The Southern Food Festival won't be on the menu at this year's Memphis in May. The event began in 2000 to accompany the month's finale event, the Sunset Symphony, a Memphis tradition since the first performance in 1977.
The two-day festival, which featured local restaurants, cooking contests, Southern chefs, arts and crafts, music, and kids' entertainment, failed to attract the crowds desired.
"We established the festival to build a two- to three-day event during the last weekend of the month," says Diane Hampton, executive vice president of Memphis in May. "It had been our hope that we would have another strong event that would grow to the size of the music festival or barbecue fest. This was not headed in that direction."
The event has been fraught with difficulties since its inception. It was rained out the first year. The second year, the "no food or drink" policy upset picnickers. This along with poor attendance levels and market research led Memphis in May officials to cancel the event.
In November, the Memphis in May Marketing and Research Council conducted a telephone survey "to find out what people thought of our events and what people wanted to see out of Memphis in May," says Hampton.
The Sunset Symphony will continue because research found that it is a treasured tradition in Memphis. Additionally, in response to the survey, Hampton says they will have a gospel performance to precede the symphony on May 29th. During the summer, the board of directors will consider expanding the event further.
"It costs as much in infrastructure and labor to set up Tom Lee Park for a one-day event as a two-day event," says Hampton.
Cattlemen's barbecue sauce, used over the years by many Memphis in May Barbecue Cooking Contest winners to professionals, is now for sale at Wal-Mart Super Centers.
"Although Cattlemen's has been used for more than 30 years by chefs and professionals, it's not a brand that consumers know," says Stacey Bender, a representative for Cattlemen's. "Now they will recognize it."
To promote the Cattlemen's sauces, the parent company, Reckitt Benckiser, is coming to the barbecue fest. On Friday, May 14th, Cattlemen's will host the Frank RedHot Battle to the Bone Buffalo Wing Eating Competition. Like the contest's title, the event will be a mouthful. The contest will be held at the Cattlemen's booth in front of the main stage, where guests will also be able to talk with barbecue experts and pick up recipes.
In addition, the company will sponsor a barbecue sauce contest. The contest winner will receive hotel, food, and entertainment expenses to next year's festival. Ten runner-ups will receive $100 American Express gift certificates.
To enter, send the recipe, which must include one of three Cattlemen's flavors -- Award Winning Classic, Hickory Smoke, or Golden Honey -- by November 15th, to: Best of the Barbecue Contest, c/o BHGPR, 546 Valley Road, Upper Montclair, NJ 07043.
There's a new delicatessen in town. Sweet Peppers Deli, located at 1250 N. Germantown Parkway, is billed as a "New York-style deli with Southern charm."
Myril Bean and her sons John and Bernard joined forces with Robin Fant to create the first Sweet Peppers in Columbus, Mississippi, and then two more in Tupelo and Starkville.
"Sweet Peppers was developed by a family and good close friends, which makes it a family environment," says Bernard Bean.
Exposed brick walls and an open design, with garage doors opening onto a patio, give the restaurant an airy, casual atmosphere. About 300 people attended a grand opening dinner to benefit Youth Villages of Memphis on April 19th.
The menu offers a wide representation of the four S's -- soups, salads, sandwiches, and spuds. The sandwiches can satisfy any craving, from vegetarian to the signature Bulldog, which begins with roast beef, kielbasa, pepper jack cheese, and barbecue sauce. There's also a kids' menu and an array of desserts.
"With the fast-casual concept, many restaurants tend to focus more on the fast," says Bean. "Service is what separates us from other delis and other fast-casual restaurants."
John Godwin, a Tupelo resident with no prior restaurant experience, liked the restaurant so much he purchased the franchise rights to Shelby and DeSoto counties. The Cordova location is the first of 10 sites planned by Godwin.
Godwin's partner and friend, Adam Paxton, was also Bernard Bean's neighbor.
"We would sit around and talk about it and they seemed interested," says Bean. "A lot of people said they were interested. They actually did it."
The restaurant is open daily from 11 a.m. until 10 p.m., except Friday and Saturday when it remains open until 11 p.m. Catering is also available.