After a decade run, Chapel Hill’s TerraVita Food & Drink Festival will end after this fall’s event.
The annual festival, held each October, has celebrated Southern chefs and foodways since it started in 2010 as a one-off get together.
Now, it looks to go out with a bang at this year’s festival Oct. 16-19.
Festival founder Colleen Minton said North Carolina’s food landscape has spread its wings in the 10 years since the first TerraVita, developing into one of the most acclaimed dining destinations in the South. With that, there are more regional festivals and events built around food. At 10 years, she said it felt like the right time to end TerraVita.
“When we started, there weren’t pop up dinners or niche food festivals,” Minton said. “Now there are so many options for chefs and authors to share their platform. ... Ten years is a good run. We’ve created a really beautiful event over the years. A lot of people, I hope, have benefited from it.”
This week, organizers released a schedule with many of the chefs attending the final TerraVita. Among them are major food celebrities and James Beard winners, as well as up-and-coming local favorites, including Vivian Howard, Frank Stitt of Highlands Bar & Grill in Birmingham, Ala.; NC pitmaster Sam Jones; Cheetie Kumar of Garland in Raleigh; Keith Rhodes of Catch in Wilmington; Phoebe Lawless of Scratch in Durham; Joe Kindred of Kindred in Davidson; Ricky Moore of Saltbox Seafood in Durham and many others.
Over the years, the festival has built a familiar structure of dinners and events showcasing and juxtaposing pieces of the South’s evolving food universe. There’s the East Meets West dinner, which draws on North Carolina chefs from all corners of the state; the Hill Fire dinner, which is cooked entirely with wood fire; the Sustainable Classroom, which is a day of food lectures and demonstrations; a tribute dinner and the Fall Fete, which is an outdoor party where dozens of chefs and beverage makers sling bites and drinks.
Last year’s tribute dinner honored Southern food icon Edna Lewis. This year’s will honor the late Karen Barker, the James Beard Award-winning pastry chef who ran the beloved restaurant Magnolia Grill with her husband, chef Ben Barker.
The East Meets West dinner has never had a repeat chef, Minton said, booking more than 60 North Carolina chefs in the past decade. But for the finale, it’ll be an all-star lineup, featuring Howard, Kumar, Steven Devereaux Greene of Herons at the Umstead in Cary, Dean Neff of Pinpoint in Wilmington, all James Beard semifinalists, and others.
This year’s Hill Fire event will focus on North Carolina barbecue and bring together the state’s new generation of pitmasters, including Matthew Register of Southern Smoke, Chris Prieto of Prime Barbecue, Wyatt Dickson of Picnic in Durham, as well as other chefs who use smoke in their cooking.
In TerraVita’s history, Minton said that the festival’s no-waste philosophy has diverted 22,000 pounds of trash from the Orange County landfill, by using compostable products and methods. She said she’s most proud of the event’s effort to raise social issues and conversations.
“With the classroom, I do think we achieved a different level of awareness on issues that aren’t discussed in other festivals,” Minton said. “I feel like we’ve done a good job of finding topics that are ahead of the curve: social justice, environmental issues, GMOs, nutrition.”
Tickets for TerraVita go on sale July 11 at noon. Prices range from $40 to $120 for classes and dinners. Go to terravitafest.com.