Food festival survival tips

Opening night of The Taste in 2014.

Opening night of The Taste in 2014.

(Allen J. Schaben / Los Angeles Times)

Summer is peak time for many outdoor activities. It’s great for barbecuing by the pool, beach picnics and evening cocktail parties, but is sometimes challenging for food festivals. Because when you bring lots of food and people together in a confined space, add cooking demonstrations, panel discussions and maybe an open bar, things can get problematic -- especially when you consider that temperatures can sometimes reach triple digits.

That said, there are some pretty amazing food parties coming up, including The Taste, our own three-day-long food and drink fest on Labor Day weekend.

Hungry yet? Those of us who spend an inordinate amount of time at these things develop survival skills. So here are a few tips for your next summer food festival event.


Come early: Get there as soon as you can. Consider springing for a VIP pass if you have the money, because it may get you in early. If you don’t to that, still show up early in the day, because many events -- despite organizers’ best intentions -- have some venues that inevitably run out of food. Like your favorite ramen booth or taco stand.

Stay hydrated: Yes, we’re in a historic drought, but that doesn’t mean you have to go without water. It’s hot, you’ll be eating lots of food and maybe drinking booze, all of which means you’ll need plenty of water on hand. Note: For reasons we’ve never understood, many food events either make you pay for water or don’t have it at all. Bring plenty.

Dress comfortably: A crowded food event is not the place to make a fashion statement. You’re hot, stuck in a crowd and eating way too much food. So wear very comfortable shoes and cool, comfortable clothing. Sweat pants? If you must.

Avoid the sun: An umbrella is maybe not the thing to bring to a crowded event, nor is a giant sun hat. That said, bring a baseball cap or something more fashionably unobtrusive. Put on sunblock. Remember, many events don’t have enough shady spots and are set up on vast expanses of hot concrete.

The Taste food festival returns Labor Day weekend to Paramount Studios

Don’t get drunk too early: It’s tempting to go straight for the cocktails or the open bar, but restrain yourself. Booze makes dehydration worse, and it doesn’t help with your crowd navigation. Maybe alternate alcohol with water and all that food you’re there for in the first place. If you’re going to be drinking, bring along a designated driver -- or Uber it home.


Scope it out first: Instead of heading to the first stall you see, take a tour of the whole event and prioritize. Figure out what you really want to eat and drink, and get a game plan. If there’s an event map, draw on it with a Sharpie. Because as hungry as you may be when you get there, there’s only so much you can eat. Really.

Pace yourself: See above. Maybe number the spots on your map and hit the ones you’re really interested in first. Then don’t eat everything you see -- be choosy. If you don’t like something, consider not eating it. Being a picky eater is a serious advantage at a giant food event, as you don’t load up on stuff too quickly.

Bring your own spoon, fork, chopsticks: Yes, they have little spoons and forks at the tables, but they often run out. And they’re tiny. So pretend you’re still in cooking school and stick a soup spoon in your pocket, or pack a pair of chopsticks. (If you’re going to a ramen fest, this is a huge plus.)

Charge your phone: Especially if you like to Instagram your food or you have friends who wander off, particularly after too much food and drink.

Have an exit strategy: If you’re with friends, have a set time and place to meet. Remember where you parked your car. And be sure your kitchen at home has been stocked with juice for the juice fast you’re going on the next day.

Here’s a preview of what’s on the food horizon: 626 Night Market (Aug. 7-9, Sept. 4-5), the Los Angeles Food and Wine Festival (Aug. 27-30), the Long Beach BBQ Festival (Aug. 28-30), the Fried Chicken Festival (Aug. 17), Los Angeles Beer Festival (Sept. 26), the Port of L.A. Lobster Festival (Sept. 25-27), the Feast of San Genarro (Sept. 25-27), the Taste of Italy (Oct. 10), Brunch at the Races (Oct. 18), the L.A. Sriracha Festival (Oct. 27). And remember, it can still be hot here in October.

Because taking pictures of food is almost as much fun as eating it, on Instagram @latimesfood