Chattanooga is a foodie town, but people just don't know it yet, according to Briana Garza and Monica Kinsey.
The two are working together on an event called Chattanooga Restaurant Week that they hope will showcase the many talented restaurateurs, chefs and bartenders who live and work in Hamilton County.
"Discover-ability is missing, and we hope to fix that," Garza said in an interview.
The event, set for Nov. 5-11, will include nightly specials during the week and a festival at First Horizon Pavilion on Nov. 11 featuring the participating eateries, along with live music and special guests.
"We are hoping for about 70 booths," said Garza, owner of Chatt Taste Food Tours. "The goal is to include the restaurants that typically participate in such events and the ones who don't."
Chattanooga is home to award-winning chefs such as James Beard finalists Daniel Lindley at Alleia and Hello Monty's Rebecca Barron, who was at St. John's Restaurant at the time of her nomination, and several who have competed and done well on national cooking shows such as Kenyatta Ashford, who won an episode on the Food Network's "Chopped Next Gen."
"We have so many award-winning chefs that not everybody even realizes are here," Garza said, "but we also have a lot of underdogs, and we've got to tell their stories. That is important to me."
Kinsey is a local event planner who works on events such as MainX24, Tennessee Whiskey Festival and the Rail & Hops Brewers Festival and said she and Garza hope this year's event will be the first of many.
"This is a baseline year," she said. "We'd like to grow it each year."
The festival will be a ticketed event, with the admission price being $99 for individuals and $165 for VIP tickets. Admission gets patrons a sampling of a limited number of food items, and more can be purchased.
The cost to participate for vendors/eateries is $350, and Garza and Kinsey are working to gather sponsorships to help pay the participation fee for some of the smaller businesses.
During Chattanooga Restaurant Week, participating eateries will be asked to feature an entree, dessert or cocktail or mocktail that fits each night's theme, such as "date night," "family friendly" or "vegan/vegetarian."
Garza and Kinsey are also working with chambers of commerce to identify "the hidden gems out there."
"Everybody has a favorite little restaurant that not everybody knows about, and we want them to be able to participate," Garza said.
"We want them all," Kinsey added.
They also hope to involve culinary students at Howard and Brainerd high schools as well as the Michael P. Hennen Hospitality & Culinary Center at Chattanooga State.
Kinsey said that in addition to putting the restaurants and chefs in front of new audiences, the hope is that the restaurant people will mix and mingle and share experiences as well.
Contact Barry Courter at email@example.com or 423-757-6354.