JRR: We’ve started to hear rumblings around the city about this big idea called Gastrofest. What the heck is it and why should Jacksonville foodies be excited about it?
Erin Thursby: Short answer: “because Jacksonville is ready for it.” We don’t have a food festival that celebrates all our food in one place. Yes, there are great events where you can taste stuff from various restaurants, but we lack a city food festival with the goal of presenting as much of our food culture as possible. We want to have local cook book authors, restaurants, food trucks, beer, local meat and veggie providers. Just a festival where you can come and learn about the local food ethos. We’re multi-faceted, so it’s going to be interesting.
JRR: Where did the name Gastrofest come from?
Erin Thursby: Lots of places have so-called “Food & Wine Festivals” with the city name parked in front of it. There is wine here in Florida, but it’s not California. Our craft beer is great and we love it, but once you put beer in the title, that’s what you’re all about. So when thinking about what we wanted to call this food festival, we wanted something that just said: “A Festival Celebrating all the Things You Eat or Drink.” That was too long. Gastrofest said that, but shorter. It seemed way too obvious, but when we searched the name, the only things that came up were in Europe or the UK.
JRR: Who are the people behind Gastrofest and why should we believe in you to pull off this huge event?
Erin Thursby: I’ve been a food writer and editor here in Jacksonville for about 9 years. I’ve got the passion for making it happen and I know the scene. As for the logistical stuff, Kamron Perry has put on other (admittedly smaller) festivals and we have event planners/caterers already on board. The core of people we’re working with also have local restaurant experience, local roots and knowledge to draw on. Plus we’ve been researching other festivals of this type like crazy. I dream about taste tickets.
JRR: How will Gastrofest help grow the food scene in Jacksonville?
Erin Thursby: An event like this has a synergistic effect, in a lot of ways. Hungry consumers can come and find out about our food. Once they know about it, they can support it, and that, of course, grows the scene. On the national stage, when Gastrofest grows, it will let top chefs and up-and-coming chefs know that this is a great place to be. Jacksonville loves to eat.
JRR: What can we expect to see from Gastrofest at the One Spark event?
Erin Thursby: We’re programming demos, giving out food samples from local restaurants such as Tapa That, Cafe Freda and Chef’s Garden. We’ll have Jeffery Spear, author of The First Coast Heritage Cookbook at our booth. We’ll have the Jax Beer Guy doing a beer talk and tasting, the Liquid Extrovert doing something on Florida Wines. There will also be some giveaway raffles of local cookbooks and other goodies. We’ve even encouraged fellow One Spark creators to come to our tent. If it has to do with food and it’s local and tasty, guess what: we love it.
JRR: How can our readers help make Gastrofest a reality?
Erin Thursby: Vote for us at One Spark, of course: #20026! Spread the word, and if you work for a local corporation that might want to sponsor us, have them contact us via firstname.lastname@example.org Check us out online at www.gastrofest.com and sign up for our for news on the fest.
JRR: Anything else our readers should know about Gastrofest?
Erin Thursby: It’s going to be delicious.
We’re extremely excited about Gastrofest. Anything that helps improve the foodie experience in Jacksonville is something we can get behind. Make sure to check out Gastrofest at One Spark and if you’re as excited as we are about their plans, consider giving them a vote!