I was privileged to serve as one of the judges for the 2009 Atlanta Gourmet Market’s Best of Atlanta competition. For those unfamiliar, The Atlanta Gourmet Market is an annual trade show that highlights a range of wholesale and retail food items from around the country at AmericasMart in downtown Atlanta. In the “Best of Atlanta” awards, 10 gourmet categories are evaluated by an independent panel of judges,. It’s a great, fun-filled and educational event that would definitely be on the radar of Atlanta’s foodies if they could attend.
The cooking demonstration alone would be worth the price of admission. This year, local star chef Shaun Doty ( SHAUN’S) conducted a one and a half hour, interactive session set in the intimate , contemporary studio located in the middle of an entire floor dedicated to the culinary arts. Think Iron Chef without the drama.
The culinary arts floor also includes upscale cookware displays, gourmet teas and coffees, wines and cocktail purveyors as well as prepared specialty food items, all set in slick display rooms. The setting reminded me of a giant food festival with free samples being offered almost at every turn.
As one of the judges for this year’s event, I was limited to sampling the wares of the contest participants, who represented a very small percentage of the vendors in attendance. But I can say that that if the other vendors’ offerings were just half as good as the contestants’, they had some very good stuff! The tomato pickles and the 7 seas sea salts were just two of the great products that were featured.
And that’s why I hope the event will have a public component in the future. Because as an educational and entertainment event, the Atlanta Gourmet Market is a hidden jewel on Atlanta’s dining scene. There were so many products on display that it would take hours to do them all justice, but exploring them and interacting with the vendors who sell them would make a great adventure for families and foodies alike.