The Golden Isles is often celebrated for its sandy shores and picturesque Live Oaks but there is another reason folks flock to the area — the food. From fine-dining experiences like the Georgian Room on Sea Island to causal sensations like Southern Soul Barbeque, Glynn County has its bases covered when it comes to deliciousness. Next week, it will all be on display for faithful foodies from near and far.
The St. Simons Food and Spirits Festival will return Oct. 4 to 8 on St. Simons Island. Events will take place at a number of locations including individual restaurants.
The primary soiree — Tasting Under the Oaks, a large scale tasting with dozens of food and drink purveyors — will be held from noon to 4 p.m. at Gascoigne Bluff, 100 Arthur J. Moore Drive, St. Simons Island. In addition to sampling local and regional fare, there will be a number of cooking demonstrations and classes, some of which will be held at the King and Prince Resort, also on St. Simons Island. Lessons will center on crafting cocktails as well as cooking.
Jernard Wells is focused on the latter. The world-renowned chef and Atlanta resident is looking forward to returning to the area to head up his own class as well as serve as a judge for Chef Showdown competition which pits area culinary talents against one another. Wells himself is accustomed to competition. He has made many appearances on Food Network over the last nine years. He was named runner-up on the network’s shows including Chef Wanted and Food Network Star. He is also the only contestant to date to win Cutthroat Kitchen twice. He served as a celebrity judge on Chopped Jr, as well. In addition, Wells authored a bestselling cookbook, “88 Ways To Her Heart: Cooking For Lovers,” a topic he knows a thing or two about considering he has been married to his wife, Keena, for nearly 20 years, and the two have nine children.
Wells is excited to return to the festival this year, after participating in similar trips to the Isles.
“I had the honor and the privilege of judging last year’s Chef Showdown and I just loved it. I had to come back because I just love the area. It’s addictive,” he said. “I travel all over the world to share my gift and show different places love but since I live in Georgia, it is important to show this area some love.”
While showing the Isles some love, he will also show residents different ways of cooking one of the area’s signature dishes — shrimp. Wells along with fellow chef James Flack will offer a course from 10:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. Oct. 5 at the King and Prince.
“I am very excited about this ... it is called Shrimp Five Ways. I am going to be showing everyone how to make some amazing dishes. One of them is a creole barbecue with shrimp over pasta. Another this this coconut pineapple shrimp ... it is really going to be amazing,” he said.
He is not alone in his enthusiasm. Culinary participants across the board are looking forward to sharing their knowledge during cooking and cocktail crafting courses. In addition to Wells’ class, there are other options with plenty of variety. Here is a sampling of some of the classes being offered:
• Pitmaster 101: Held from noon to 2 p.m. Oct. 5 at Gascoigne Bluff, the class will feature a number of barbecue tricks of the trade as dozens of pitmasters prepare for the Firebox and Smoke event, a party hosted by Southern Soul Barbeque that evening. Tickets are $39 per person through Friday. Afterward, the cost will be $45 per person until the event. The Firebox and Smoke party that evening, held from 6 to 9 p.m. Oct. 5, requires a separate ticket.
• Culinary + Beverage Series will feature both Shrimp Five Ways and Beverage Tasting by the Experts, including Rum in America presented by Richland Rum owner Erik Vonk. The classes will be held from 10:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. Oct. 6 at the King and Prince Resort, 201 Arnold Road, St. Simons Island. Tickets are $45 per person, per class. Packages are available.