[Top photo: Facebook, Slideshow: Praneendra Kuver]
On Saturday morning, Mike Lata, the James Beard Award-winning chef behind FIG and The Ordinary, was given a new title: Master Blaster. In a tent in Marion Square, he and Michelle Weaver of Charleston Grill, Ashley Christensen of Poole's Diner and Edward Lee of 610 Magnolia battled it out in the first-ever Waffle House Smackdown at the BB&T Charleston Wine + Food Festival. Lata won handily, and his golden waffle plaque went up on FIG's wall almost immediately.
Which is to say, food of all types was taken seriously in the Holy City this weekend ("You don't mess with the Waffle House, Ed," chided Bon Appetit editor and Smackdown host Andrew Knowlton, when it was clear he hadn't prepared like the other competitors). Across the city, guest chefs teamed up with locals for perfectly-paired dinners, like the one at Tristan featuring Chicago's Andrew Zimmerman working alongside the Lowcountry's Nate Whiting.
There were tours and tastings around town, where chefs like New York City's April Bloomfield demonstrated how to butcher a pig and local favorites like pitmaster Rodney Scott served every kind of Southern specialty imaginable, treating out-of-towners to grits and biscuits and barbecue.
In true Charleston fashion, the partying was non-stop, from the opening fete at the aquarium to the late-night affairs that sprung up around town (and, yes, the Harlem Shake that was performed atop a table at Butcher and Bee).
As John T. Edge of the Southern Foodways Alliance put it, the festival, "...functions as a giant house party of Southern food folk." As the tweets from this year's festival show, the appeal extends far beyond the reaches of the South.
· 2013 Daily Re-Cap [YouTube]