After a decade of raucous, gastronomic bacchanalia and jaw-dropping meals, Feast — Portland’s largest food festival, attracting chefs from around the world — has called it quits, Portland Monthly first reported. According to co-founder Mike Thelin, the pandemic, and the continuously precarious stability of the restaurant industry, contributed to his decision to pull the plug.
Feast started in 2012, a food festival informed by a growing fascination with the restaurant world and Portland itself. Feast’s spectrum of collaborative culinary events, parties, dinners, and talks enticed guests who would pay hundreds of dollars to attend. In its heyday, tickets would sell out in a matter of hours, if not minutes. The festival hosted Food Network personalities like Amanda Freitag and Duff Goldman, lauded national figureheads like Mozza’s Nancy Silverton and Franklin Barbecue’s Aaron Franklin, and Portland big names like Beast’s Naomi Pomeroy and Pok Pok’s Andy Ricker. Every year, Feast grew, with larger events, more events, covering beverage and culture and the larger ecosystem of the culinary world. And its after parties became their own scene, with chefs tricking out instant noodles until 4 a.m. and sommeliers standing on bar counters, drinking wine straight out of the bottle. It was such a success, it inspired a sibling festival in Austin, Hot Luck.
Feast, of course, was canceled in 2020, as the COVID-19 pandemic gutted the restaurant industry. In 2021, however, the team behind Feast reimagined the festival, trying to focus more closely on Portland’s specific industry and the fundraising arm of the organization. The team also increased the compensation for local chefs. “Flying in chefs, asking people to travel, it just seems hard,” Feast director Emily Crowley told Eater in 2021. “We focused on our community because this is where we live, and this is where we love.”
But Thelin told Portland Monthly that even the conditions of the new-and-improved festival were difficult. The delta variant gained steam during the first 2021 events, and the grant funding they relied on to bring the event back didn’t end up panning out. “It just killed our momentum,” he told Portland Monthly’s Karen Brooks. “I tried to get things going in 2022, but it was too much of a mountain to climb—operationally, emotionally, physically. It broke me.”
“It was hard to try to get out there and work with an industry that just felt so wounded,” Thelin told Eater Portland. “To pull off Feast requires reserves it took a decade to build up. We just couldn’t keep going. But that’s okay.”
In an official statement, Thelin confirmed the festival would not return. “In 2012, we set out to create a culinary festival that was worthy of the city we loved, valuable to the industry we represented, and relevant in the world of food,” he wrote. “I’m proud to say that Feast succeeded on all counts, and looking back, probably ended when it needed to.”
Portland Monthly reports Hot Luck is expected to live on, as will the Feast newsletter. Additionally, Thelin said he is planning on organizing a few smaller Oregon-based events in the future. However, the behemoth that was Feast’s food festival has hosted its last grand tasting.
“Who knows, in the future, we could do fun things,” Thelin said. “But the era of the weekend-long festival that brings the industry to town, we’ve closed that chapter.”
Read the full Instagram announcement below: