The Story Behind the New Name for Triangle Wine Experience

The Triangle Wine & Food Experience has an updated name that underscores its growing support from local chefs, says Ashley Christensen.
Written by Ayn-Monique Klahre

Andrew Ullmam, Ashley Christensen and Sunny Gerhart | Kate Pope Photography

11, 3, 1, 4, 4.

No, it’s not a secret code. Those numbers represent, respectively: the chefs, bakers cheesemongers, seafood chefs and dessert chefs who will be representing at this year’s annual gala for the Triangle Wine & Food Experience (TWFE). Not to mention the 65 winemakers who will be pouring their vintages for the event.

Previously known as the Triangle Wine Experience, adding the F for “food” represents not just the fine dining that has always been central to the weekend—a fundraiser for the Frankie Lemmon School & Development Center in Raleigh—but the breadth of involvement from the local culinary scene. “I think the food is definitely as important as the wine,” says chef Ashley Christensen. “The opportunity to pair great food and great wine together creates a heightened culinary experience for attendees, and the involvement of our local chefs anchors this event as something special and unique to the Triangle.”

Most know that Ashley Christensen, the James Beard-winning chef behind Poole’s Diner, Death & Taxes and many other restaurants in the area, has long been the culinary figurehead behind the event. Historically, the Triangle Wine Experience has pulled national and international winemakers to the area for a weekend exclusive dinners in local restaurants. But adding that F to make it the Triangle Wine & Food Experience underscores the contributions of Raleigh restaurateurs for this fundraising weekend.

“The involvement of our restaurant community has grown every year over the last decade or so; it’s really followed the development of the restaurant scene overall,” says Christensen. “One of the things that has been most exciting to me about the way our restaurant scene has grown is the shared sense of prioritizing important community causes, and every year there is more and more interest among the chefs in our community to get involved in TWFE.”

Kate Pope Photography

From Thursday, January 30 through Saturday, February 1, nearly 2,000 guests will attend exclusive dinners benefiting the Frankie Lemmon School at dozens of local restaurants including Crawford & Son, Mandolin and Saint Jacques. Each restaurant will feature exclusive wines from 65 winemakers for a night of gastrological exploration. The weekend culminates with the Grand Gala & Auction on Saturday night, which pulls together the vintners and chefs for a truly special culinary event. “For me, it’s a rare and incredibly inspiring experience to be in the same room with so much talent—there are very few local events that can illustrate the the power of our food community to come together and make a huge impact,” says Christensen. “Everything about how Frankie Lemmon School has grown and developed speaks to this locally-harnessed power, and it reminds me of how special Raleigh is, and how much opportunity and responsibility we have to shape our community for the better.”

While the evening will be one to remember, it’s made even more special because of its huge impact for the local school: Because so much is donated—including every drop of wine, auction lots, airline miles and hotel stays for out-of-town guests—it serves as the primary fundraiser for the Frankie Lemmon School. “We have been blessed beyond measure to find supporters who donate their services and/or goods, so our bottom line isn’t affected,” says executive director Marsha Hargette. “It’s extraordinary to think almost 85% of this event is donated. It is really because of a caring community who understands this concept and give, with no end goal in mind except keeping the doors of Frankie Lemmon School open and the children flourishing.”

So come TWFE weekend, feel free to eat drink, and be merry knowing that it’s all in the name of a good cause. “Working with Frankie Lemmon for the past 20 years has helped me understand what a gift it is to give back and what a responsibility we have as chefs,”says Christensen. “Food is a tie that binds, and the opportunity to make a difference in someone’s life is one of the best and most rewarding aspects of this work.”

Click here for gala tickets and more information.

WALTER is the media sponsor of the Triangle Wine & Food Experience.