Taste of the Nation Atlanta returns for 25th year

Pano Karatassos reflects on its history

Twenty-five years ago, Buckhead Life Restaurant Group founder Pano Karatassos got a phone call from food writer John Mariani that would eventually make a major difference in the lives of children without ample access to food. On that call, Mariani asked Karatassos to start Share Our Strength’s Taste of the Nation Atlanta event in an effort to end childhood hunger.

Karatassos was already on the founding board of Atlanta’s Table, an arm of the Atlanta Community Food Bank. Growing up with parents in the restaurant business, he hadn’t realized there were people going hungry until he joined the navy and began traveling. When he went to a soup kitchen and saw them water down the stew so there would be enough to feed everybody, he knew he had to do something.

That first year, Taste of the Nation Atlanta was held at Rupert’s Nightclub and about 500 people attended, raising an estimated $150,000. Tomorrow night, on April 11, the 25th annual Taste of the Nation Atlanta will take place at the Georgia Aquarium; Karatassos expects about 1,200 attendees and hopes to raise one million dollars!

Known as the largest Taste of the Nation culinary event in the country ever since its third year, the Atlanta gala features food and wine tastings from fifty of the city’s top chefs, as well as live entertainment, and both live and silent auctions. Attendees can bid on everything from dinner at Le Bernardin in New York City to spa packages.

Many local chefs have participated in the event since the beginning—Anne Quatrano, Gerry Klaskala, Carvel Grant Gould, and Gunter Seeger—while others like Kevin Rathbun and Joel Antunes participate each year that they’re in the city.

“We’ve grown leaps and bounds since the beginning,” Karatassos says. “We have so many donors and chefs who’ve stayed committed. We even have a wait list of restaurants who want to join but there’s a space limitation!”

Karatassos makes it clear that while his restaurants and chefs do participate, Taste of the Nation is not a Buckhead Life Restaurant Group event. “I fought over the years to keep us in the background and make sure other chefs have the opportunity,” he says. “The chefs in Atlanta are remarkable. They give up their time and resources to help Share Our Strength—on a work night no less.”

This year’s participating restaurants include Antico Pizza, JCT Kitchen, La Grotta, Kaleidoscope, Serpas True Food, Roswell’s Little Alley Steak, 4th and Swift, Kevin Gillespie’s forthcoming Gunshow, and many more.

The event starts with a VIP reception at 6:30 p.m. and general admission at 7:30 p.m. Tickets cost $350 (VIP) and $250 respectively and can be purchased at www.atlantataste.org. Proceeds will help fund Share Our Strength’s No Kid Hungry® campaign to end childhood hunger in America and, as part of that campaign, continue to support local organizations including the Atlanta Community Food Bank, Genesis, A New Life, and Share Our Strength’s Cooking Matters™ Georgia.