Take A ‘BITE’ Of NWA

Take A ‘BITE’ Of NWA

Culinary appetite expands event to three days


BITE NWA — a celebration of the culinary wonders that can be found both in and outside of Northwest Arkansas — will kick off on June 20 at the 8th Street Market in Bentonville. And this year, the food-centric event will run for three days as opposed to two, a result of its massive popularity.

“We knew there was an appetite for that type of event here, and that was demonstrated by the fact that we sold out the first three years and are on track to sell out the fourth,” says Harry Hardy, vice president of events for Octagon, the sports and entertainment agency that created BITE NWA. Last year, the event drew crowds of 7,000 — with approximately 1,000 of those coming from outside the region. Hardy says that BITE NWA is an offshoot of the Walmart NW Arkansas Championship, presented by Proctor & Gamble.

“We brought the LPGA golf tournament to Northwest Arkansas 12 years ago, and that golf tournament has, over the years, turned into something so much more,” he says. “Now, it’s a weeklong schedule of events. BITE NWA was probably two years in the planning. We had been noticing a trend: We had a lot of sports events we were investing in, and food and culinary is a big part of that experience.

“Walmart and Proctor & Gamble are our two main sponsors, and we talked to them about how we could engage the community in outreach,” Hardy adds. “The food festival seemed like a good way to go — especially as a lot more of these restaurants are coming online in Northwest Arkansas, and this region is starting to hold its own as a culinary destination.”

BITE NWA’s Art of Craft Beer Summit is scheduled for June 22. This event will bring together local and national beer masters for panel discussions and will also feature brewery tours and beer tastings.

This year, activities start on Wednesday night with something new, BITE/Spark.

“With this, we’re really celebrating the diversity of Northwest Arkansas, both the people and the culinary offerings,” says Hardy. “We’ll have a lot of different countries’ cuisines available.”

Thursday night is BITE/Discover. Hardy call this more of a “foodie” experience, with some of the area’s most critically acclaimed restaurants — including Bordinos, The Hive and Vetro 1825 — sharing their cuisine. Also featured that evening is the Chef’s Table Experience, curated by the James Beard Foundation, during which participants can experience interactive cooking demonstrations by top chefs from around the country. Those chefs include Chef Joy Crump, co-owner and executive chef of FOODE, in Virginia; Chef Anya Peters, lead co-chef of Harvest and Revel in New York; Chef Jennifer Hill, owner of Your Resident Gourmet in Georgia; and Chef Christine Cikowski, chef and owner of Honey Butter Fried Chicken in Illinois.

Friday brings BITE/Craft , with a focus on burgers and “comfort foods.” The perfect summer libation — beer — gets its own focus at the Art of Craft Beer Summit, where local and national beer professionals will discuss industry trends during a panel conversation. Brew tours and beer tastings will round out the festivities.

Northwest Arkansas Community College’s culinary school, Brightwater, is a partner in the event.

“We were able to create a BITE Scholarship for Brightwater,” says Hardy. “That’s in place for students who wish to apply the funds toward tuition. Our only real criteria is that the students should have a plan about how they would like to impact the Northwest Arkansas culinary scene upon graduation. The Brightwater partnership is one that we love — it aligns with all of the values of our event, which is to improve the quality of life in Northwest Arkansas.”

Hardy says, in the end, the event is a great opportunity to show the world what Northwest Arkansas has to offer.

“We expose Northwest Arkansas chefs, restaurants and Brightwater students to these out-of-market chefs, but, on the flip side, I think we’re also exposing them to what we have here in Northwest Arkansas,” says Hardy. “A big part of our mission is to showcase Northwest Arkansas.”




WHEN — 6 p.m.- 9 p.m. June 20-22

WHERE — 8th Street Market in Bentonville

COST — $30, includes a $3 donation to the NWA Food Bank

INFO — bitenwa.com

Categories: Food