Pitchfork   The Dissolve   Festivals: Chicago | Paris
Photo by: Erica Gannett

A pop-up purveyor showcasing cutting-edge merchants and creatives from Chicago and the Midwest, Fête started last December as a hip holiday market showcasing artisanal food, vintage goods, and handmade creations. Now, founders Emily Fiffer, Heather Sperling, and Jessica Herman are positioning the recurring Chicago market at the intersection of food and design. With the next installment April 4-7, 2013, Fête expands its focus with a program of events and lectures celebrating and spotlighting the creative processes of an array of big names in food, design, publishing, and otherwise.


INDO studio

Design related highlights include:

April 5: Process and Raw Materials: Gillion Carrara, Kristin Mariani, and INDO’s Linsey Burritt and Crystal Grover
Moderated by Pitchfork and Nothing Major creative director Mike Renaud, this roundtable discussion focuses on theories of material and design, along with new directions being taken by jewelry and accessory designer Gillion Carrara, dressmaker and designer Kristin Mariani, and the INDO team, who creates site-specific installations and window displays from recycled materials. INDO, 5:30pm

April 6: Studio Tour: A Rare Glimpse into the World of Crucial Detail
Columbia College product design professor Kevin Henry will talk with Crucial Detail’s Martin Kastner, a blacksmith-turned-designer who collaborates with acclaimed chef Grant Achatz of Alinea and Next, about his next-level tableware and conceptualizing new ways to present inventive cuisine. Crucial Detail, 3:30pm

April 7: The Making of Middlewest: A Conversation with David Tamarkin, Erica Gannett, and Sonnenzimmer
Time Out Chicago food critic and Middlewest founder David Tamarkin, along with photographer Erica Gannett and design duo Sonnenzimmer, will break down the aesthetic choices and angles they took when creating this new Kickstarter-funded food magazine. Tamarkin will serve up opinions on the direction of culinary media, as well as his own homemade coffee cake. Rational Park, 11am

April 7: The Sea Inside: A Tour of Land and Sea Dept. 
The Garfield Park creative space/clubhouse of Longman & Eagle co-owners Peter Toalson, designer Cody Hudson, and Robert McAdams, as well as Jon Martin of Mode Carpentry, opens its doors for a tour. Drinks and food come from the newly opened Parson's Chicken & Fish, while sausage samples and Jello shots are from Longman’s Off Site bar. Land and Sea Dept, 2pm

Curious about the fest's intersection of food and design, we queried Jessica Herman for more details.

Why do a food and design fest? 

Emily, Heather, and I are all passionate about food and design, so the inspiration comes from a personal place of wanting to showcase the primarily locally based talent in the city. As far as a fest, we've been doing the market experience for a while, and it's definitely key to the experience. But we wanted to take Fête to the next level. Having the chance to taste the food and shop the vendors' goods is one part of the experience, and an important one. The market is a kick-off for the weekend with basically the best catering you could imagine—Longman & Eagle cocktails, Virtue cider, food from Trencherman, Ruxbin, Parson's Chicken & Fish, La Sirena Clandestina, and so many more—and a chance to shop designed goods from a phenomenal group of vendors, some who have a presence in stores in Chicago and others who don't. But we wanted more. We want to inspire deeper conversations, offer access people normally just don't have to studio spaces, places like The Plant and Crucial Detail and INDO's design studio. I love seeing people have a chance to talk with the makers at the market, but when it's busy, it's impossible to have an extensive conversation. These additional events throughout the weekend offer a chance to continue the conversations that begin at the market and take them even further. Almost all of the weekend's events have some kind of representation at the market. For instance, Kristin Mariani of Red Shift will be talking about her process and raw materials Friday night with INDO and Gillion Carrara is selling her reclaimed leather accessories at the market. 

What's the connection?
There's a lot of overlap. Longman & Eagle is a perfect example. Here's a team of guys who are equally passionate about food and design who have collaborated to build one the best restaurants and the coolest inn in Chicago. The design of Longman & Eagle is as important as the food. When people step inside the Land and Sea Dept. headquarters at our event, they'll see how that collaboration takes place with their studios all situated right next to each other. They're all generating ideas and tapping each others' different expertise and skills to execute those ideas. Similarly, look at someone like Martin Kastner of Crucial Detail. One of the interesting topics he'll discuss during his tour of the Crucial Detail space on Saturday is how his creative process collaborating with Grant Achatz has evolved over the years. The ideas for food and presentation come from both directions. It's not only Grant coming to Martin with ideas for food or drink for which he needs a design solution at this point, but it's also Martin coming up with ideas that he'll pass along to Grant. The process for honing in on that final dish or drink you see in the restaurant then goes from there.

Why is Chicago a good place for this?
There are so many incredible artisans, chefs, and designers in Chicago, but there's a lot going on people have no idea exists. Chicago's very much a food town, so people tend to be aware of the new restaurants that open up. But beyond that, if it's not necessarily buzzy, there isn't enough awareness of the abundance of creative talent in the city. If you don't already exist in these worlds as a chef or designer or have a natural connection, you probably don't have ready access to these people or places. Why not open the doors to the spaces so more people can understand what happens behind the scenes?

For a complete schedule and more details on Fête, as well as tickets, visit comefete.com