Third Annual Summit Wine and Food Festival Promises Culinary Excellence With New Flair
Thursday, July 21, 2011 • 10:46am
SUMMIT, NJ – For the past two years, Summit business owner Ivan Ruiz has demonstrated that a culinary festival can thrive in the suburbs. In an effort to revitalize the downtown, Ruiz called on colleagues from his former career as a restaurant and festival consultant and established the Summit Wine and Food Festival in 2009.
“Many people said it could not be done,” Ruiz, owner of The Wine List of Summit, revealed. “They thought that in order for a festival to do well, it has to be in a metropolitan area with lots of tourism.”
Ruiz was undaunted.
“At the time I founded the festival there were 22 empty storefronts in downtown Summit,” he said. Ruiz gained the support of the council and mayor with the goal of “bringing more people to downtown Summit and bringing together chefs, sommeliers and experts for a spectacular culinary event.”
Ruiz held the first festival in July 2009 as a “test run" -- it was a huge success and drew 1,600 people. The September 2010 festival saw a 30 percent increase in ticket sales; some 2,100 people attended the weekend's events.
The Third Annual Summit Food and Wine Festival will commence on Friday September, 9 at the Grand Summit Hotel and will run through Sunday, September 11. To date, about 40 percent of tickets have been sold.
This year, Ruiz expects at least 2,500 attendees. The festival will feature 36 award-winning and internationally acclaimed chefs, 40 sommeliers and 60 wineries.
For the first time, the festival will offer a sommelier competition open to the public. “Five excellent sommeliers will compete in a blind taste test that includes a delicious lunch. The public can take part and give their opinion. They will also learn from the experts which wines pair best with which foods,” Ruiz explained.
An exciting new feature of the weekend is La Caja China, an ingenious roasting vessel that can be used to roast anything from suckling pig to game. Some of the nation’s top chefs will try their hand at preparing succulent roasts of pork, goat, lamb and other meats. Roberto Guerra, famed Miami Chef and creator of the Cajachina, will serve as Master of Ceremonies for this closing event on Sunday.
Since the last day of the festival falls on September 11, Ruiz decided to honor local members of the armed forces and EMS responders. “We donated 100 tickets to members of the military and EMS and their spouses. It is our way of saying thank you for serving our country,” he said.
Ruiz’s philanthropy does not stop there. He will donate all profits to the Community Food Bank of New Jersey and has invited apprentices from the Food Service Training Academy, which provides low income individuals an opportunity to be paid a living wage and to live without reliance on charitable and government assistance programs.
In the past ten years, the Academy has graduated more than 300 students, many who go on to careers in the restaurant business. Current participants in the program will serve as volunteers at the Summit festival.
“Many of these individuals have a hard time finding work, and through the festival, they are able to make relationships with the chefs. If I can help one or two lives, help someone get a break, that is worth it,” Ruiz said.
Ruiz promises the 2011 festival will match the past years’ excellence, while adding fresh tastes and events to suit both the food connoisseur and the novice.
Visit the festival’s website for more information on the weekend's events, chefs, sommeliers and wineries and to book tickets.