Just getting better
Wolfville Mayor Jeff Cantwell was right when he said in the midst of Devour, “this festival just gets better each year.”
Certainly, the weather could not have been any better for this year’s Devour! The Food Film Festival.
Amongst the 99 events, there truly was something for everyone interested in food. And who isn’t? Lia Rinaldo, who lines up the films, told me that 11 of the screenings were sold out. There was increased interest in the 23 industry workshops, three celeb- rity chef dinners, 22 tasting tours, and 20 special events.
The festival got underway in 2009 as the Slow Motion Film Fest, then rebranded seven year ago. It certainly does celebrate food and wine culture with lots of international components.
Wolfville-based chef Michael Howell and Rinaldo, who was involved with the Atlantic Film Festival for over 20 years, always do their best to make the festival engaging. This year, I think the interest was ramped up due to two octogenarian celebrities: Gordon Pinsent, the movie star from Grand Falls, Newfoundland and French-born chef Jacques Pépin.
The two spread a lot of warm vibes around the entire area. I got to chat with Pépin’s volunteer driver Tom Crilley from Halifax, who was a fan well before he met Pépin.
Crilley, who describes himself as a home cook, began watching Pépin on PBS Television as a teenager. His cooking shows, he said, “Were something I watched over and over. I never tired of it and I learned a lot.”
Last year, Crilley had driven the world’s best female chef, Dominique Kren, around during her busy Devour! agenda. He worked in an opportunity to show the San Francisco chef some of his favourite things about the province.
This year, Crilley decided to propose a picnic to the dean of special programs at the International Culinary Centre in New York City in the middle of a day touring Kings County. He was able to line up a willing winery and got busy in the kitchen.
“Benjamin Bridge was so fantastic,” he said.
The tent at the Gaspereau winery proved the perfect spot to serve the pate and bread he’d cooked, along with some Sober Island oysters.
“The whole thing was a crap shoot,” recalled Crillley. “It was surreal.”
Pépin cut the loaf of bread in half, picked it up and breathed in the smell. After that, the picnic “went over really, really well. Everything got eaten.”
Crilley calls Pépin the “walking internet of food,” yet his interest was often engaged locally by our agriculture. This is how you handle celebrity status, his driver said. Pépin was professional to the nth degree.
This volunteer plans to be back at Devour! next year, but I won- der if anything could top this festival? As Crilley says, “How many people get to meet their hero?”
Suzanne Balcom devoted several days to being Pinsent’s driver. She took Pinsent and his daughter, Leah, to a number of local attractions, such as Hall’s Harbour. She waited patiently while he signed autographs at the Box of Delights, but then Balcolm brought Pinsent in to meet the folks at L’Arche Homefires where he proved a big hit.
There was much to rave about at this year’s Devour! I was moved by several films I got to see and the Great Devour Chicken Dinner turned out to be a successful new addition benefitting area food banks. There is something interesting in everybody’s price range if you like food and film. Bravo Michael and Lia.