Leading Meeting Professionals

Professional Convention Management Association

March 20 2016

How This Convention Destination Is Standing Out On The Foodie Map

David McMillin



National Geographic
placed it at the top of its list of Global Food Cities. Zagat called it one of the Best Foodie Getaways around the World. Saveur recognized it as one its notable cities in its Best Culinary Destination honors. So where can your attendees sample all these award-winning flavors? It’s not New York, Paris, Copenhagen or any other “expected” city. It’s Louisville, Kentucky, a city that is quickly emerging as the place to eat, drink and discover an authentic Southern dining experience. Kevin Ashworth, executive chef at MilkWood, one of Southern Living’s 100 Places to Eat Now, believes part of the city’s rise to international fame is due to the melting pot of chefs who have flocked to Louisville.

“A lot of chefs in town are from out of town,” Ashworth said in a recent interview on what sets Louisville apart. “We come from different places and we see different things, and then we come together in a place where the produce is top-notch. We have different meat purveyors knocking on our door trying to sell us this local pig or this lamb or goat. It makes it special.”

Global Experience, Local Favorites

Many of the names behind the culinary scene are not native to the Southeastern city, but they aren’t the only reason taste buds are falling in love with Louisville. The dishes born in the city are giving leisure travelers and conference attendees alike a taste of why Louisville is so special. From sampling the Hot Brown, an open-faced, thick-slicked turkey sandwich made famous in the 1920s at the city’s Brown Hotel, to dressing up a dish with Henry Bain’s sauce to indulging in a post-dinner Bourbon Ball, the city is rooted in a number of local culinary traditions.

MORE: Louisville’s Culinary Creations

Pairing Food With What Made Louisville Famous

What’s on the plate isn’t the only piece of Louisville’s foodie fame; the accompanying beverage plays an equally large part in the dining experience. Groups that come to Louisville for meetings and conferences are celebrating Louisville’s roots in the bourbon industry.

“Many conventions have hired master distillers from our of our famous distilleries to speak or conduct a tasting,” Scottie Ellis, Marketing Communications Manager, Convention Services, Louisville Convention and Visitors Bureau, says. “In addition to the meeting specifically, many planners ask for our Urban Bourbon Trail passports in advance for their delegates. The UBT allows us to offer an “after 5p.m.” experience for groups.”

But bourbon isn’t everyone’s drink of choice in Louisville. The city has become a leader in the craft beer revolution, too. When I lived in Louisville in 2008, the city’s Bluegrass Brewing Company was pushing the city forward with one of the most delicious takes in the nation on a bourbon-barreled stout and a tap room with a weekly open bluegrass jam session. Since I’ve left, the beer scene has soared with new nationally-renowned names like Against the Grain and beer bars like Holy Grale. In fact, Louisville recently earned a spot among Travel + Leisure’s Top 10 Beer Cities.

Inviting Attendees To Fall In Love With Louisville’s Flavors

As meeting planners look for opportunities to introduce their attendees to new places, new flavors and new experiences, Louisville’s glowing reputation as a foodie destination makes it a premier choice. And in 2018, there will be another big reason why the city will be ideal for groups: the $180 million expansion at the Kentucky International Convention Center will be finished including some serious updates to the kitchen.

“Louisville is a great destination, and a phenomenal food town,” Greg Fender, Executive Vice President, Centerplate, says. “Having a new, state-of-the-art back of house that can handle fresh local produce, on-demand ordering, and flexible service options are part of what will help attract and retain major shows and events to the Louisville market.”

This article was brought to you by the Louisville Convention & Visitors Bureau, the tourism authority for the official home of bourbon. In addition to bourbon, the city is known for its thriving culinary scene. It was recently named one of Travel + Leisure’s “Best Cities for Barbecue” and one of the “Nation’s Best Local Food Scenes” by USA TODAY. For more information on what makes the city such an ideal place for conferences, click here.

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