When you first think of what a wine and food organizer is like, you may be quick to think of a Frasier Crane-like character - someone pretentious (maybe even comically so), stuffy and thoroughly frustrated with the commoners who just don't "get" the finer things in life.
You'd be surprised by Tom Gardner, organizer of the first annual Lake Norman Wine and Food Festival, to be held June 5-6 at Kenton Place in Cornelius. Gardner is a full-time food critic, and his blog at www.lakenormanfoodie.com sees about 2,500 unique visitors a month. His conversational tone and willingness to give all of Lake Norman's restaurants - even the chains - a fair chance, make his blog readable and accessible to those who don't consider themselves wine and food connoisseurs.
In his mid-30s and living with his wife in Huntersville, Gardner is a former public relations professional with an easy manner, who readily laughs at any comparison to the "Frasier" character from "Frasier" and "Cheers."
Gardner wants to "make good food accessible to everybody" through the Lake Norman Wine and Food Festival in June and give people the chance to try new dishes they've never tried before.
Both he and his co-organizer, Carmel Kennerly Hinson, stress that the festival will be a laid-back event for the whole family. It should be "very casual, very fun," said Hinson, a former event planner turned stay-at-home mom who previously worked with the food festival Taste of Charlotte.
Part of the festivities will include beginner wine education.
"Wine can be really, really overwhelming," Hinson said. Both she and Gardner acknowledge the reputation fine wine and dining have and know it can seem pretentious, overwhelming even, and they want to change that perception.
Hinson expects about 3,000 visitors to the festival, but she and Gardner hope for more, especially given the visibility of Kenton Place and how much drive-by traffic it gets.
Proceeds from the festival, which Gardner and Hinson plan to make an annual event, will go to local charities, including the Hope House, a women's shelter, and the Angels and Sparrows soup kitchen.
The Lake Norman Wine and Food Festival has filed for 501(c)(3) tax exempt status, and Gardner and Hinson are still finalizing details for the June event.