Can LAFW Succeed AWFF?

It would have been the 29th such event this year: the annual American Wine & Food Festival (AWFF), a Los Angeles tradition started nearly 30 years ago by Barbara Lazaroff and then-husband (and still business partner) Wolfgang Puck.

AWFF has benefitted four Los Angeles chapters of Meals on Wheels programs: St. Vincent Meals on Wheels, Meals on Wheels of West Los Angeles, Meals on Wheels West (Santa Monica), and Valley Interfaith Council Meals on Wheels.

Inexplicably, it seems, AWFF has come to an end. At least, there will be no AWFF this year. So writes Barbara on AWFF’s website, speaking as co-founder of the festival and chair of the festival’s foundation, the American Wine and Food Foundation.

AWFF attempts to spin the stillness into something positive with statements that announce “an exciting new chapter” for AWFF. (Is no event this year is somehow “exciting”?) It then thanks “all our friends for your past support.” Yada-yada-yada–and then the meat: “Wolfgang resigned from the foundation over differences of policy and to pursue other interests.” Further, AWFF’s charity recipients (the LA-based Meals on Wheels programs) will receive “some funds” from whatever food events Wolfgang and his new organization may be promoting.

And so this week comes AWFF’s would-be successor: the “first” “Los Angles Food & Wine” festival (LAFW). Many familiar faces will be appearing this week, October 13-16 — some 100 celebrity chefs, according to advertisements.

Wolf appears to be closely connected to this new event. He, his chefs, and his restaurants appear all over the publicity. Barbara, however, is nowhere in sight.

Super Chef sent an identical set of questions to both Puck and Lazaroff:

  1. Why is there no AWFF this year?
  2. Why is Wolfgang Puck partaking in LAFW instead?
  3. Did Wolf somehow “defect” to LAFW?
  4. Or, since AEG’s LALive is running LAFW, did Wolfgang somehow “sell” AWFF to AEG, who have repackaged it as LAFW — and, if so, with Barbara’s permission (or did he need it)?

Meantime, where is the charity in the new LAFW event?

One has to dig down into sub-menus to find any mention of charity at all. Apparently, St. Vincent’s is the only MOW chapter to continue receipt of charity. (Here is a video with the head of St. Vincent’s acknowledge that her program will benefit from LAFW.) What shall we infer happened to the other three MOW programs? Did they get the chop?

The new LAFW event looks like it’s all about ticket sales and making money. Very slick. Very Hollywood. From the strong advertising promotion by LALive, one would think they expect to raise loads more money with LAFW than AWFF ever did (a total of some $25 million in 28 years).

Well, LALive is a “for-profit” organization, isn’t it? It’s a company — as in “commercial entity,” operating in the “private sector.” That is, they’re in it for the money, aren’t they?

And three out of four MOW chapters got the chop?

What’s going on out there in LA-LA-Land?

It sounds like this effort for one chef festival to succeed another has all the makings of a movie. In fact, Super Chef is already working on the script. Remember Jerry McGuire? Well, we’ve got our one-liner version: “Show me where the money goes!”

2011 LAFW
2010 AWFF
2009 AWFF (Facebook)
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