Carlo Lamagna and friends at a Feast Portland industry celebration at Bar Casa Vale in 2017.

Since its inception in 2012, Feast Portland has grown to become the most anticipated food event of the season. But in 2020, Feast went quiet due to the pandemic. Now, the famed food festival is coming back this summer as The Summer of Feast—a smaller, revamped, local-focused version of the festival featuring outdoor events with Portland chefs in July and August. 

Feast’s marquee events like East Coast vs. West Coast won’t return this year, nor will the massive Night Market featuring an international lineup of chefs. Bon Appétit won’t be the national media partner either—in fact, there won’t be a national media partner at all. This year, it’s all about celebrating local talent—a move that the 2021 Feast Portland organizers Mike Thelin and Emily Crowley are hoping will bring back the spirit of the early years of the festival, which was founded in 2012.

“Even before Covid, we were talking about missing the intimacy and the magic of the early years,” Thelin says. “This year, we weren’t able to do something big, and I think it presented a really unique opportunity to rethink it. It kind of brings back the scrappiness and fun of the original project.”

The festival launches on July 29 with Feast Flicks, a series of outdoor dinners and movies at The Lot at Zidell Yards. The opener: Like Water for Chocolate featuring a meal from República, one of our favorite, most exciting new restaurants in the city. On July 30, there’ll be a screening of Eat Drink Man Woman with food from XLB, Eem, and Heyday; on July 31, classic food film Big Night will be paired with dinner from Cooperativa, Sebastiano’s, Nostrana, and Montelupo. The series closes on August 1 with a showing of Ratatouille and dinner from Paley’s Place and the Multnomah Athletic Club.

The next major series of events, Feast Family Reunions, will take place August 28 and 29 at The Redd on Salmon. Each of the four events will feature two chef “team captains,” who will helm a team of around ten chefs to present a themed meal. Details are still in the works, but we’re particularly excited about one pair of team captains: Carlo Lamagna of Magna Kusina and Han Ly Hwang of Kim Jong Grillin, who will assemble a team of around a dozen Asian American chefs to create a meal reminiscent of past years’ night markets

Plus, this year’s Feast charity partner will be Feed the Mass, a nonprofit that currently provides 6,000 hot meals a week to Portlanders in need and offers culinary education programs to local youth and families. The Feast Family Reunion events will help raise funds for Feed the Mass, and Feed the Mass will also make presentations on topics like food waste and culinary traditions.

Claima Stories, a podcast hosted by former sneaker marketer Bimma Williams, will also host a series of live podcasts at Oregon Contemporary (dates forthcoming) called Claima Stories: Feast Edition. The podcast was originally intended to give BIPOC youth a look at how BIPOC creatives made their way into the sneaker and fashion industries. In recent months, the podcast has begun to embrace a wider definition of creative—including the food and drink industry. 

“Some of these stories are folks that didn’t start out in the food world. They didn’t start out thinking they would be entrepreneurs. Some of these folks are immigrants...some of these narratives come from family,” Williams says. The hope, he says, is that these podcasts will help people understand the stories and the labor that goes into the food, and to inspire young people of color to pursue a career they may not have thought was possible for them.

All told, Portland is in for a joyful culinary reunion this summer. After all, says Crowley, the chefs are looking forward to the opportunity for collaboration and unity.

It became apparent that everybody really missed the opportunity that Feast gives to bring our community together,” Crowley says. “These [chefs] are working in their kitchens heads down so much of the time that the opportunity to come together to share stories, to hang, to collaborate, to do new food is something that everybody missed.”

Tickets for Feast Flicks go on sale at FeastPortland.com on June 28; in mid-July, tickets will go on sale for Feast Family Reunions and Claima Stories.

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