The Ocracoke community will celebrate the summer’s fig bounty Aug. 4 and 5 with special guest Chef Bill Smith, retired head chef at Crook’s Corner Restaurant in Chapel Hill.
Smith is the author of two cookbooks, the New York Times Notable and Food & Wine Best-of-the-Best cookbook Seasoned in the South and the bestselling Savor the South title: Crabs & Oysters. He’s also written many articles and essays in various magazines and journals.
In 2019, he retired after 25 years, having helmed the Crook’s Corner rise to national renown as one of the South’s liveliest and most innovative kitchens.
The New York Times called it “sacred ground for Southern foodies.”
Bill received several nominations from the James Beard Foundation for Best Chef Southeast and served for six years on the board of the Southern Foodways Alliance.
In 2021, he received the Craig Claiborne Lifetime Achievement Award from that organization.
The Ninth Annual Fig Festival, produced by the Ocracoke Preservation Society, will take place at the Berkley Barn, at the Ocracoke Preservation Society Museum and Ocracoke Community Center.
The festival features live music, traditional Ocracoke square dancing, children’s crafts, talks by local fig experts, and vendor booths offering fig preserves, fig cakes, fig trees, local cookbooks, and other “fig-tastic” items. The weekend’s finale will be a dance with the Ocracoke Rockers.
Chef Bill will be the festival’s special guest at the “Higo Latino” Savory Dinner on Wednesday evening, Aug. 2.
This popular fundraising event features savory fig dishes from local chefs and this year’s focus will be preparing figs with a Latin flair. Tickets for this evening will go on sale on July 1.
Public events with Chef Bill include a cookbook signing on Friday afternoon and a public Q & A on Saturday.
Chef Bill will also serve as a guest judge at the Fig Cake Bake-Off, the showpiece of the Fig Festival on Saturday afternoon.
All are welcome to submit a cake in one or all categories: Traditional, Innovative, Youth (15 and younger), or the special category for 2023: Savory Figs – any savory dish that incorporates figs. The Traditional category is limited to the old-fashioned recipe, available in local cookbooks.
Even using the same recipe there are subtle differences: the type of fig preserves used, the delicate balance of spices, or the cook’s magic touch.
Innovative entries must be desserts; anything goes in the Youth category as long as there are figs in it.
During the week leading up to the Fig Festival, island eateries will offer fig-infused menu items both savory and sweet. Local shops will stock this year’s selection of fig preserves.
For more information, contact Sundae Horn, 252-921-0283 or Andrea Powers 252-928-7375, or visit www.ocracokepreseervation.org.