More people had a chance to taste the Kenai than ever before at the 2018 Taste of the Kenai sponsored the Kenai Peninsula Tourism Marketing Council. With 25 independent vendors and 375 seats sold this year’s event was the most successful ever, according the KPTMC executive director Summer Lazenby.
“We market the Peninsula as a world class destination and these are the people that make it that. If folks don’t know about the Kenai they’re not going to come to the Kenai and that is why we are here and that’s what this function showcases and supports. Food tourism is an example of what tonight is, the people who came as guests functioned as tourists amongst the 25 food vendors. The fact that 30 percent of our tourists are repeat visitors speaks to what an amazing place the Kenai Peninsula is and the unique food we have to offer,” said Lazenby.
A highlight of the annual Taste of the Kenai is the People’s Choice Awards where ticket holders have a chance to vote on their favorite entrée, beverage and dessert. New this year was the Vendor’s Choice Award where only the vendors participating were eligible to vote.
“It was so great, when they announced the winner as Lucy’s Market the vendors just erupted in applause, that’s how popular Lucy has become and that speaks to me of the teamwork of this community and how we support each other,” said Lazenby.
Lucy’s Market in Soldotna is a new place featuring fresh local market produce, specialty cheese, gourmet grocery items, and wholesome food options in a small home town deli setting.
“Innovation is everything and Lucy is an example of an innovative business woman who put a plan in place to fill a niche that was missing in the local area. She’s a great example of the opportunities for young people who want to stay on the Peninsula and become part of this great industry,” she said.
The ever popular Kenai River Brewery won the People’s Choice for best drink, and Kenai Catering was a repeat winner for Best Dessert. When it came to Best Entrée Award it was an unheard of four-peat for the Fire House Barbeque.
“They burned the house down,” laughed Lazenby presenting the award.
“I am shocked,” said Michelle Johnston in an interview following their win. “We started on the side of the road with our business and to be where we are now and to have the people repeatedly vote for us four years in a row makes us feel great and greatly blessed.”
Chef Terry, Michelle’s husband, was in Anchorage calling the Brown Bears game and wasn’t at the event but was very excited when he heard.
“He was with us in facetime when we won and was thrilled and humbled but felt good to be supporting our Brown Bears. We live here year round, we shop locally and support our community and it’s great to see the people support us as well. We have no secrets we keep everything the same, but we did introduce some Firehouse wings tonight and we hope to have those available in the coming month at our Peninsula Center Mall location. We have a great team and we love serving our community good food,” said Johnston.