Crave Charlotte Festival returns in June for an all-you-can-taste food and wine experience

By Beth Mack

May 25, 2023

The fourth installment of Crave Charlotte’s food, wine, and cocktail festival returns this June, highlighting local chefs, mixologists, and craft brewers.The festival aims to connect the city through food and bring more recognition to Charlotte’s often overlooked culinary scene.

After reading an article about regional food festivals like Charleston Food and Wine Festival and Greenville’s Euphoria, it sparked an idea in Shawn Cosner, owner of event management company Third Rock Events. In 2017, Cosner approached Charlotte chef Chris Coleman of the Goodyear House, executive chef Vince Giancarlo of Zeppelin, executive chef Craig Barbour of Roots Cafe, and Robert Hannigan from the Kimpton Tryon Park Hotel to discuss his idea.

Crave Charlotte’s Grand Culinary Celebration in 2022 at Romare Bearden Park.

The group got together and created a committee to bring a new food, wine, and cocktail festival to the Queen City. “We wanted to drive tourism and recognize Charlotte’s culinary scene,” said Cosner. After four years of discussions and planning, the group hosted a media launch party in February 2020 to officially announce the week-long May festival. While the pandemic forced the festival to be moved to July with Covid protocols in place, it still went on to create a buzz with several smaller culinary events.

In the three previous years of the festival, they hosted multiple intimate culinary experiences around the city at local restaurants and venues ranging from private multi-course wine and beer dinners, craft cocktail classes, and wine and champagne soirees. The week-long series of events then culminated into the Grand Culinary Celebration, a larger festival that featured unlimited tastings of food and beverages from all participating chefs, mixologists, craft breweries, and wine vendors. 

Mini shrimp tacos from Crave Charlotte in 2022.

This year, Cosner and the team have elected to solely focus on delivering an elevated Grand Culinary Celebration hosted at Triple C Brewing Company’s Barrel Room. Crave Charlotte has cooked up a roster of 15 local chefs, four mixologists, 11 Charlotte area breweries, and 15 different wine booths featuring a variety of wines from around the globe for an unlimited food, wine, cocktail, and craft beer experience.

The food lineup features local chefs representing everything from fine dining to casual fare and private catering. The diverse cuisines included offer a little something for everyone. 

One of the many all-you-can-taste samples from Crave Charlotte in 2022.

“We wanted to include diversity, not just from a cultural perspective but also in which neighborhoods are represented, with chefs from various restaurants across the city, not just Uptown or South End,” said Cosner. 

Classic American fare will be featured by Executive Chef Olajuwon Mason of Fine & Fettle, owner and Executive Chef Craig Barbour of Roots Cafe, and Executive Sous Chef Chris Wrenn of Suffolk Punch. Bringing some international flair chef and owner Duha Sabbagh of Zaki Catering with his Mediterranean cuisine, Italian flavors from Sean Galianese of Angeline’s, and Caribbean fare (Haitian, Bahamian, and Jamaica) from owner Natacha Candio with Caribbean Buzz food truck. Chefs April Robinson from Hamilton Corner Store (co-founded by Anthony Hamilton), Jamir Waters from Chef Jamir Catering, Amari Arrington from Chunk’s Chicken, and Reyaña Radcliff from Your Braisen Chef will be cooking up some of their most prized Southern recipes. Rounding out the lineup is French-trained private chef, Chef Tiore McFarland.

To complement the savory, you must also have the sweet, and Crave Charlotte has enlisted some of the top pastry chefs in the city for this year’s festival. Returning in 2023 is owner and Executive Pastry Chef Samantha Ward of Wentworth & Fenn, Manolo Betancur of Manolo’s Bakery, and Mariana Ramos of Sweet Mary Gourmet serving up treats with a Venezuelan twist such as golfeados and mihojas. J Wilson of Lenny’s Sweet Treats & Confectionery, a pop-up and dessert catering enterprise, will also be featured.

Crave Charlotte has enlisted some of the top pastry chefs in the city including Samantha Ward of Wentworth & Fenn and Manolo Benatcur of Manolo’s Bakery.

Crave Charlotte will also have over 45 wines for attendees to sample. You can expect 15 wine stations each dedicated to a specific wine-producing region from around the world or a type of wine. With the city’s ever-growing craft beer scene, any Charlotte food festival would be remiss not to include some local beer. This year’s festival includes 11 craft breweries including Legion Brewing, Divine Barrel Brewing, Armored Cow Brewing Co., Gilde 1546 Brewery, King Canary Brewing, Devil’s Logic Brewing, Hopfly Brewing Company, Protagonist Brew, Suffolk Punch Brewing, Triple C Brewing Company, and Traust Brewery.

Crave Charlotte will offer 15 wine tasting stations and 45 wines at their 2023 event on June 3 at Triple C Brewing Company.

Behind the bar, craft cocktail enthusiasts will find four award-winning Charlotte mixologists shaking things up. Enjoy craft cocktails from Peruvian restaurant Yunta Nikkei’s Beverage Director Ashley Sarkis, Pourly Made Beverage Company and JINYA Ramen Bar’s mixologist Henry Schmulling, Bar One Lounge mixologist Noah Howarth, and Canopy Cocktail’s General Manager David Schmidt. 

Each year, the festival also selects a non-profit beneficiary to receive a percentage of ticket sales. This year’s non-profit is Envision Charlotte, which strives to promote the city’s environmental sustainability, economic competitiveness, and resiliency. 

In alignment with Envision Charlotte’s goals, Crave Charlotte seeks to be as sustainable as possible. All participating chefs and mixologists are provided with bins to compost food waste and compostable plates to serve their dishes. In turn, each guest is given a keepsake tasting glass and a bamboo spork upon entry to use over the course of the afternoon.  

Tickets for this year’s event start at $55 for General Admission and include entry from 1 p.m. to 4 p.m with all the food and beverages included at the festival. Early admission tickets are $65 and provide access to the festival one hour early from 12 p.m. to 4 p.m. You can also purchase VIP tables for a group of 10 that includes early entry at 12 p.m. and four bottles of The Prisoner Wine Company wine served at your table for $85 per person. It is highly recommended to purchase tickets online in advance. 

Crave Charlotte sponsored by SouthEnd Dentistry takes place Saturday, June 3, 2023 from 12 p.m. to 4 p.m. at Triple C Brewing Company’s Barrel Room (2832 Griffith Street). Get more info from the official website, Instagram, and Facebook. 

This article is sponsored by Crave Charlotte and Third Rock Events. 

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