Food Network chefs, pro-athletes will come to San Diego this fall for inaugural Del Mar Wine & Food Festival

Aerial shot of the Del Mar coastline and houses.
Aerial shot of the Del Mar coastline. The Del Mar Wine & Food Festival will host events throughout North County, with the Grand Tasting event happening at Surf Sports Park.
(Courtesy of Del Mar Wine & Food Festival)

First-ever Del Mar Wine & Food Festival will be Sept. 6 – 11. It will feature tastings, cooking contests and outdoor activities across North County.


Calling all self-proclaimed foodies and San Diego superfans — a new food-centered festival is coming to North County this fall. The Del Mar Wine & Food Festival will celebrate local tastemakers and the SoCal lifestyle alongside celebrity chefs, athletes and hometown restaurateurs.

The inaugural festival will host events — including tastings, cooking contests, live music and outdoor activities — up and down the coast from Del Mar to Oceanside starting Sept. 6 through Sept. 11.

The main event will be the two-day “Grand Tasting” at the nearly 80-acre Surf Sports Park with wine, beer and spirit tastings as well as culinary showcases from regional restaurants. Additionally, critically acclaimed chefs and Food Network stars such as Antonia Lofaso, Carlos Anthony, Claudette Zepeda, Claudia Sandoval, Brad Wise, Brian Malarkey and many more will be joining the festival.

The weekend will feature cooking contests where the audience judges local restaurants in a showdown that will award two winning chefs $15,000 in cash and prizes.

The San Diego Wave FC women’s soccer team will kick off the festivities by hosting an opening night dinner on Sept. 6 celebrating the region’s iconic street foods. Dos Hombres Mezcal, the alcohol brand founded by friends and Breaking Bad co-stars Aaron Paul and Bryan Cranston, will host a pairing dinner experience.

In addition to various culinary-centric activities, there will be live entertainment and outdoor experiences to get people moving.

Professional surfer, Rob Machado will be offering surf lessons and leading a beach cleanup. Former NFL quarterback and San Diego Charger, Drew Brees is throwing a celebrity pickleball tournament to raise funds for Feeding San Diego, the festival’s charitable partner.

The Wonderbus double-decker mobile stage will have live music throughout the events and on Saturday, there will be a free after-hours concert for festival goers.

The Del Mar Wine & Food Festival was founded by six partners including, Ernie Hahn owner of San Diego-based events business Hahn Entertainment; San Diego Magazine co-owners Claire and Troy Johnson; San Diego native and food festival veteran Chris Finn; and Jeremy McDonald, an executive of Surf Sports.

Del Mar Wine & Food Festival logo.
Del Mar Wine & Food Festival logo.
(Courtesy of Del Mar Wine & Food Festival)

Troy Johnson, who has been a longtime San Diego food writer and a featured personality on the Food Network, said this event is about putting a spotlight on San Diego’s culinary culture. He pinpoints 2019 as the year when San Diego’s food scene finally “arrived” and started getting wider recognition from national media to local restaurants earning Michelin stars.

“The venue, the partners, the food scene was ready,” he said. “And then I was just on set talking to all of my friends on Food Network and I said you know if we threw a festival to really honor and lift up San Diego’s food scene — the hard-working chefs and drink makers and everything else — would you come to help us?

“A lot of them are coming out just to kind of say, ‘hey, San Diego your food culture is world class now and let’s help you throw a big party for it.’”

He added that the decision to anchor the event in Del Mar makes it an accessible midpoint for San Diegans from San Ysidro to Oceanside. Johnson said it was also important to put that attention on North County because growing up there, it often felt like if “you wanted to do something that was culturally energizing, you had to go south, and that’s no longer the case.”

Johnson emphasized his excitement about the festival’s near-coastal location at Surf Sports Park, particularly the grass. Rarely does one hear a stretch of lawn get compared to the Mona Lisa or hear “that grass is like Coachella by the surf.” But for culinary enthusiasts like Johnson, it represents the platform for this new venture.

While the first-ever festival is jam-packed with events and star-studded names, Johnson said the heart of the Del Mar Wine & Food Festival is a celebration of the people and businesses that embody San Diego’s lifestyle.

By putting celebrity chefs on the same stage as local chefs, Johnson said “it just helps bring more attention to maybe a restaurant from Convoy or a restaurant from Del Mar or Encinitas or a strip mall somewhere in Carlsbad or Vista. If you get those kinds of big names on the same stretch of grass then you bring people who then appreciate and see the local people and what they’ve done for the food scene.”

Tickets are available for purchase now with early bird pricing through June 15. Some events listed on the festival website, like the dinner hosted by the San Diego Wave FC for example, will require a separate ticket to be purchased.

Currently, a two-day “Grand Tasting” package starts at $325 for general admission, $475 for early entry general admission and $925 for VIP tickets. A one-day “Grand Tasting” ticket for either Saturday or Sunday starts at $175 for general admission, $250 for early entry general admission and $475 for VIP.

For more information and updates on featured events, visit the Del Mar Wine & Food Festival website.