Soul Sessions Podcast: Amanda Fitzgerald
In this episode of Soul Sessions, Amanda FitzGerald of The Local Palate talks about the upcoming JXN Food and Wine Festival.
Amanda talks about the chef lineup, the talent from Jackson and surrounding areas, the importance of the event to the capital city, the cuisine and history of Jackson, the partnership with The Local Palate, and more.
IN THIS EPISODE:
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Can you believe it? We are less than a month out from the first ever Jackson Food and Wine Festival, March 2 at the Mississippi Museum of Art Garden. And so, we're going to kick off a month-long series dedicated to the event.
Hey, it's Paul Wolf with a front row seat to conversations on culture from Jackson, Mississippi. We call our podcast Soul Sessions. It's the people, places and events that make the City With Soul shine.
Today, we're going to hear from my colleague Yolanda Clay-Moore in conversation with the Local Palate’s, Amanda FitzGerald. They're the folks bringing this amazing night of food and drinks and talent to the City With Soul. And Amanda has all the info you're going to need to make the most out of JXN Food & Wine.
Tell us about the event. Set the tone for people who have purchased their tickets and those who are still debating.
Well, you definitely want to buy tickets if you haven't already. This is our first Jackson Food & Wine Festival. The evening's going to kick off 6 p.m. for those who are VIP ticket holders and 6:30 entrance for everyone else who's purchased those great GA tickets. You know, March 2, we're looking forward to it being a really lovely spring night. It's hosted predominantly in the grounds of the Mississippi Museum of Art, the beautiful garden there.
Down Lamar Street, we have it shut off from Court Street up to Pascagoula and all that foot(print) in between. We'll have a demo stage that's gonna be hosted by none other than Jackson's own chef Nick Wallace, who is our amazing chef chair, actually, for the event. And then none other than Cat Cora, who is also hailing from Jackson coming by way of LA. They're gonna host some of Nick's Top Chef friends, Ashleigh Shanti, who she has just opened this very esteemed, everybody's looking forward to restaurant out of Asheville, North Carolina. So to have her just a month after her opening of her restaurant is huge. That just, I think, goes to show everybody wants to be there because she's taking time out of her very busy schedule. Also, Damarr Brown, who is from Chicago, and then Buddha Lo, who was crowned the Top Chef winner of Nick’s season. Then he went on to actually also win All-Stars. So, the demo stage lineup is a pretty epic way to kick off the year. We're starting strong, but let's not dismiss everybody else who's there.
You have ventured off into our talent. We do have some amazing talent. So talk a little bit more about that talent.
Beyond that great lineup, we have got chefs from Jackson, of course, around the state of Mississippi, and then throughout the South. I mean, let's just talk Jackson. The talent in Jackson is so supreme. It's why it was a no-brainer to host a festival there with the abundance of talent that already exists. I mean, we could do a festival just with Jackson talent. We're so lucky that we get to have even more and all these guys are like friends with each other outside of this city. So all that to be said, I mean, we've got Joseph Sambou who is bringing Gambian cuisine to Jackson. He was a James Beard nom. You've got Cristina Lazzari who comes from Argentina but is a French baker. So she's got such a delicious flair of baked goods. We also have some just amazing classics coming to us with Pierre Pryer from Iron Horse. He's got such a story of how he is rebuilt and brought Iron Horse Grill to what it is today. Hunter Evans from Elvie’s and Chaz Lindsay from Pulito. You know, they're just across the street from each other in Jackson. They're serving up some yummy food. And then yeah, around the state, you've got Cooper Miller from Tupelo, none other than Vish Bhat from Oxford. The list goes on. I think we've got over 20 chefs. We've also got a couple from New Orleans. We've got some epic stars from Kentucky, Ming Pu and Lawrence Weeks. So come hungry.
A plethora of talent. Talk about a little bit why this event is important to the capital city and the metropolitan area.
