Food fest preview: Meet ZestFest Midwest, a one-stop shop for cuisine, charity and craftsmanship

By Sarah Thompson
From the June 27, 2013 edition

Clear your calendars and your palates. The Texas-based foodie fest, ZestFest, is making its first-ever appearance in the Midwest, and has designated Columbus as its landing zone.

The 11-year-old show has grown each year it’s been around, said Gregory Bagarozy, producer of the event. But his eyes have been set on expansion, and he knew just where to go to house the new ZestFest production, ZestFest Midwest.

“(Columbus) has a very vibrant food community. The different sections (like) German Village, all the Cameron Mitchell restaurants and gourmet food trucks,” he said. “People like their food in Columbus. It’s quite evident to anyone who takes a look at the community.”

But don’t think the Texans — or other non-midwestern states — were left out of ZestFest Midwest. While most of the 65 vendors will be from Ohio and the surrounding states, Bagarozy noted vendors from around the country, such as Texas, California, Florida and New Jersey, will also attend. And while the vendors represent businesses both large and small, Bagarozy said most are small- to mid-sized business owners “just following their dreams.”

“They’ll be recreating recipes and traditions that have been with them for years, and trying to pass (those) on to the public because they enjoy it that much,” he said. “They have incredible passion about the foods they’re creating and that will be evident at the show.”

Taste and take home these traditions, ranging from savory items to dessert items and drink mixes. Remember to save your appetite and your curiosity for cooking demonstrations, question-and-answer sessions and samplings provided by the “best local chefs” every hour on the hour on the Celebrity Chef Stage, Bagarozy said.

Time will be taken out for a chance to share information on the event’s other focus: charity. The Children’s Hunger Alliance will be present to share information on the stage and elsewhere about what you can do to help members of the Columbus community stay nourished.

Fun and philanthropy are awesome, noted Bagarozy, but the event is also around to inspire and share another important aspect of culinary creation: craftsmanship.

“Culinary art is a true art form, and this is one way to experience that,” he said. “Art and the enjoyment of food is what this show is about.”