Wake and Wander's Final Thoughts on TASTE LA

This past weekend, I wrote all about my adventures at TASTE (LA Food and Wine Festival). I mentioned good interactions with Scott Conant and Giada, and I laughed at Duff Goldman for thinking he was in any sort of danger on Rodeo Drive.

I’ve realized, though, that my feelings go far beyond Duff’s safety issues – I’ve figured out where the bitterness towards him is stemming from.

The reason I enjoyed Scott Conant and Giada so much is because they acted like they cared, even if they didn’t. They stood there and talked to everyone who approached them. They asked questions, cracked jokes – it seemed they realized why they were there, that they realized people were paying $125 for this privilege.

I did not get this same vibe from Duff when I first talked to him (when he was holding up the line). He was friendly at that moment, although it was obvious he had other things on this mind.

This was later confirmed at his cake presentation. He was signing autographs for a while, but the line was far from finished when he threw his arms in the air and exclaimed that he “was done.” The frustration was apparent, and he walked off towards the tents, towards the food and booze. He was whispering something to a friend as he walked away.

Come on, Duff, you know Wake and Wander is always watching – and that sort of thing doesn’t fly with me. Sure, you are a normal person who should be able to enjoy his evening – but not when your name is in the advertisements, not when people are buying tickets because they see your face and talents associated with the event.

You weren’t there to eat and drink, you were there to make sure the people had a good time, to make sure they leave on a high and tell all their friends how great it was – not that they had been waiting for 15 minutes (instead of enjoying the festival) only to have you walk away when they are next in line.

Come on, think it through – I’m not trying to be a jerk.

Final Recommendations for TASTE LA:

Let’s get away from celebrities now and talk about the festival itself. I attended seven of the nine events, but kept the mindset of an individual ticket buyer even though I was a member of the press. I constantly asked myself how I would feel if I had paid for my admission – did I get my money’s worth?

Some events I felt like I did, others not so much. They were all fun – don’t get me wrong – but there’s a lot of room for buyer’s remorse with a $125 ticket price. A disappointing time would not only be hard on the mind and mood, but tough on the wallet as well.

I found the events I enjoyed most were the ones that had the most variety. Burgers and Beer and Desserts After Dark sound amazing in theory, but at some point I realized that eating burgers or desserts isn’t fun for long – it wasn’t fun when I had only sampled a small portion of what was available and I found my stomach full. (Seriously, I cannot believe the vendors didn’t cut up the burgers.)

Secrets from the Kitchen and Cellar was probably the event I enjoyed the most – mainly because the vendors all served small and light samples. I could taste right up to the end of the four-hour event without much guilt, and that’s a recipe for a successful afternoon at a food festival.

I’m not sure which events, if any, will be repeated next year, but my advice would be to look very closely at each and really think about what you’re getting yourself into and how much you’re going to pay for it.

Let me be clear: I’m not discouraging anyone from attending any event – go to all of them if you have the coin – you’ll have fun. I’m just saying, if you’re on a budget like most of us, don’t let your eyes get the best of you with a seductive name like Burgers and Beer – take the time to understand the vendors and the type of food that will be served.

Next up: Punta Cana.

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