To say that Jackson is bustling is a no-brainer, right? I mean, there's events all the time. Y'all are the capital city. There's so much to be excited for year-round, but we were particularly motivated to bring an event such as this to Jackson as a capital city, because as I said, the talent there is just the same as what you can find in New Orleans and Atlanta and New York. And so we really wanted to highlight that and give the opportunity to the locals of Jackson and the surrounding areas a taste of that. We wanted to bring in even some of these chefs so that they get to see it too. And much of this through the helm of someone like Nick Wallace, obviously, he's been such a spokesperson for Jackson, he's gone on national TV, through Top Chef, but multiple other shows at this point now, and really bringing light to Jackson and honestly to the great Magnolia State of the food culture that's beyond what maybe some people's impressions might be.
Not to lose sight of the classics and what's amazing there and obviously even you've got tamales, you've got shrimp and grits, you've got catfish, but there's some really amazing cultural dishes that just gives Jackson this really fast spread of cuisine and also history. We can't talk Jackson without the impact of the Civil Rights Trail. So all of this, like mixed into one place, there's no shortage of what we can talk about, what we can experience, what we can share. There's just a lot to say and a lot to be excited about.
We really pride ourselves on being storytellers. For us, it's through the lens of food. Partnering with a destination like Jackson and with this abundance of chefs and cuisine, you know, I think there's gonna be more stories that we get to experience that we might not have even known about. I mean, I think that we're pretty well-versed, but there's just so much and we're honored and we're thrilled to see what year one's gonna be and what all the years to come are gonna offer.
I mean, it's an amazing partnership and we're so glad that the Local Palate is a storyteller. Like Jackson has a story to tell, right?
We know that there's a very important multimillion dollar project going on at the Jackson Planetarium. Is that going to impede anything or how do the logistics work for that?
We're excited to see what it will be once construction is done, but we have made the plans to accommodate everyone around the planetarium. So we know where the barriers are now. Our footprint will still include Lamar Street where there's going to be a lot of signage to have everyone walking around it. It will not affect us from having a good time. There's plenty of room there and we are able to work around it.
Tell us about the host hotel.
Yes. So we have the Westin as our host a walkable distance to the festival. In fact, we actually have Chef Fabian, who is the chef at Estelle from the Westin, also slinging some dishes for us too. So we get a taste of it, in addition to hopefully laying your head there at night. The Westin has been generous to give us discounted rooms as our host hotel, which you can find at our website, jxnfoodandwine.com. It's also where you go to snag tickets.
Amanda, you spent a little time in Jackson, so kind of tell us. What do you love about the place?
Gosh, okay, I'll try not to gush and sound like a brown-noser about loving Jackson! So the first time I went to Jackson was well over five years ago now. And every time I have been, I get to explore different areas. And then, you know, obviously for me that means food. I don't even think I've touched all the restaurants that I know I want to. There's so many places still on my list, but every time you walk into a restaurant, you kind of feel this sense of, you've already been there, they know you, and so it could be a super nice restaurant, honestly, or it could be a very casual, meat and three type lunch joint, and you still feel like you're meant to be there, and everything tastes so good too. But then also just exploring, there's so many museums, and there's just so many different, again, like I said, pockets of town to kind of dig your heels into that I just enjoy it every time. And I just have started to feel like it's kind of another place that I get to feel. It's as comfortable as home.
That's Amanda Fitzgerald of The Local Palate with Yolanda Clay-Moore getting us ready to experience the Jackson Food and Wine Festival. I promise this is an evening that you need to add to your calendars and get your tickets for don't be that last minute Jacksonian who says, ‘Dang, I missed out on this.’ Let's get it squared away for you right now at jxnfoodandwine.com.
Soul Sessions is produced by Visit Jackson. We're the destination organization for Mississippi's capital city. Our executive producers are Jonathan Pettus and Dr. Rickey Thigpen, and I'm our managing editor. You want to know more about what we do at Visit Jackson to make the city a better place? You can find all of that at VisitJackson.com.
I'm Paul Wolf and you've been listening to Soul Sessions.