Euphoric Greenville Food Festival returns in full with more diversity


A few years ago, Stephanie Bolden didn’t even know what euphoria was, but this year the private chef and caterer will be among the nearly 100 participating chefs.

Bolden will be part of Saturday’s Feast by the Field event, nestled between chefs like Katsuji Tanabe, a former “Top Chef” contestant with decades of experience, and Brandon Veilie, owner of Juniper in Ridge Spring, SC. and a former SC Chief Ambassador.

Having launched her business, Chafanie, in 2020, Bolden grew up on a desire to make people happy through food, but she says she still doesn’t consider herself a chef.

“I’m nervous,” Bolden said with a soft laugh. “I’ve never done anything of this magnitude.”

But she is grateful.

“These are the people who believe in you, and they put those opportunities in those spaces because they know you can do it,” Bolden said. “I really appreciate people who believe in me and want me to succeed.”

While euphoria has been a launching pad for many up-and-coming chefs, most of these chefs come from a similar background and race.

This year, however, the annual food, wine and music festival, which runs Thursday through Sunday in Greenville, celebrates its 17th anniversary, organizers have emphasized diversity and inclusion. This effort has meant that chefs who otherwise would never have had the chance to cross the stage of euphoria find themselves and, with them, exposed.

“I think it goes back to the roots of euphoria,” said Morgan Allen, executive director of euphoria. “People love it when we bring in Michelin star chefs or James Beard nominated chefs, but for us we also want to support local, and I think we’ve really started to think about how to support local restaurants and small businesses. This was a priority during the pandemic and this is how it appeared we could help.

This year, with the help of Village Launch, euphoria has four chefs, all African American women with food companies, participating in the festival for the first time. Chefs not only bring greater diversity but also more delicious cuisine.

Stufona Latta, owner of Bake Your Mark, poses for a portrait with a ginger cake she baked at Imagine Kitchen, a coworking space in Greer, Tuesday, September 6, 2022.

Euphoria spotlights culinary skills and Greenville

Over the 17 years Euphoria has hosted chefs from around the world and the South East. Many have been big names like Vivian Howard, Curtis Duffy and this year, Tyler Florence.

But the festival has always been about promoting Greenville, Allen said. The pandemic, she says, has helped crystallize that goal even further, and not just the need for more diversity, but the impact a food and wine festival can and should have on a community.

Diversity has been a topic at other food and wine festivals across the country. This year, the South Beach Food and Wine Festival grabbed headlines for its concerted efforts to add diversity to its lineup of chefs. The festival has hired a Diversity and Inclusion Consultant to carry out this effort.

Euphoria reached out to Rhonda Rawlings, director of neighborhood engagement at Mill Community Ministries, for help.

“The chance for these entrepreneurs to be a part of this event, which is one of the most anticipated events upstate, is incredible,” said Rawlings, who helps oversee the organization’s Village Launch program. , which provides training and support to resourced sub-entrepreneurs.

Rawlings has identified three culinary entrepreneurs: Stufona Latta, with Bake your Mark; Stephanie Bolden, with Chefanie; and, Jennifer Spears, with The African Violet.

“I really appreciate the intentionality on Euphoria’s part in doing this,” Rawlings added.

A springboard to do more

A few years ago, Stufona Latta planned to retire from her career in corporate HR, go to France and take a baking course, and then start her own baking business.

But, in 2019, Latta found herself burned out by the corporate world and took a leap of faith to become a professional baker. She got a job as a pastry chef for a local restaurant in early 2020, she says.

Then the COVID-19 pandemic hit, and everything stopped and her life seemed uncertain.

With the help of Village Launch, Latta started his own company, Bake your Mark, the same year. This year she will be showcasing her unique brand of creative baking at euphoria, something she could never have imagined just a year ago.

“I hope to get exposure and I hope everyone enjoys the offering I create,” Latta said. “And because it’s a large-scale event – over 1,000 people – it shows me that I can scale if needed.”

And Latta creates something truly unique. She plans to serve what she calls a boozy bread pudding, using locally produced Six & Twenty Distillery bourbon to create a rich, witty and hopefully memorable brunch.

Jennifer Spears, owner of The African Violet, will bring her unique tea blends and infused honeys to euphoria this year.

Jennifer Spears also uses euphoria to test the limits of her business. While The African Violet has focused on custom herbal tea blends since its 2020 debut, at the suggestion of its Village Launch mentor, Spears took a baking course at the Truist Culinary and Hospitality Innovation Center and found another outlet for its herbs and its infused honey. .

She will prepare a lemonade infused with butterfly pea flower tea as well as a rose-infused honey pound cake.

“I’m always happy for any opportunity for people to taste my teas,” Spears said of her hopes for euphoria. “With euphoria it’s kind of one of those opportunities that you didn’t see coming but it’s something you know you have to do because again I think a lot of times with folks, there’s an awareness of the culinary aspect of what you’re taking there’s also an awareness Food is for enjoyment and it’s for your health.

Bridging a Gap: Adding Diversity to the Euphoria

While the euphoria team had set goals to increase the diversity of the festival as the event grew, they often encountered obstacles when it came to finding people who could devote the time and money needed to participate.

Festival attendees often have to buy most of their own food, and because events take place on weekends, attendees must also be able to close their own restaurants or businesses on those days or must have the staff to run their business without them.

“We give a lot in return in terms of marketing and exposure,” Allen said. “But that’s still not enough for some of the very small start-ups.”

It also takes time and effort to connect with people.

So last year euphoria launched a donation option for those who buy tickets. People could donate a certain amount to cover the costs of a few local emerging chefs attending, with the aim of emphasizing diversity.

The $2,000 raised is enough to help four chefs this year, Allen says, but the hope is to keep the effort growing.

“I think it’s amazing that they want to broaden the spectrum of who’s included,” Bolden said, given the opportunity in front of her. “It’s people like me who don’t necessarily have the desire to attend these events because we can feel that the food is so arrogant and the food is just not relatable, and that’s not inclusive and that’s really not for me.

This year, the euphoria brings together more people, she hopes.

“You have industry chefs who have been in the game for a long time and they make these super high-end foods that I’ve never heard of, and then you have intermediate chefs, and then newbies who will bring what they have on the table,” Bolden said. “And it’s going to be something for everyone.”

Lillia Callum-Penso covers food for the Greenville News. She loves the stories that recipes tell and finds inspiration in the people behind them. When she’s not exploring the local cuisine, she can be found running around, both for fun and to keep up with her 7-year-old twins. Contact her at [email protected], or 864-478-5872, or on Facebook

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