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TCC Food And Wine Festival To Feature Celebrity Chef Geoffrey Zakarian

Tallahassee Community College
Celebrity Chef Geoffrey Zakarian

Although the pandemic will limit attendance numbers, the festival will have more events over a four-day period.

Despite the pandemic, the Tallahassee Community College Foundation has not scrapped plans for the 2021 Cleaver and Cork"event. In fact, the fund-raising happening has actually been expanded.
Since the Cleaver and Cork began 6 years ago, it has attracted lots of people and generated lots of money. TCC Foundation Executive Director Heather Mitchell said the question was, was there a way to do it safely this time?

"This event raises money for specific projects on our campus and we didn't want to let that opportunity go to waste because those are funds our campus needs for how we operate some of our projects. So it was really important that we did not just cancel it. Second, we felt like there was a way we would be able to do this, so we've enlisted and enacted protocols that we'll be utilizing. But the way that our events are structured anyway, we felt that was something that was pretty manageable for us. And the last piece is it was - and is - so far down the track that the world will look different than it does now."

Each year, Cleaver and Cork has brought in a famous celebrity chef to provide the star power. Mitchell said 2021 will be no different.

"Chef Geoffrey Zakarian!" she exclaimed. "If you don't know him, he goes by 'G.Z.' He's on lots of different shows on the Food TV Network and he's also an executive chef in his own right as well as a James Beard Award winner. And if you watch QVC you've probably seen him selling some of his cookware and his own wine label. So we've very excited to bring him to Tallahassee this year."

Not only that, but Mitchell said the festival will be larger than ever in terms of individual events.

"The Cleaver & Cork Food and Wine Festival starts this year with 4 different events. There will be 3 events that include Chef Zakarian that he will be there so folks can interact with him."

It's all set to get underway on the last day of February.

"So it'll start this year with our progressive cocktail party and that's going to be on Sunday, February 28th. We're going to round-robin 5 different local restaurants that are each going to pick a recipe of Chef Zakarian's and do their take on it. We're going to divide people into small groups of 20 and we're able to spread them out to each place that we're going and how we're transporting them. So we feel we're in a good place there with our COVID protocols."

One of the most popular aspects of the Cleaver and Cork event is the opportunity to actually see a world-famous chef in action.

"Our cooking demonstration is going to be here on our campus on Thursday night, March 4 and it will be a live cooking demonstration with Chef Zakarian. There will be a virtual component to that event, which we think will give further access to people. So you can either register to come in person or you can sign up online. But there'll be a live cooking demonstration and question and answer period so people can really get to visit with him and we're super excited about that."

Watching a master chef prepare a meal is great. But actually consuming it takes the experience to a whole new level.

"The signature dinner, which the whole Cleaver and Cork brand started with is going to be on Friday night, March 5th here on our campus as well. It will be a seated dinner and we are only selling tables so folks can invite whomever they want to sit at their table so they can feel comfortable. And every table will be spaced apart appropriately."

And now for the first time, Mitchell said, a 4th happening has been added to the festival.

"Saturday (March 6th) is the exciting new event that we have. Each year we add something new to the Food and Wine Festival. This year it's going to be downtown from 11 a.m. until 4 p.m. Unfortunately, I wanted it to be thousands of people, but COVID had a different thought. So we're limiting the number of tickets we're selling to that to just 500."

Meaning, with deliberately reduced availability out of safety concerns, tickets should go faster than ever. And Mitchell says there are actually beneficiaries in addition to TCC this go-around.

"I'm really excited about the restaurant support we hope this will spur in our community. That's the industry that's really been hit the hardest in our community through this pandemic. And so it's our hope that by moving forward with this Food and Wine Festival, people might come in and try something from somewhere they've never been before."

There are links to more information about the 2021 Cleaver and Cork Food and Wine Festival on: www.cleaverandcorktcc.com.

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Tom Flanigan has been with WFSU News since 2006, focusing on covering local personalities, issues, and organizations. He began his broadcast career more than 30 years before that and covered news for several radio stations in Florida, Texas, and his home state of Maryland.

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