At the innovative new POC Food & Wine Festival in SF and Berkeley, brown is beautiful.
The first annual POC Food & Wine Festival is May 2-5 in San Francisco and Berkeley. (Melissa De Mata).

At the innovative new POC Food & Wine Festival in SF and Berkeley, brown is beautiful.


A new food and wine festival debuts in the Bay Area this May, and it's unlike just about anything else out there.

Over four days of uniquely curated food and drink experiences, the POC Food & Wine Festival will celebrate those chefs, vintners, brewers, distillers, and other makers of color who are often overlooked in the spaces devoted to their crafts.

“We’ve been seeing creative movements happening in cultural communities and I wanted to create a space for a more multicultural community, one to which we could bring in the East Asian community, the Filipino community, the Black community—a space that’s bigger than any one of us alone,” says festival founder Gina Mariko Rosales.

The POC Food & Wine Festival aims to create a welcoming, community-minded place for exchange and connection revolving around the joy of eating and drinking together. While chefs of color have become more visible over the last several years, the wine industry remains gate-kept by a white majority. With the exception of Oakland’s Black Vines Festival, which celebrates Black wine growers and producers, says Rosales, there aren’t many spaces that not only feature the work of people of color; but that allow them to be their “whole selves.” The POC Food & Wine Fest will help fill the gap.

Rosales and her partners have also put equitability and affordability at the festival’s center. They’ve kept booth fees for vendors as low as possible—$200 per booth versus rates that can range up to $3000—and are paying chefs as much as 12 times what they are typically paid at similar showcases. A sliding scale for tickets (available through Friday April 26) makes the events as accessible as possible for those from throughout the economic spectrum.

The festival kicks off on Thursday May 2nd with a family meal which, this year, will feature Palestinian cuisine by chef Reem Assil. “All the work we do in events is about building community and building family, so including the family meal concept was really important to me,” says Rosales.

Offerings from some of the POC Food & Wine Festival's participating vendors, chefs, and makers.(Melissa De Mata)

“At a time where it’s considered political to simply exist as Palestinian, I felt like I had a place where I could do the opposite and learn a little about their culture and food and where they come from. As a Filipino, whose people were colonized for 300 years, their struggle feels very personal to me. I wanted to be in solidarity with these amazing chefs.”

The POC Food & Wine Fest’s biggest events take place on Saturday May 4, starting with The Main Dish, its signature tasting experience. Instead of an every-brand-for-themselves approach, The Main Dish has paired chefs including Tu David Phu (Top Chef Season 15 Alum), Nelson German (Sobre Mesa, Top Chef Season 18), and David Yoshimura (Nisei) with wineries like Black Girl Magic, Duncan Peak Vineyards, Ikenga Wines, and Kareen Wine to create new, never before seen multicultural pairings. The Palate Pass introduces guests to those curated collaborations while some of the Bay Area’s best DJs spin the soundtrack.

When the tasting hall winds down, the festival will keep the party going with an R&B Soul Lounge hosted by Cuffin All Thangs R&B Party, which will include a retail market and a Coffee Crew for essential caffeination needs. A healing happy hour, a CBD Wine & Sound Bath with Malaya Botanicals and Astralogik, will simultaneously take place for those who want a more laid back transition before the Brown is Beautiful After Party. The on-site “fashion-forward good ol’ fashioned house party” will feature DJ Umami, RJ Kook Raul, and GTC Band, plus a fashion show, caterer’s showcase, cocktails, and wine.

On Sunday, May 5th, the festival wraps up with a final family dinner featuring chef Haejin Chun of Big Bad Wolf SF—but it won’t be the last we see of the POC Food & Wine Fest. “We definitely see this as an annual event,” says Rosales, but it’s also just the first phase of a bigger project. In a few years, organizers hope to purchase their own ranch and vineyard and turn it into a legacy space for chefs and winemakers of color.

“Here we are bringing together multicultural partners in food and wine, and even growing grapes and serving grapes, when our ancestors [like Cesar Chavez and Larry Itliong] were the ones picking the grapes,” Rosales continues. “I really hope that people come away from the experience feeling seen, that there is a space for them in this industry, and that they belong and can tell their cultural stories from their perspective 100% without being watered down.”

// The POC Food & Wine Festival runs from May 2 to May 5 in San Francisco and Berkeley. The Main Dish is Saturday May 4 from 1pm to 5pm at the Ciel Creative Space (2611 Eighth St., Berkeley); Get tickets to the events at Sliding scale tickets are available through April 26.

Old Hillside Bourbon will be one of the distilleries featured at the POC Food & Wine Fest.(Melissa De Mata)

More from the POC Food & Wine Fest

To learn more about the POC Food & Wine Festival, we talked to some of its participants about why they joined the event, what chefs and makers of color need to be more visible in the Bay Area, and what they’re most looking forward to at the fest.

Why did you want to participate in the POC Food & Wine Festival?

Alex Pong of Paper Son Coffee and Anand Upender of York Street Cafe: Food from other countries is often placed as a second-class citizen in US foodie culture—think of the "cheap" taco stand or chai hawker. Coffee is strikingly similar, it's a product that has been grown mostly by POC farmers (who often are underpaid) yet people complain about coffee prices all the time. This event embraces the fact that POC food makers are working really hard to put out quality (some might even say luxurious), creative products that are worthy of a festival stage.

Monique Lopez Feybesse of Tarts de Feybesse: As a Filipino American chef in the Bay Area, I feel it is important to showcase how you have grown up. Not only about your blood roots, because some people don’t have any ties to that, but specifically how you were raised in the food you eat and how you eat and appreciate it. I’d like to give back to the culture in a way that makes sense to me: Cooking and paying homage by being proud.

Alex Pong of Paper Son Coffee and Anand Upender of York Street Cafe(Courtesy of @papersoncoffee + @yorkstreetsf)

POC are increasingly visible in the food/drink landscape in the Bay Area but there's still a long way to go. What do you think might help to increase opportunities for POC chefs, winemakers, distillers, brewers, and others?

Sincere Justice of Tacos Sincero: I think this festival is a start, but I also just think being present and active in these spaces is a way. Building connections can and will eventually open doors. Even if you must be small, make an impact being small. Ain’t nothing wrong with starting small. You don’t have to be great to start but you must start to be great. Food and wine are nothing new, we have been making food and wine.

Feybesse: I think normalizing our presence would be a step forward. By being proud and not always having to label yourself as a POC in the future, just showcasing your talent and personality should be enough to shine. Culture should enhance you and not define you. I’m always thankful for POC events that can influence self-awareness and confidence.

Monique Lopez Feybesse of Tarts de Feybesse(Courtesy of POC Food & Wine Festival)

What are you excited to check out at the fest?

Sincero: I’m super excited about DaBao and Batik and Baker. Wine wise: Laughing Gems and MadMarvlus!

Upender: My background is more in food so I'm excited to see some of my friends up there like Chef Tu and Chef Reem as well as some businesses I love like Tacos Sincero and Rize Up.

Pong:Dokkaebier is always creative and tasty!

Feybesse: I’m so excited to be cooking alongside other chefs who are passionate about what they represent. I can’t wait to see what they come up with, it’s always exciting to see knowledge in person, whether it is a different cuisine or technique. The beauty of learning the stories and capturing the behind the scenes action is always the best part of a vision like this. Some of these chefs are already friends and they are so inspiring in their art and intellectual style, it’s exciting to know that others will have a chance to see what I see.

Sincere Justice of Tacos Sincero(Courtesy of @tacossincero)

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