The Atlanta Food & Wine Festival, set for May 31 – June 3, 2018, has named its 2018 advisory council.

For the first time, it is an all-female slate – and you might recognize a familiar Fondren name.

CAET Executive Chef Meredith Pittman is among the 60 women – chefs, bartenders, distillers, and sommeliers – chosen for the board and says she is still in shock.

“I freaked out, I’ll be honest,” Pittman says of being notified. “And then I cried. Blame the wine I was drinking when I got the email. I was and still am super honored to be included in not only the festival but to be asked to serve on the council. And, now that it has been announced that it is an all-female council, I am even more honored to represent CAET Winebar and the company I work for, Mississippi, and all Southern women in the industry.”

Billed as a vehicle for Southern food, chefs, innovators and artisans, this year’s festival will seek to showcase an evolving diversity of the South’s food and drink story, specifically highlighting women who are often underrepresented in their respective roles.

Pittman is excited to serve alongside industry players she has long admired, like fellow board member Kelly Fields from Willa Jean in New Orleans

“I’ve had the pleasure of hanging out with her a couple times and gorging on her killer pimento cheese and cocktails when I’m in NOLA,” Pittman adds. “Actually, the first time I met her was at Atlanta Food and Wine Festival a few years ago. I remember whispering to one of my friends, ‘this means nothing to you, but that is Kelly Fields and I may die.’”

Another Pittman favorite, Asha Gomez, is also on the council.

“Shocker, but I met her at the festival, too, at a late night dinner she hosted that weekend in Atlanta. I don’t think I will ever eat brains that taste better than hers. She is also one of the (warmest) and (most) welcoming chefs I’ve ever met.”

Founders Dominique Love and Elizabeth Feichter told Eater Atlanta they don’t want the festival to be part of the problem but hope its impact on Southern food, its professionals, and festival attendees continues being positive.

“We’ve been working on creating this council since the end of last year’s festival. We made the advisory council all women because it was time and timely,” Love said of the decision. “It’s time for us to cast the spotlight on new talent, and in time with a changing South and a changing food and beverage industry.”

As for Pittman’s role in this year’s festival, she says, those details are being hammered out. “(There will be) events, dinners, and classes that will be taught that weekend, so you’ll be able to find me cooking or teaching or both.”

 Tickets are on sale March 16 at atlfoodandwinefestival.com.

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