Culinary Event. Katie Button, chef and owner of local institutions Cúrate and Button & Co. Bagels, is president of the board of directors for the festival. Chow Chow was developed as a way to support the many people who contribute to this region’s food culture. “The reason I moved to Asheville and was drawn to this region is because of the craftsmen, beekeepers, brewers, farmers, glass blowers, metal workers, chefs and more,” says Button. “We wanted to create a festival to tell these stories to ensure that Asheville continues to be a place of independent makers.”
Chow Chow events will take place across the city, with most events held in Pack Square Park, from September 12 through September 15. Typically a month of abundance in produce at farmers markets, September is also Hunger Awareness Month. Chow Chow has partnered with MANNA FoodBank as its primary nonprofit partner. “While we celebrate the makers of our area, we cannot forget that 1 in 4 children in WNC don’t know where their next meal is coming from,” says Button. “We felt it important to have a nonprofit partner that could help us reduce food waste at the festival while simultaneously raising more awareness in our community around food insecurity.”
When one purchases a ticket to Chow Chow, there is an option to donate to the MANNA Packs For Kids program, which provides emergency food assistance to public school students who receive free school meals. “Our partnership with Chow Chow is extremely significant to MANNA,” says Mary Nesbitt, chief development officer for MANNA FoodBank. “By choosing to make a donation to our MANNA Packs program, guests can make a direct impact in the lives of children who are food insecure. We are also working with Food Connections to set Chow Chow apart as an exceptionally green festival with as little food waste as possible.” Food Connections will rescue prepared food that is left over from events and distribute it across their network, while MANNA will rescue unopened food items to be distributed to those in need across WNC. Additionally, MANNA will showcase its new Mobile Resource Center/Pantry in Pack Square during the festival.
Chow Chow’s charitable mission is also evidenced by the festival’s accessibility. Not only will much of the festival’s Pack Square Park area be open to the public, but a number of activities will be free to attend, including the makers market, food truck rodeo, demonstrations like grilling and blacksmith work and activations from the festival’s philanthropic partners. “This will all be open for the public to wander through and enjoy,” says Button. There will also be many smaller workshops in the $15 to $30 range that will allow groups to listen and learn from experts on various topics.
“We have always been a community of craftsmen, makers and farmers,” says Button. “It is our hope that the festival allows more of Southern Appalachia, Asheville and Western North Carolina’s makers to be successful in the passions they have chosen to pursue. In the era of big box stores and online conglomerates, we have to intentionally celebrate and give space for independent makers.”