SUMMIT, NJ - From September 21-23, 2012 chefs, sommeliers, foodies and wine lovers came from all over the country to eat, schmooze, wine, dine and participate in the Fourth Annual Summit Wine and Food Festival.

The event, which was founded by Ivan Ruiz, the owner of the Wine List of Summit, featured an international gala tasting, a gala dinner, a sommelier competition and several presentations including a vodka mixology, undiscovered California wines, and even an appearance by Food Network star Daisy Martinez.

A total of 1,500 people attended the festivities and there were 15 events throughout the weekend. While it is always a lot of work to organize the event and see it through to completion, it was a very positive and fun weekend, he said.

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“A lot of things don’t go the way we want to, but that’s part of the restaurant business,” Ruiz said.

Ruiz said the festival has become widely known throughout the country and each year, there are numerous chefs clamoring to try to be a part of it. Each year, the festival hosts some of the best restaurants and chefs in the tri-state area, he said.  While most chefs come every year, not all of them are invited back, he said.

He loved meeting and working with the new chefs including Daisy Martinez and Peter Turso of Ursino in Union.  Ruiz explained there were 40 chefs this year, but 28 on a waiting list who didn’t make it.

Some of the chefs are easy to deal with and some are not, he said. The majority of them will be invited back next year, but they always try to add new ones, he said. It’s really a process, he said. He explained that chefs call say and they want to get involved, Ruiz goes to their restaurant, feels them out and tries their food.

Regarding the best event at the festival, Ruiz said, “It’s very difficult to pinpoint it,” he said. “It’s like having five children and saying which one is the best.”

However, Ruiz said he does love the Saturday night dinner because he gets to eat six delicious courses.

The festival is really a great way to get exposure for chefs and sommeliers, said Jean Criss of Jean Criss Media, who helps obtain sponsors for the event and handles the media and public relations for the festival.  This year, she was able to help obtain the most sponsors ever for the festival - - more than 50.  Criss also promoted chefs on cable television throughout north Jersey and featured over 20 of them in commercials on Verizon Fios in the area. The chefs were also filmed after sessions at the festival and will be part of short videos on the festival’s website.  

Neither Criss nor Ruiz were ready to discuss next year's festival.  While they are excited for the fifth year of the festival, in a month when things calm down, preparations will begin, Ruiz said.    

“Each year you learn and get better at it,” Criss said.