On August 23 and 24, Burlington College will host a new, food-forward music festival that's taking a fresh look at festy fare. "We weren't interested in putting on just another music festival," says WYSIWYG culinary director Lulu Kalman, who consults with Danny Meyer's Union Square Hospitality Group in New York. "There are so many incredible ones out there already, [and] we wanted to do something more thoughtful [with the food] than just saying, 'OK, everyone just come down and have a ton of beer and delicious food by the lake.'"
The resulting festival (pronounced "wiz-ee-wig," the acronym for "What You See Is What You Get") is a celebration of all that's great about summer in Vermont: fresh local food, close-knit community and one of the richest agricultural traditions in America.
Don't expect standard festival food preparations — fry-lines and grill-tops. "I'm kind of personally allergic to that kind of state fair, super-commercial level of industrial equipment," Kalman says. She let the chefs decide how they wanted to cook onsite. "When we asked [the chefs,] you know, 'If you had your wish list, if you had all your druthers, what would you want to do?'" she says, "pretty much everyone was like, 'I'd like to cook an animal in a fire.'"
The food will come from local farms, among them Pete's Greens, Butterworks Farm, Half Pint Farm and Champlain Orchards. Each chose a local restaurant or caterer — such as Misery Loves Co., Hen of the Wood and the Hindquarter — to prepare its meat and produce, turning the usual chef-purveyor relationship on its head.
Many farmers are working with chefs they already know, but Champlain Orchards bucked the trend, starting a new relationship with Burlington's Barrio Bakery. "They're both super amped about the whole thing," Kalman says, adding that she hopes to see more new collaborations next year. "Once everyone's a little more comfortable with the idea, there'll be more branching out."
Each chef will be outfitted with a space — whether it's a booth, a food truck (Hindquarter, Phantom Productions) or alternative arrangement — creating a weekend-long smorgasbord for festivalgoers. Kalman is scheduling guest chefs who will breeze in for one-off appearances, keeping the lineup fun and fresh all weekend.
Kalman is also planning ticketed meals prepared by more of Vermont's premier palates and a series of food-oriented discussions, panels, demonstrations and workshops orchestrated by Healthy Living Market and Café, the Intervale Food Hub, the New England Culinary Institute and others. That's in addition to the fest's full slate of comedy, art exhibitions and live music. For more on the non-food-related fest happenings, go to this issue's Soundbites.