Today's post is another Coffee Conversation featuring the phenomenal Carrie Welch. She is the Co-Founder of Feast Portland. This festival has been called "The best food festival in the country." Feast spans 4 days and is filled to the brim with culinary events, spectacular chefs and industry professionals. Carrie is one of the main reasons this festival is so successful, she has an extremely contagious positive energy and leads an amazing team to put on one of the best events of the year.
In the midst of this crazy time of year, Carrie sat down to answer some of my hard hitting questions :) Can't wait to share with you! You will love her.
For more on Feast Portland 2014 Tickets- see more info below
Q. What is your coffee drink of choice
A. I am a straight up black coffee girl since moving to Portland 4 years ago. Before that, I would fuss around with milk and sugar as coffee in NYC can be shockingly bad. I learned to appreciate the flavor nuances in the perfectly roasted Portland coffee rather quickly, so now I order a black drip coffee or Americano if I’m feeling fancy.
Q. So, what's your story? How did you end up here?
A. I guess I’m the result of some great press about the Portland food scene. My wife Jannie and I moved here in 2010 after stalking Portland for a few years. The first time Portland really got on my radar was in 2007 when I was working at Food Network on our first awards show and in it we named Portland, OR as the top food destination in the country. I was like, really? I asked the Food Network Kitchens team who had done all the research about it, and they said for a small city you have no idea what’s going on there in the food world. So we decided to check it out and came here on vacation in 2008. After 9 days of eating and drinking nonstop, we were in love. I remember landing at Newark Airport in New Jersey in the heat and humidity on the way back and said to Jannie on the cab ride home – we are moving there. And she said – Oh yeah, I was just waiting for you to say it. We had an awesome life in New York – we lived in Brooklyn, worked in Chelsea Market in Manhattan, but it was wearing on us. I’d been in the city since I was 17 years old – I went to college at New York University – so all of the great things about NYC, the energy, the people, the culture, were not making up for a 45 minute subway ride jammed on with hundreds of people every day, or the feeling of being stuck in the city when you don’t own a car and can’t get somewhere beautiful. We were ready to go, and Portland was our “Goldilocks” city – not too big, not too small, just right. Jannie and I had this crazy idea we were going to open a restaurant here – she’d cook and I’d be front of house. I figured I love food, wine, etc and I’m bossy and Jannie’s a great cook who trained in Brooklyn for two years, it’ll work. We wrote business plans, did tons of research and landed jobs when we arrived. I papered the town with my resume trying to get a server job and finally got one at Wildwood in their private dining room. Jannie was lucky enough to get a line cook job working for Jenn Louis at Lincoln. I lasted three months. I quickly realized I was a terrible server – I had tables that fell over during events, I couldn’t carry six glasses on a tray, I couldn’t calculate my own tip. I went to Wildwood and told them I thought I should quit (they agreed!) and that maybe I should do their PR instead. I somehow convinced Jannie to leave her cooking job – where she was doing quite well! – and Little Green Pickle was born. Jannie worked as a web designer since college, so with her web experience and my PR background, we knew we could offer something different to chefs, restaurants, beverage, and artisans, both here in Portland and around the country in terms of promotion.
At the same time, just because we are this insane, we were starting Feast. We didn’t totally know it at first, but we met our business partner Mike Thelin pretty early on in our time in Portland and something just clicked. Mike had wanted to start a food and drink festival here for a long time and even had rough ideas on what the events – Sandwich Invitational, Night Market and others – could look like. He had sponsors ready to help fund us. We were excited about Portland and thought it deserved a national food festival, so we just did it. We started having meetings all over the city and state to get sponsors, charities, media partners and other supporters on board. The secret to Feast? We hustle and we hustle hard. We work on the festival all year long, and we plan in advance. That’s how we were able to get it off the ground for 2012, we’d been working on it since January 2011. And that’s the only way we maintain the high quality and standards we hold ourselves to, so we can deliver an awesome experience for everyone involved each year. It was such a hectic time thinking about it now! I can’t even tell you where we were first living when a lot of this was going down. It was a share house in North Portland with 5 adults, a small child, and 2 sugar gliders. Google sugar gliders. Now imagine them and the smell of pot outside your bedroom door when you wake up every morning. It was definitely a Portlandia experience! But, we were still in love with this city (still are!) and discovering it and how life works here was also amazing and it changed these two East Coast girls, made us slow down a bit and enjoy the quality of life we have a lot more.
Q. Who is your role model and why?
A. I have a lot of role models. I learned early on that for me, it’s best to take inspiration from a variety of people and cobble that together into what I want to take in and add to my life. My parents are extremely important role models for me – they owned their own business together for 25 years while raising my sister and I, and now as a small business owner myself with a baby on the way, I am constantly following and learning from their example.
Lady Gaga. I don’t know what it is about her but the way she’s cultivated this persona, and image around herself when she’s just a girl from NYC, is endlessly fascinating to me. So much of it isn’t real, but she makes you question what is and what isn’t around music and pop culture. She looks a lot fluffier than she is.
Chelsea Handler. I love her super acerbic wit and just how freakin’ quick she is. Her show got me through late nights waiting up for Jannie to be done cooking in Brooklyn. I admire her work ethic, her unwillingness to take shit from anyone and she just plain makes me laugh.
Gloria Steinem. I know this sounds kind of obvious, but I’ve been a little obsessed with her ever since I read “A Bunny’s Tale” in high school. I look up to people that work hard and find a way to cut through all the regular crap and look at the world differently. When I read that article I could see how she was trying to infiltrate the world of sexism from the inside out, understand it and try to then debunk it. I think that approach and perspective is neat.
