An Interview with Carrie Welch and Mike Thelin, Co-Founders of Feast Portland
It was a jam-packed weekend of food and drink celebrating the bounty that is Oregon. It was the fourth annual Feast Portland, held on September 19 through 22, 2015, and the sold out events and happy crowds spoke volumes to just what a cherished event Feast has become. Of course, no one could speak more clearly about the event then co-founders Carrie Welch and Mike Thelin, so The Daily Meal took a moment to find out what they thought about the festive four days honoring all things culinary.
The Daily Meal: How do you feel now that Feast Portland number four is a wrap?
Carrie Welch: Relieved! And excited for next year, if you can believe it. I know I love what we do because even when Feast is going on, we’re always thinking what could we do more of, what would make it even better. The whole team thinks that way. One of the new members of our team said to me at our last party on Sunday, “I want another one.” That’s when you know it’s a success and despite massive amounts of hard work, everyone is happy and fulfilled working on this festival.
Mike Thelin: It feels wonderful to have another successful year under our belt and we are grateful to have such a talented team and a very supportive city, region and community of people that make this festival happen every year. That said, we are already onto building year five. It takes a full year (and even more) to pull this off every year, and while we are thrilled with this year’s festival, this is a team that isn’t afraid to shake things up. We are obsessive about what we do, and we can’t wait to do it again next September.
The Daily Meal: What surprised you the most about this year’s Feast?
CW: Smoked! It was just so awesome. The venue, the smoke, chefs grilling over live fire, the vibe, the décor… Did you see the tiny animals and wood work peppered throughout the chef stations? The level of detail that our team and Bird Dog Creative employed in making that event feel feast-like and cool and fun was unmatched. One chef told me even the load in for that event had good vibes, that load in can set the tone for the whole event and this one was really great.
MT: We massively changed our demo stage programming this year and decided to take things in a lifestyle direction instead of static cooking demos. We nixed those entirely, added a deejay, and planned all sorts of spectacles and made our stage experience a lot more energetic: juicing competitions between chefs, an Instagram tutorial by Bon Appétit editors, a sandwich making competition featuring top chefs and audience members — and even some dance parties where Tillamook handed out ice cream. Collectively we’ve been doing food events for decades, and it took that long to figure out what people wanted from a stage experience. They don’t only want cooking demos they could watch at home on television. They want to engage, participate and be entertained.
What was the craziest, funniest, wildest thing that you experienced or saw or that happened at Feast this year?
CW: Well, the karaoke bus we run for media guests to Smoked was pretty funny. Especially when a certain co-founder got up and did Shoop and almost nailed it word for word. Almost. There’s always next year!
The sunset at Night Market was pretty wild. So were the Tomahawk Chops everyone was walking around with from The Country Cat at Smoked. The amount of social media love everyone gives us the week of Feast was overwhelming and made me tear up at times. The 200+ volunteers who come back year after year in their spare time to help make the festival great.
I never make it there, but I heard the flip cup tournament at the ChefStable after party on Friday night was one for the books!
MT: I tore a muscle in my leg on day two of Feast and spent the rest of the weekend in a brace. Three weeks before that, our director Emily Crowley broke her ankle—so was also wearing a brace—the same color on the same foot. It’s hard not to laugh when half of the Feast executive team is decked out in matching medical gear.