A full-fledged food and arts festival does not seem ideal for a surprise pop-up event. Hiding the location, theme, and the entire lineup of events, while still managing to sell tickets, appears to be a near impossible task. Somehow, though, food expert Cari Sanchez-Potter has achieved this and more with The Legend Series, Jacksonville, Florida’s underground food and arts festival.
Cari, who currently serves as the general manager at Intuition Ale Works, a Jacksonville brewery, is also known in the food world for her vibrant food blog viCARIous. In late 2011, she was sipping on cocktails over brunch and discussing Jacksonville’s ever-growing culinary scene with Chef Scott Schwartz of 29 South Restaurant, when the ideas the Legend Series first came to light. They felt that the scene needed a little shaking up, an outlet to showcase the array of vastly talented chefs that deserved more exposure. An elegant dinner party was the original idea, but after Chef Schwartz suggested adding a secretive element, and Cari’s realization that Jacksonville’s arts culture had even more to offer, it became something much bigger.
“As I started scouting locations and researching local artists and entertainers, it became apparent that Jacksonville has this amazing richness in our culinary and artistic communities along with some impressive venues,” she remembers. “It seems that Jacksonville is often overlooked in conversations about the culture of the South but the truth is that we are home to chefs and artists that are top-notch on a national level, not just a local level.” Thus, the dinner party escalated to become The Legend Series, a culinary and arts festival.
When guests purchase tickets to The Legend Series, they can know two things. For one, they are told the general neighborhood of the venue for planning purposes. They also can know who the five core chefs are—these generally remain the same at each Legend Series installment. They include Chef Sam Efron of Taverna, Chef Tom Gray of Moxie Kitchen, Chef Brian Siebenschuh of Restaurant Orsay, Chef Waylon Rivers of Black Sheep Restaurant, and of course Chef Schwartz.
The rest is a surprise, though there is a general theme that connects the food with the venue and the other performances. The most recent installment, Legend Series Six, took place in a parking garage of all places, with “a very urban concept for the event to celebrate all the action that was taking place in our city’s urban core,” according to Sanchez-Potter. This was accompanied by DJ sets, breakdancers, projections, and a menu where “chefs incorporated scientific and technological techniques in many of their dishes.”
Other locations have included The Florida Theater with entertainment from First Coast Opera, Dee Dots Timberland Ranch with Braided Light Dance Project and cellist Na’arah Strokosch, and a private car museum called The Brumos Collection to name a few. So who’s to say what’s in store for Legend Series Seven, projected to occur this October. However, don’t wait around if you wish to found out—Legend Series Six sold out in under a minute.