When I posted photos of pizza and a rice bowl on social media of Chipotle’s Cultivate festival on Saturday morning, Cynthia Planet commented “I can’t wait to see Graham Elliot!!!”
Some came for the chef demos by personalities such as Elliot, the bespectacled judge on Fox’s “MasterChef.” Some came for the Cultivate Farmhouse Ale, a saison with hints of lemon zest and spicy notes of black pepper and lemongrass. A surprising number of people who attended Kansas City’s first Cultivate festival braved the occasional downpour and waited up to a hour in line to learn how to make guacamole from scratch.
If festival-goers stopped by the cinema to watch a short film about Hodo Soy, the California-based tofu producer of Chipotle’s soffritos, or went through an exhibit about factory vs. Chipotle’s trademarked Responsibly Raised pork, they could earn a free burrito.
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“They come here for entertainment and while they’re here we whip a little knowledge on them,” said marketing manager Chris Arnold as we pass the guac station set up in Penn Valley Park.
Originally the Denver-based fast-casual chain went looking for festivals where they could become sponsors but eventually decided to jump in and create their own event. “We found it was expensive to play in a meaningful way,” he said, “and it wasn’t our ethos.”
Over the past five years Chipotle has held Cultivate events in Denver, Chicago, San Francisco, Dallas, Minneapolis and Phoenix. The cost per thousand to put on such an event “is not smart” on paper, Arnold says, but “as it gets going what you see is evidence of a movement.”
Fast food — but with quality ingredients — was the rallying cry when Lachlan Patterson, a co-founder of Pizzeria Locale took the stage to demonstrate how to make a pasta salad using a heartier, more nutrititious red winter wheat flour developed by the Bread Lab at Washington State University, a think tank and laboratory devoted to wheat beeding and craft baking.
Patterson and co-founder Bobby Stuckey partnered with Chipotle in 2013. On Wednesday they are opening their first location outside Coloradoat 505 West 75th Street in Waldo. Next door neighbor? Chipotle.
The fast-casual pizzeria will offer salads, pizzas, meatballs and a single pudding dessert the Italians call budino. There will be white and red wine on tap. And the red winter wheat flour they use for their pizzas is also available for purchase.
“People have always presumed pizza isn’t good for you,” Stuckey said. “In the new renaissance of pizza, it’s about using great ingredients. I can be delicious and good for you.”
As a dry-run, festival-goers got a taste of the margherita pizza. The pizzas are made on a Chipotle-style assembly line: hand-stretched, topped with fresh ingredients and slid on a wooden paddle in and out of a 1,000-degree pizza oven that cooks the pizas in two minutes.
Festival-goers could also sample ShopHouse Kitchen, a rice bowl concept with 10 locations on the East and West coasts. The festival bowl included a choice of organic tofu or pork or chicken meatballs over jasmine rice with sauteed summer squash, Thai basil, green curry sauce, green papaya slaw, herb salad and crispy garlic.
“When can we have one in KC?” I tweeted out.
“I hope we can make that happen someday for sure,” James @ShopHouse tweeted back.
Then I checked my Instagram and discovered that Cynthia Planet, a food fan who I met when she showed up at Local Pig for a photo with world-renowned Spanish chef Ferran Adria, had posted a fan photo of herself.
With the boyishly bespectacled Graham Elliot.
Jill Wendholt Silva is The Star’s food editor, restaurant critic and blog curator. Reach her at @kcstarfood and @chowtownkc.