Q. Who is your celebrity crush
A. Ah! I have a few! Don’t tell Jannie. Or you can because she already knows. I will proudly admit it is Kim Kardashian. I don’t know why, I love her and her dark makeup and sort of trashy look. I have been a fan since well before Kimye and the Vogue cover, and follow her on all social media like the creeper that I am.
Q. If you had a time machine that only worked once, where in history or the future are you going
A. I’ve always wanted to live in the 80’s. I was a kid during them, but I have an obsession with 80’s corporate movies like Secret of My Success and Baby Boom and would like to live in the smoky corporate boardrooms, martini lunch, big money days for just a second to see what it was really like. I mean, shoulder pads.
Q. What are your favorite activities to do in your free time?
A. I’m a big reader. Jannie makes fun of me because I’ll take a book over TV anytime (which she does not understand as a full on TV baby). I’m currently reading Wild, just read two baby books as I’m 9 months pregnant and need to know everything even though everyone tells you not to read too many books, and have two more novels on my nightstand I’ll probably get to this summer. I also like to paint and don’t do it enough. I use oil paints because they never really dry so you can come back to a painting and sort of push things around and constantly modify. This year I completed one of our 100 year old tree in our backyard and scrapped a coastal seascape I was trying to do from memory. So, I’m about 50/50 on the painting front!
Q. What is your proudest achievement?
A. Starting and owning two businesses. I always wanted to work for myself and after 10 years of incredible training at the Food Network, I know how to do most things. It was truly difficult to leave my job there – I worked with the best people who supported my career in so many ways, but I knew when it was time for me to go. Jumping off that cliff, finding my way through the business world here in Portland and creating a successful PR firm that employs 5 other people and a festival that attracts 11,000 people a year and has raised $99,000 to help end hunger has been pretty amazing!
Q. Your house is burning down, what three items do you grab?
A. I am oddly not really into material stuff so I imagine not much. Probably mementos of Jannie and my relationship, important documents from our home office and maybe some photos. But we are both practical and would really be getting kids and dogs out of there first and foremost. I think having lived through a major crisis in New York – September 11 – we both know what this really feels like and when something bad like this happens, your adrenaline kicks in and you just get the hell out of there. We weren’t near the towers, we were both about a mile away, but it’s more instinctual than people think – you don’t need or care about your possessions!
Q. What are your vices?
A. Oh geez, I’ve got a few. I really enjoy wine, beer, and cocktails, that is probably my biggest vice left from my wild NYC days. I am pregnant so I joke that I’ve lost my favorite hobby. I love learning about the history, varietals, family stories around wine, I think beer is fascinating in how laid back brewers usually are and the cool stuff they can brew with, and cocktails, well, who doesn’t like cocktails?
Q. What was the best thing to happen to you this week?
A. The baby is kicking more now and feels really strong. Right now, this little boy that will be joining us at the end of August is my number one priority. Being pregnant and feeling life grow inside you is the most awesome thing that I’ve done, ever.
Q. What's in your fridge?
A. We keep a clean fridge. No leftovers in there for more than a few days and I pretty much OCD clean the thing once a week. So, I always have Tillamook Greek Yogurt, blueberry, tons of fruit (pregnancy snack of choice!), skim mozzarella cheese sticks.
Q. You can invite 8 people to a dinner party. Who is on your list? And who is your first alternate guest?
A. President Obama – because he’s fascinating and sometimes I have dreams that we are friends. I’m also a closet political news junkie.
Julia Child – because she was awesome. I had the opportunity to be on set with her during an Emeril Live episode once and no one has more grace and humility.
Chelsea Handler – because I’d want to see what she would say.
My best friend Anne Marie Kindley – because she’s a public defender who has always looked at the world differently.
Adam Rapoport – because he’s the coolest guy in food with the best Instagrams.
Robin Roberts – because Jannie and I love her – she is so generous and poised.
Macklemore – because I love him and what he’s all about.
My wife – because she’s my best friend and better half.
Q. Describe yourself in 3 words.
A. Loyal. Driven. Happy.
Q. What is one of your best qualities?
A. I think being loyal is really important. If someone does something for me, I remember it and work to return the favor. I think it’s why I worked at Food Network for 10 years – they gave me so many opportunities to travel the country, go to the White House, the Superbowl and I wanted to give it all back to them. I have worked with many of the same people that I met upon moving to Portland. It’s important to me to show people that I am trustworthy, I show up on time, and I do what I say I’m going to do.
Q. What is your favorite meal/ dish?
A. Easy, my mom’s Christmas dinner: Prime rib with au jus, baked sweet potato, broccoli with homemade Hollandaise sauce. For dessert, a family favorite called Gookie Buns – Pillsbury Grands biscuit rolls covered in orange and lemon zest plus tons of sugar. I want one right now!
Q. What is one piece of advice/ quote that you try to live by? Or your favorite.
A. I live by the Henry David Thoreau quote: Go confidently in the direction of your dreams! Live the life you've imagined. As you simplify your life, the laws of the universe will be simpler. I first saw this quote when I was a teenager and even then it hit me in the gut. I’ve jumped off a lot of cliffs since then and this quote hangs in our office to remind me and everyone that works with us that life is about risks and change. All the time.
The photos above are all from Carrie's festival, Feast Portland. It truly is a food and wine festival like none of it's kind. Feast Portland showcases the amazing talents and culinary work of worldwide masters of their craft. Feast also has a mission to end childhood hunger and donates its net proceeds to those causes. It is a food and wine extravaganza and you don't want to miss it!
Tickets are on sale now! Get them before they sell out on the Feast Website. I am most looking forward to Night Market! I have tickets, so if you are also attending let me know! We can take #FeastSelfies.
Also follow Feast and Carrie on Instagram and Twitter to keep tabs on this amazing lady.
Hope you loved it!
Love, Rachel xo