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Wednesday, Oct. 21, 2009

Kohler Food & Wine Experience Returns

Annual gathering features unique classes, celebrity chefs

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Built on nothing more than a steady business of bathtubs and faucets, the village of Kohler has transcended its plumbing pedigree to become a point of interest on any epicurean destination guide. The village’s distinct restaurants warrant a visit anytime of year, but it’s the Kohler Food & Wine Experience that will have foodies making a pilgrimage this weekend, Oct. 22-25. Co-sponsored by Destination Kohler and Food & Wine magazine, the full-flavored event is four days of culinary demonstrations, renowned chefs and sommeliers, artisan cheese and gourmet food makers, seminars, tastings and specialty shopping.

The Kohler Food & Wine Experience caters to food and wine connoisseurs, but certainly doesn’t alienate those who aren’t. “We see a very diverse group of people coming to the event,” explains chef Ulrich Koberstein, group director of culinary arts for Destination Kohler and the Old Course Hotel Golf Resort & Spa in St. Andrews, Scotland, as well as the executive chef managing all the culinary operations at the American Club. “Some of the classes are more basic, like a 101 class, while others are more advanced and sophisticated. We really try to cater to every kind of level of gourmet that wants to come to the event.”

The enormous popularity of food and cooking shows on the Food Network and Travel Channel is evidence that there is an interest and need for information and guidance derived from mastery of the craft. It’s because of these shows that chefs have been elevated to celebrity status. By inviting renowned chefs and presenters like Jacques and Claudine Pépin (co-hosts of PBS’s “The Zen of Taste”), Hosea Rosenberg (Bravo TV’s “Top Chef” Season 5 winner), Andrew Zimmern (host of Travel Channel’s “Bizarre Foods”), Jon Ashton (CW’s “The Daily Buzz” chef ) and Lidia Bastianich (author and hostess of PBS’s “Lidia’s Italy”), the Kohler Food & Wine Experience is giving participants an invaluable opportunity to learn cooking techniques these culinary experts took years to perfect.

The usual suspects of the weekend include the “Kohler Chefs’ Challenge” on Thursday, Friday’s “Shake & Stir Martini Party” with Jon Ashton, the “Grand Wine Tastings” on Friday and Saturday, and “Sunday Champagne Brunch” at the American Club. “Oktoberfest,” featuring a live band and beer tasting, will be back for its second year, as will Saturday’s “Champions’ Dinner at Whistling Straits” with Augusta National chef Bruce Sacino. 

Among the packed schedule of cooking demonstrations and wine seminars are a few standouts, like “Taste of the Vine,” a party for 400 people held at the Kohler Design Center. “We host 40 different wine vendors,” Chef Koberstein explains. “Each has three or four different wines available, most of which are high-end, exclusive wines.” To round things out, chefs will be serving food from cooking stations at strategic spots around the Design Center.

Marcus Samulesson, Zimmern, Ashton, Jacques Pépin and Koberstein each prepare a course for “The Feast of Talent,” an exclusive, intimate five-course dinner paired with wine. The full weekend comes to a close on Sunday with the “Ultimate Tailgate Party,” featuring a live broadcast of the Packers’ game with delicious tailgate-inspired food and drinks.

The Kohler Food & Wine Experience continues to experience healthy growth. For its debut year in 2000, the event sold less than 3,000 tickets; last year it was 7,000. And many of the attendees from past years are spending more time in the kitchen because of their stimulating experiences at Kohler.