BayHaven Food & Wine Fest In Charlotte Will Celebrate Black Foodways And Talent
There’s a new food and wine festival in Charlotte, and it’s already starting to draw a crowd — four months before it starts.
BayHaven Food & Wine Festival, which starts Oct. 22, will be a celebration of Black foodways featuring upwards of 75 chefs, farmers, brewers, winemakers, distillers and other artisans all converging at Charlotte’s Camp North End.
Tickets just went on sale last week, and more than 100 people had gotten ticket packages — some ranging up to $900 — in just the first four days, said Subrina Collier, who runs BayHaven Restaurant Group with her husband, chef Gregory Collier. And some of those buyers are planning to travel from other states.
“It’s been bigger than I could have imagined,” Subrina Collier said this week.
The festival is inspired by the Harlem Renaissance and is meant to shine a spotlight on Black creativity and provide opportunities for those in the hospitality industry.
“It’s very important for us to shine a light on Black talent,” Subrina Collier said. “And then you get deeper into that: Black women, we’re heavily overlooked in the hospitality industry.”
Black women, she says, are underrepresented in leadership roles in the food and hospitality industries, especially as chefs and managers in fine dining restaurants. It's something The New York Times reported on just this year, referencing a National Restaurant Association report from 2017 showed Black workers accounted for 12% of restaurant workers but less than 10% of chefs and a recent study from the nonprofit Restaurant Opportunities Centers United that showed it's particularly hard for Black women to get leadership jobs.
The Colliers have gotten a lot of acclaim for their Charlotte restaurant Leah & Louise, and their former restaurant The Yolk, which opened in Rock Hill, South Carolina, in 2012 before moving to uptown. Greg Collier is a two-time James Beard Foundation Restaurant and Chef Awards semifinalist and Subrinia Collier was a 2020 women’s entrepreneurial leadership fellow at the foundation. They’re both on President Biden’s Small Business and Entrepreneurs Advisory Council.
The duo formed BayHaven Restaurant Group earlier this year — the name is a play on the two areas of Memphis, Tennessee, where they grew up — with plans to open more Charlotte eateries soon.
And the Colliers say they’re putting on the festival not just to bring a big, new annual event to Charlotte but to show young folks what can be accomplished.
“Growing up, we didn't have a lot of examples to go by, and we just know how important it is,” Subrina Collier said. “If we had seen certain things, maybe it could have went faster for us, or maybe certain things could have turned out different. I'm happy with how they turned out now; I wouldn't change them. But if we can make the journey a little bit easier for other people, even just provide people with some hope ... that's why we do what we do — on top of just really enjoying it.”
So far, BayHaven Food & Wine Festival participants include Charlotte-area talents like Whitney Thomas of the Grand Bohemian, Lindsay Williams of Davidson Wine Co., Michael Bowling of Hot Box Next Level Kitchen and Greg Williams and Jamie Barnes of What The Fries. There will also be “Top Chef” stars like Tiffany Derry, Chris Scott and Keith Rhodes and nationally renowned chefs like Todd Richards of Atlanta, Asheville's Ashleigh Shanti and Duane Nutter of Mobile, Alabama.
The three-day festival will be on the 76-acre Camp North End campus, which is also home to Leah & Louise. Subrina Collier says they wanted to offer something at a central location rather than having people drive around to different parts of town. Plus, Camp North End has indoor options if the weather doesn’t cooperate.
The festival starts Friday, Oct. 22, with the family-friendly Chuckwagon Carnival. That event, which has a $10 entry fee for adults, has a Ferris wheel and will feature Black-owned food trucks from Charlotte and the region. The evening will segue into the Black Stork Dinner for adults 21 and up, a more expensive, multicourse dinner that honors entertainer and civil rights activist Josephine Baker.
The 21-and-up theme sticks around for the rest of the weekend, with ticketed events including tasting tents with food and beverage samples and the eight-course Harlem Nights Dinner on Saturday, and on Sunday, a brunch featuring a jazz ensemble and the Front Porch Pig Pickin’ to close things out. There are also options to buy chef-led classes and attend an art summit with food, painting and music.
And BayHaven hasn’t finished adding to the lineup and announcing participants yet.
The idea for the festival, in some form, has been around for a long time. Subrina Collier says that while growing up in Memphis, she took note of the city’s cultural food festivals. There was a Greek food festival and an Italian food festival, and it made her want to create something similar for Black culinary artists.
Now she's done it — and she plans for this year's festival to be just the first of many.
Still, Subrina Collier says she doesn’t want to pat herself on the back until it’s all over. Right now, she’s just too focused on making everything happen.
“When it’s done on that Sunday night,” she said, “when we’re done with the pig pickin', I can really give you my thoughts on it.”
You can find more info at bayhavenfoodandwine.com.