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Chefs Matt RoherWINE & FOOD FESTIVAL SERVES UP THE BEST OF HILTON HEAD

In March, foodies flock to Hilton Head Island for the Hilton Head Island Food & Wine Festival, a six-day celebration starring Lowcountry cuisine and wine from all over the world. Chefs Matt Roher, of The Sea Pines Resort, and Joe Gilleland of Rock Fish Seafood & Steaks at Bomboras offer a peek at what’s on the menu for this year’s festival.

‘SUPER FOODS’ SUPERSTAR

Joe GillelandRoher, now the executive chef for The Sea Pines Resort, first got a taste of the kitchen as a sous chef at age 26. Thirty years later, he hasn’t left the kitchen.

Today, Roher oversees The Sea Pines Resort’s culinary program — including a recent partnership with Heritage Farm that brings fresh, locally grown produce to resort diners all year long.

At this year’s festival, Roher will demonstrate recipes on the Sysco food service stage and will also host a cooking class at The Beach Club. Roher said he is proud of the menu he has created for the class: It’s full of nutrient-dense powerhouse super foods.

“I tried to get a couple of different things going on in that menu, like the smoked tomato and farro chowder, which is a vegan super food dish,” he said. “It has an enormous amount of different nutrient-contributing ingredients, like watercress in the watercress pesto, which is one of the most nutrient-dense items according to the CDC.”

He said that seafood is his forte, and that the Lowcountry is the perfect place to experiment with these flavors.

“I love the local shellfish, the local oysters and clams,” he said. “This area has some of the best seafood in the world.”

WELCOME TO ‘FOODIE TOWN’

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Gilleland might be the executive chef at Rock Fish Seafood & Steaks at Bomboras, but he’s been a local chef for over 30 years and has owned and operated six different restaurants on Hilton Head. His favorite thing about being a chef is using unique ingredients and items from around the world to create one-of-a-kind dishes.

“Hilton Head is turning into more of a foodie town,” he said. “It’s not like it was years ago, when there were only 100 restaurants on the island. Now there’s 300, so you’ve got to stand out.”

Gilleland said one of his favorite aspects of the annual Wine & Food Festival is the chance to see new and old faces.

“The whole community comes together for it,” he said. “You get to see a variety of different people – those who have moved here for the first time or those who have been here forever.”

Although Gilleland said his signature style is Southern cuisine, the chef will be going for an exotic twist this year: He will be creating a tuna poke dish, featuring ahi tuna with Hawaiian seasoning and pineapple.

IF YOU GO

The 33rd annual Hilton Head Island Wine & Food Festival will be held March 5-11 at The Sea Pines Resort. The festivities include the popular "Sip & Stroll," vintner dinners, world-class vineyards, celebrity chefs and live entertainment. Proceeds from the festival benefit the John T. and Valerie Curry Scholarship Fund. 

For more information, call 843-686-4944 or go to www.hiltonheadwineandfood.com.

EVENTS SCHEDULE

6 p.m. March 7: Festivalgoers are the judges at the popular Chef Cook-Off and Wine Tasting, selecting their favorite wine, best pairing and top chef.

11 a.m.-12:30 p.m. March 8: Lowcountry Seafood Cooking Class and Lunch with executive chef Matthew Roher, who will demonstrate the soup, give a brief lecture on local shrimp and provide recipes for the dishes featured in this three-course lunch.

1-4 p.m. March 8: Grab a glass for the “Sip & Stroll,” visiting the shops that line the Harbour Town Yacht Basin. There will be a great selection of wines and discounts at participating shops.

6 p.m. March 8: Scott Cohen of Grapevine Distributors will compare burgundy wines from France and Oregon, offering samples of each to attendees. 

5:30-7:30 p.m. March 9: The exclusive Grand Tasting features award-winning wines, an array of light hors d’oeuvres and live music.

11 a.m.-12:30 p.m. March 10: Join Tom Hines for “Blends Around the World,” exploring six different blends from Napa, Australia, Argentina, Washington, Italy and France.

11 a.m. March 10: The public tasting, the festival’s largest event, will be held at Harbour Town Yacht Basin and feature more than 250 wines from all over the world. See chefs compete at the Sysco Outdoor Gourmet Challenge, enjoy live entertainment, bid on award-winning wines at the silent auction, and watch the fun and excitement of the waiter’s race and the bartender’s challenge.

11 a.m.-1:30 p.m. March 11: End the festival with a surprising pairing: Nicholas Feuillatte champagne and Southern fried chicken at brunch at the beautiful Sea Pines Beach Resort.