Just get­ting bet­ter

Valley Journal Advertiser - - OPINION - Wendy El­liott

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.

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