Strathmore is best known for hosting stirring performances of Beethoven and Mozart masterpieces, but this year it’s branching out into another art form: food.
Appetite — A Gastronomic Experience is a two-day food festival Friday and Saturday featuring celebrity chefs along with tastings, cooking demonstrations, food trucks and live music at the Strathmore campus in North Bethesda.
Shelley Brown, Strathmore’s artistic director, said the festival helps Strathmore connect with people in the area who work in food, as well as with people who are just interested in attending.
“We’re meeting a lot of people who live right around us who we didn’t know before,” Brown said. “It’s a nice gateway event for people who haven’t been here before.”
Strathmore staff started planning the festival after Brown met the executive director of Count Basie Theatre in New Jersey, which hosts a similar event. The theater helped Strathmore plan its festival and bring in celebrity chefs.
Giada De Laurentiis, who has a show on the Food Network, and Andrew Zimmern, who has a Travel Channel show, are the big-name headliners for the festival. Local chefs — including Robert Wiedmaier of Wildwood Kitchen and Mussel Bar and Grille in Bethesda and Ed Hardy of Quench in Rockville — are also expected to give talks and demonstrations at Appetite.
Brown said a food festival attracts people to Strathmore who might not come to a long concert.
“It’s one price to participate in a lot of activities that you can take kind of cafeteria style,” she said.
Even as she hopes to reach out to new visitors, Brown said she sees parallels between Strathmore’s concert audiences and people who appreciate the aesthetics of food. A large portion of the population is interested in food as entertainment, she said, as is evidenced by the popularity of cooking shows and live chef demonstrations.
“The art of food has become very important in the entertainment industry,” Brown said.
Appetite could become an annual event or series, or maybe just a one-time event to meet a lot of new people, Brown said.
“How many restaurants are there in Bethesda? Hundreds,” Brown said. “I think we are a community that regards highly our food, and hopefully this is an opportunity to try some of these entertainment options.”