A Movable Feast


Joyce Godbold creates a sensation with the New Orleans Wine & Food Experience

The New Orleans Wine & Food Experience is gearing up for its 17th annual celebration. Wineries from around the world, along with a host of the city’s most highly acclaimed eateries—from four- star restaurants to coffee-and-dessert houses—will participate in five days of feasting, sipping and mingling from May 20–24. The New Orleans Wine & Food Experience (NOWFE) is a celebration of the senses for a good cause. Every year the nonprofit organization donates proceeds to the Louisiana Restaurant Association’s School-to-Career Program; UNO’s School of Hotel, Restaurant and Tourism; the Chef John Folse Culinary Institute; Delgado Community College Culinary programs; and the Emeril Lagasse Foundation. According to executive director Joyce Godbold, whose responsibility it is to plan and coordinate every detail of the event, “these organizations exemplify NOWFE’s dedication to education and preserving the culture of hospitality in New Orleans.”

Joyce, how long have you been involved with NOWFE?

I started this job two months before Katrina, so the 2008 event will be my third “Experience.”

As executive director, what are your main responsibilities? Is it a full-time position?

I am the liaison for consumers and the point of contact for the board of directors, chefs, winemakers, site coordinators and vendors. I’m responsible for every detail, from top to bottom. I have a lot of volunteer and contract help, so a big part of my job is filtering information and delegating where I can. It’s a full-time, yearround job that brings a whole new meaning to “delayed gratification!” To see it all come together for five days, after 360 days of planning, is an amazing feeling.

NOWFE will be held in the Louisiana Superdome this year. Why the move? And what changes can guests expect to see in the new venue?

The Hilton was a very successful venue for us, but this year they didn’t have our dates open. We decided to try something new, and see what excitement we could create with all of the extra space in an iconic New Orleans building. We’ve incorporated more music, a parade, the Louisiana Seafood Cook-Off and a cocktail lounge … just to name a few of the high points!

This is the 17th anniversary, so how do you keep the event fresh and exciting? Each year, we work hard to improve, grow and to think outside of the “bottle.” We focus on staying up to date with the current trends in wine, and on exceeding the expectations of our attendees. We collaborate with our supporting restaurants and wineries that bring new ideas and great tastes to the table.

There are a few new events and changes to others this year. Tell us about the premium wine dinner with chef John Folse and how that came about.

We are always thinking of ways to add to NOWFE, and John Folse has become a big part of that. His culinary institute is one of our beneficiaries, so he does this fantastic wine dinner on Tuesday to kick off the event and to bring awareness about our nonprofit mission. He is personally there to serve and explain each course, so it’s a great opportunity for his fans to get up close and personal.

Vinola, a premium wine tasting, is one of the newer events. Can you describe it?

Vinola is a more exclusive event with a slightly higher ticket price, hand-selected and highly valued wines and a maximum of 300 guests. This year, NOWFE’s serious oenophiles will gather at the Ritz-Carlton for Vinola, which will be followed by a live auction, where bidders can get their hands on rare wines and once-in-alifetime experiences.

Rouses will sponsor the Royal Street Stroll this year. What part will it play in the event and will we see anything new or different due to its involvement?

I’m really excited about our partnership with Rouses, because they’re a locally owned, family business that New Orleanians can really get behind. They’ll serve food at various spots on Royal Street, so food will play a much bigger role this year than in previous years. We will also have food from Bombay Club, GW Fins, Pelican Club, and Drago’s will serve their original charbroiled oysters!

The Louisiana Seafood Promotion and Marketing Board will present the first annual Louisiana Seafood Cook-Off on Saturday during the Grand Tasting. How did that come about and what will it entail?

That event is the result of a long-standing relationship NOWFE has with Louisiana Seafood Promotion. We are thrilled to have them on board in such a big way. This will be a live seafood-cooking competition between ten of Louisiana’s top chefs. Not only does it give our attendees an added bonus, but it places the spotlight on the importance of using and requesting Louisiana seafood.

As part of NOWFE, seminars are held on Friday and Saturday. What are some of the highlights this year?

John Folse will cook up some wild game; John Besh will explore nontraditional wine and seafood pairings; we’ll have local chef and sommeliers that will discuss how they pair wine and food for their menus; Ti Adelaide Martin and Lally Brennan will work their cocktail magic; and we’ll cover other hot topics like chocolate and wine, Champagne, Burgundy, Bordeaux and home winemaking.

Can you tell us which “celebrity guests” are expected to attend?

John Folse and John Besh will be there, of course. WWL’s Eric Paulsen will be the emcee of our live auction; Ziggy “The Wine Gal” Eschliman will join us from California; and Kix Brooks, of Brooks & Dunn, will be the grand marshal of the Krewe of Cork at the Royal Street Stroll, and he’ll showcase his wines from Arrington Vineyards at the Grand Tastings.

The Grand Tastings showcase some of the top wineries in the world and the best restaurants in town. How many wineries will be represented? How many wines will be poured? And how many restaurants will be participating?

For two days, our Grand Tastings are home for over 75 of New Orleans’ finest restaurants and 175 wineries, pouring over 1,000 vintages. We estimate that over 25,000 corks are popped over those five days!

What else can guests expect at the Grand Tasting? Music? Merchandise to purchase?

We’ll have four bands going all the time, and a grand finale to close out the event on each day. Friday we’re planning a wine-themed parade, with help from the Krewe of Bacchus and St. Augustine’s Marching 100. For Saturday’s finale, we’re working with Tipitina’s to put on a showstopping concert. Also this year, NOWFE is going “green,” so patrons can expect to see lots of involvement from local environmental groups. For souvenirs, attendees can scoop up our 2008 poster, T-shirts and lapel pins designed by local artist India Stewart.

How many people are expected to attend this year?

We expect about 10,000 attendees over the five days of events! As this event continues to grow, what sort of economic impact does it have on the local economy? Last year, the University of New Orleans found that NOWFE had a $5.4 million economic impact on the city. We are having them repeat the study this year, so we can track our growth. It is thrilling to see that we make a real difference to local businesses and to our city’s revenue.

The event is such a monumental undertaking, and I’m sure it’s emotionally and physically draining, so how do you spend the day after the event?

On Memorial Day, the Monday after NOWFE, I sleep in late, take a long nap and go to bed early! In the week after NOWFE, I usually open two months’ worth of mail that has piled up at home, reconnect with my family and friends, and believe it or not, I begin gearing up for next year!