Knox chefs shine at Big Ears

Jesse Newmister, chef owner of Kaizen in downtown Knoxville, loading up the buffet for Sunday’s VIP brunch.

Of course, folks came to the Big Ears Festival, held last weekend in downtown Knoxville, for the music. And, this year in particular, for the films and poetry. But we had another great asset on display, as well: our food and our fantastic chefs. With a wine tasting (covered here), three brunches and an after party, Knoxville’s diverse culinary smorgasbord was on full display.

Chefs Joseph Lenn, Matt Gallaher and Jesse Newmister threw themselves into it as did Shaun and Meg Parrish of Wild Love Bakehouse, folks from Blackberry Farm and the guys at Sweet P’s Downtown Dive.

All the brunches — one hosted by Visit Knoxville for out-of-town journalists and public officials; one for folks who paid $50 to add it onto their weekend passes; and one for folks who bought VIP tickets to the Festival — were held in a huge heated tent erected on The Mill & Mine’s big lawn on Depot Avenue.

From left, Ashley Capps, Kim Bumpas, the CEO of Visit Knoxville, and Tennessee Commissioner of Tourist Development Kevin Triplett.

Tennessee’s Commissioner of Tourist Development Kevin Triplett attended the Visit Knoxville brunch.

“Thanks for giving me an excuse to come home,” said Triplett, who is from Bristol, also in East Tennessee. “I love music and I love things that bring people to Tennessee.”

Triplett pointed out that, while many folks think of country music when they think of Tennessee, actually seven genres of music call Tennessee home.

That led to the development of the department’s official slogan: The soundtrack of America. Made in Tennessee.

“Knoxville is a critical part of our music heritage and our current music scene,” Triplett said.

Wayne Bledsoe and Becky Hancock, executive director of the Tennessee Theatre.

Wayne Bledsoe, a longtime entertainment writer for the Knoxville News Sentinel who now writes for Blank and hosts shows on WDVX, was effusive in his praise for Knoxville’s music scene and for Ashley Capps, the founder of the Big Ears Festival.

“Over the past 20 years, Knoxville has turned into the city I’ve always wanted to live in,” Bledsoe said. “A lot of that is due to Ashley Capps. He promoted shows no one else EVER would have promoted. Ashley always had big ears! And Knoxville musicians have always had big ears. They play different genres. They get along. The Knoxville Jazz Orchestra is one of the best jazz orchestras in the South. And the Knoxville Symphony’s new conductor is injecting new life into the local classical musical scene. It’s wonderful and inspiring.”

Mayor Madeline Rogero said, “Art feeds our souls and our minds, but it also drives our economy. Big Ears is great for Knoxville. And Knoxville is great for Big Ears.”

And Capps echoed those sentiments when he made brief remarks. “One of the untold stories is about how arts and culture drive economic development,” he said. “Art and music help individuals and groups develop certain skill sets — like problem solving and deferred gratification.” That got a chuckle. “In Tennessee, we’re turning the tide,” he continued. “We are realizing the importance of our own indigenous culture.”

OK. Enough with the speeches. On to the food!

Blackberry Farm had a tasty presence at Visit Knoxville’s welcoming brunch on Friday.

Chris Osborne, left, is head cheesemaker at Blackberry Farm. Dustin Busby is Blackberry’s preservationist.

Austin Wood makes a selection of crepes for brunch.

I had a mushroom and onion crepe with some of the best squash casserole I’ve ever put in my mouth!

Knox County Commissioners, from left, Randy Smith, Michele Carringer and Carson Dailey.

Wild Love Bakehouse has so many great treats it was hard to make a selection.

Commission Chair Randy Smith with Dorothy Stair and Knoxville Vice Mayor Finbarr Saunders, right.

Knox County Commissioner Evelyn Gill and her husband, Michael.

Knoxville’s deputy mayor, Bill Lyons, left, with Alan Carmichael.

Alan opted for an omelet.

David Butler, executive director of the Knoxville Museum of Art, with City Council member Lauren Rider.

Mark and Kristin Williams.

Visit Knoxville’s Kim Bumpas with City Councilman Mark Campen.

Greg Dunn, left, with Stephen Wicks, curator of the Knoxville Museum of Art.

As we were leaving, we ran into County Commissioner Bob Thomas, who was just arriving.

Saturday seemed to dawn early! It was back to the tent at The Mill & Mine.

Where Chef Matt Gallaher, owner of Emilia and Knox Mason, was serving up a terrific brunch.

These bagels were made by Blake Sallie of Paysan, one of our favorite vendors at the Market Square Farmers’ Market. They are topped with Vidalia onion cream cheese and smoked trout. Fantastic.

Rosemary croissants filled with fig and brie from Wild Love Bakehouse.

Organic peanut butter cookies from Wild Love. “Look! Peanut butter cookies for breakfast!” one woman exclaimed.

My breakfast. The centerpiece is a bowl of Shelton Farm cheese grits topped with a slow cooked farm egg and traditional red-eye gravy with Benton’s bacon.

Sunday was something completely different. Chef Jesse Newmister, pictured at the top of this blog, served make-your-own noodle bowls. They were to die for.

Here’s what I’m talking about.

And much, much later, at The Standard, was the Big Ears after party. It started after 10 p.m.

Sweet P’s provided a hearty repast for the exhausted team members who made Big Ears happen.

Including Ashley Capps, who was, unbelievably, still standing!


Filed under: Art, Downtown, Food, Media, Music. Bookmark the permalink.

2 Responses to Knox chefs shine at Big Ears

  1. Alan Carmichael, on March 30th, 2018 at 4:10 pm said:

    The food was delicious.

  2. Cynthia Moxley, on March 30th, 2018 at 4:12 pm said:

    Alan: Amen to that! I knew the music would be fabulous. I didn’t know about all the food offerings. What a wonderful weekend on all fronts.

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