LA Food Fest, formerly LA Street Food Fest, took place July 8-10, 2016. This year the venue moved from the Rose Bowl to Exposition Park near the California Science Center. The format of the event changed quite a bit as well, with seated Rose Garden meals, a somewhat more traditional unlimited Golden Hour experience, and an a la carte MRKT option.
The Rose Garden brunches and dinners featured chefs such as Ray Garcia (Broken Spanish), Walter Manzke (Republique), Bruce Kalman (Union), and others, and kicked off with a party Friday night featuring a signature dish from some of my favorite chefs: Johnny Zone (Howlin’ Ray’s), Chris Oh (Hanjip), and Nguyen & Thi Tran (Starry Kitchen/Button Mash).
The Rose Garden experience seemed to be a big success and I hope LAFF brings it back next year.
The Golden Hour concept, however, didn’t work as well, in my opinion. For $60-$80 (depending on when you bought your tickets), it promised a more traditional, unlimited sampling of food from a great line-up of restaurants and shops like Ricebar, Fritzi, El Coraloense, Wanderlust.
The problem was many of the participants were serving very small portions of really simple dishes that didn’t necessarily showcase a particular restaurant’s food in a way that stood out. The a la carte menu for the MRKT portion of the event was posted at each booth, which did often feature a participant’s signature dish(es), but to add salt to the wound (so to speak), those items were actually not available for sale during the Golden Hour, which was really two hours. Attendees could stay for MRKT and buy individual dishes, but it made Golden Hour feel like of like an expensive way to preview the event before the real food was served, and you had to pay again for it too.
Perhaps it’s just me and my being accustomed to more traditional food event formats. Many of the participating restaurants seemed like they were happy with the arrangement, perhaps because it does generate revenue for them–food festivals are oftentimes an expense for participants. In my opinion, if all of the restaurants serving sample-sized portions of their a la carte MRKT items–and some participants did do exactly this–during Golden Hour, then it would feel more like the VIP experience it purported to be, and if attendees really liked a dish, they could order a larger portion during the MRKT part of the event.
I do appreciate that LA Food Fest was willing to try something new, offering differing experiences at different price points. I hope they continue to evolve and I would love to see what they have in store for next year!