The little festival that could, Euphoria is back for its 13th year with a new executive director. Morgan Allen, who previously served as event director, has taken the festival reins, helping host the food-fabulous weekend this September 20–23. Before coming back South, the Georgia native worked in St. Thomas, U.S. Virgin Islands, at the Mahogany Run Golf Course as the food and beverage manager. With stellar chefs, music makers from Greenville to Nashville, and the nearly $300,000 the non-profit has raised since it began in 2006, Euphoria shows it’s fired up about fine food. True, Greenville will always have pimiento cheese, but the Michelin-starred chefs? They’ll be gone after four days.
So about St. Thomas. I must ask, did you island hop and ever run into Kenny Chesney at Woody’s Bar? >> I actually get that question a lot. My husband ran into him a couple of times on St. John, but I never did. I went to Woody’s quite a bit . . . when we would make it to St John, it was kind of your escape for the day. I think the hardest thing is that everyday life sets in so I would come home and people would say, ‘I thought you’d be tanner,’ and it’s like, well, when you work 50–60 hours a week, all you want to do is just sit down on a Saturday and not do anything.
What is setting Euphoria apart this year? >> I think just staying true to who we are. Keeping that at the forefront through everything that we do. We are an intimate festival, and that’s what makes us stand out. Just making sure that everything that we decide to do is thoughtful—how do we make it more engaging between the chefs and the attendees?
Are there any chefs coming this year that you are particularly excited about? >> I’m definitely excited about the Michelin chef lineup this year. We’ve had three Michelin-starred chefs in the past, and this year we’re bringing in six, which is really exciting for me. I don’t like to call myself a foodie—I admire chefs, and growing up in that industry I think it’s really rare not only to have Michelin here, but to have six Michelin-star chefs here, and see how humble they are and excited they are to come to our festival. It’s really amazing.
“We are an intimate festival, and that’s what makes us stand out.” —Morgan Allen
When you travel do you go to their restaurants? >> Anytime that we travel we try to either go see a chef that’s participated or someone that we’re hoping to get to the festival in the future. Just to always keep up with who is up-and-coming and again, it’s great whenever you can travel regionally and you always have a spot. You can make a decision pretty easily on where you’re going to go eat based on who you want to go see.
Who would be your dream chef? >> That’s a tough question. I’m a huge Michelle Bernstein fan.
Who is she? >> She’s in Miami. She’s an amazing, talented chef and came up when the industry was really starting to get popular in the sense of reality TV. I mean, nowadays it’s all about the female empowerment, but Michelle Bernstein is kind of an old-school chef, and all these talented chefs came after her that are Michelin-starred chefs now. I’m dying to get her to the festival and it’s my mission to get her here. Actually, Chef Wilberto Sauceda, the new chef at Lazy Goat, cooked under her for a long time. So there’s a connection there. I’m hoping to use that connection to get her here (laughs).
What are the top three must-dos for the festival this year? >> I think if you have the means to do it, definitely the Michelin-starred dinner. I know it’s expensive but it’s so rare to have four Michelin-starred chefs cooking for you all at one time. I think Feast by the Field is probably one of my favorite events now, and anytime there’s a new person that’s never experienced Euphoria, I always say Feast by the Field because it’s a tasting showcase event and you get so much bang for your buck. The other event that I would—oh, gosh, this is hard—I’m torn between two, but the Sunday Supper is quintessential Southern and being down on the Reedy River and the Wyche Pavilion just screams Greenville, and unfortunately it’s probably the last year that we’re in the Wyche with the renovations they’re doing. It’s hard to think down the road where are we going to have this ambience, this natural beauty that Greenville has to offer.
Photography by Ian Curcio