Gourmands Eat Up GourmetFest In Carmel-by-the-Sea

gourmetfest 2015
GourmetFest 2015 Grand Chef’s Dinner

Photo Credit: Kelly E. Carter

Carmel-by-the-Sea dazzles even when there is nothing going on. Throw in Relais & Châteaux GourmetFest 2015, held March 5-8, and you’ll understand why this idyllic coastal town was the haute spot for gourmands these last few days. Chefs and winemakers came from near and far to participate in this decadent four-day festival that has quickly made a name for itself with food and wine enthusiasts from the San Francisco Bay Area and far beyond.

Local culinary kings such as chef Gary Danko and Justin Cogley teamed up with international star chefs such as Michael Bras, Olivier Roellinger, Annie Féolde and Tetsuya Wakuda to headline this gastronomy fest which featured one-off dinners and tastings, after parties and after-after gatherings as well as demonstrations with talent from France, Italy, Germany, Australia, Peru, Taiwan, Canada and, of course, the United States.

gourmestfest 2015
Dom Perignon Oenotheque Magnum 1973

Photo Credit: Kelly E. Carter

Highlights of the foodie extravaganza included a Rarities Dinner for 24 lucky people who paid $5,500 each to enjoy a 10-course meal paired with rare wines directly from the domaine cellars of Dom Pérignon, Domaine Comte and Ridge Vineyard, held at Aubergine restaurant inside L’Auberge Carmel; a Dom Pérignon and Black River Caviar Lunch; a Relais & Châteaux Grand Chef Dinner, a tasting of rare vintages of Dom Pérignon led by Richard Geoffroy, a vertical tasting of Domaine Comte Georges De Vogüé’s Grand Cru Musigny led by Jean-Luc Pepin, Paul Draper’s vertical tasting of the Ridge Monte Bello and a tasting of a selection of the best of Dr. Ernst Loosen’s vineyards—all six major ones carry a designation equivalent to grand cru—in Germany’s Mosel region.

David Fink, founder and CEO of Mirabel Hotel & Restaurant Group and the mastermind behind GourmetFest, went all out in this edition. The festival became the first event to use Seventh & Dolores, a fabulous new event space where a kitchen with a glass wall afforded GourmetFest goers to snap photos of chefs in action. For the Grand Chef’s Dinner, Seventh & Dolores was elegantly decorated with gorgeous table settings highlighted by beautiful floral arrangements and candelabras, chairs covered in silver, draped fabric accented by bling and the perfect lighting. Music by the talented Monterey Strings added to the ambiance.

Throughout the festival, guests had a chance to test drive the 2015 BMW i8, a $137,000 hybrid that can go from 0 to 60 mph in just over four seconds.

relais & chateau gourmetfest 2015
By Colin Bedford, executive chef at The Fearrington House

Photo Credit: Kelly E. Carter


GourmetFest 2015 concluded Sunday afternoon with a lively Seafood Grill, a casual event where bon vivants strolled from station to station at La Playa Carmel, sipped outstanding wines, noshed on delicious fare by Relais & Châteaux, listened to live music and soaked up the magnificent water views.

By Sunday evening Fink was already planning how to make GourmetFest 2016 even better than this year’s. Not that 2015 is completely over. There is still time to participate in the online charity auction, which runs through March 15 and offers stays and dinners at incredible Relais & Châteaux hotels and restaurants around the world while supporting great organizations and their missions. All of the proceeds from the auction go to support the Carmel Chamber of Commerce, Cystic Fibrosis Foundation, Rancho Cielo and Monterey Bay Aquarium Foundation.