Our Island Is Not A Commodity To Be Capitalized Upon: Keep The Wine Festival Local

E.J. Harvey •

To the editor: As a chef who has called Nantucket home for over four decades, I've witnessed the ebb and flow of our island's culinary scene. But nothing has quite captured the spirit of our community like the Nantucket Wine & Food Festival. It is for this reason that I cannot sit by idly without expressing my reviews on what looked like an attempted takeover by Gordon’s Liquors of Waltham before they retracted a false claim that they bought out the festival when that never happened.

I remember it like it was yesterday - the festival's inception sketched out on a cocktail napkin by Denis Toner, a humble plan to showcase our island's attractions during the quieter days after Mother's Day. There I was, serving chowder at the first festival, raising a few eyebrows from those who couldn't quite grasp the concept of wine and chowder. But by the second day, as the rain poured down, we knew we were onto something special.

Since that day, I've been proud to be part of this festival, watching it weather storms, both literally and metaphorically. My family and I have participated year after year by cooking at these events that have given Nantucket exposure I never could have imagined when I first arrived as the chef at the Jared Coffin House in 1981.

Now, in my 33rd year at the Sea Grille, I can attest firsthand to the countless ways the Nantucket Wine & Food Festival has benefited local businesses across the island. It's more than just an event - it's a celebration of our local culture, our community, and our shared passion for exceptional food and wine.

That's why I'm deeply concerned by recent attempts to change or overtake this beloved institution. As the saying goes, "If it ain't broke, don't fix it." And let me tell you, the Nantucket Wine & Food Festival isn't just "not broke" - it's thriving under Nancy Bean's leadership.

I've known Nancy for years, having first met her at the Summer Groove. For nearly two decades, we've worked side by side, giving back to our community. Nancy and her festival have a legacy that stretches across this island, touching lives and businesses in ways that go far beyond a simple gathering of foodies.

Any attempt to push Nancy out or rebrand this festival was blatant carpetbagging. Nantucket doesn't need "bigger" or "better" - we're already world-class. What we need is to support local brands and local women in business. We need to honor the festival's roots - started by a local, stayed local, and it should always be local.

To those who might see Nantucket as just another feather in their corporate cap, I say this: Our island is not a commodity to be capitalized upon. It's a vibrant, living community with its own unique culture and traditions. The Nantucket Wine & Food Festival, under Nancy's guidance, has become an integral part of that tradition at a wide variety of important local venues.

So, let's raise a glass to Nancy Bean and the Nantucket Wine & Food Festival. Here's to keeping it local, keeping it authentic, and keeping it ours.


E.J. Harvey
Chef/Owner, The SeaGrille
Nantucket Resident since 1981

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