Chef Nathan T. Breeding of House on Main by Troutdale in Abingdon attended a 6-State Pan-Appalachian Colloquium this past weekend (January 21) at Greenbrier Resort.
Dr. Jean Haskell, Appalachian Regional Commission’s Whisman Scholar, describes how Appalachia has become “marketable” to travelers as a regional tourist destination today in a way it has never been before. This colloquium builds on that premise and focuses on finding strategies for branding and marketing each of our unique corners of Appalachia based on its quality of place—its cultural and culinary heritage—and how these elements can enhance the attractiveness of our localities to tourists.
Participants at the colloquium discussed with the community developer panelists from neighboring Appalachian states how their successful experiences with heritage tourism demonstrate the effectiveness of this approach. West Virginia’s Cast Iron Cook-Off® has gained recognition and support over the past seven years, both as a brand and as an event with sponsors and participating consumers who are attracted by the ethos of the experience. As a part of this session, participants also had the opportunity to be immersed in that event, to understand more deeply the dynamics that make this culinary event so attractive, and to be part of our planning to establish a Pan-Appalachian Cook-Off in 2013 that will feature other states as competitors.
The FARM2U Collaborative’s™ Cast Iron Cook-Off® is more than a cooking competition. For the past seven years, it has been West Virginia’s annual festival of food, celebrating and preserving the state’s culinary heritage by drawing together the best chefs in the state to compete in a juried competition that features creative reinventions of traditional Appalachian recipes.
As a one-stop showcase for the state’s culinary talent, this cultural heritage tourism initiative has been a major success by every measure—participant satisfaction, earned media, etc.—and its extended economic impact is a significant boost to all the properties involved. Surveys of the approximately 200 attendees—opinion shapers with discretionary income—indicated that 63% intend to dine at one or more of the restaurants they were introduced to at the Cook-Off, and 26% said they intend to dine out more frequently.
The West Virginia unique Cook-Off model is “eater-tainment” at its best. The chef, along with another professional sous chef, led eight “foodies” as they used local, indigenous ingredients which they prepared in cast iron skillets, to showcase their culinary heritage and talent, as well as generate excitement.
We are proud of Chef Nate in his showcase of talent this past weekend!