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Nova Scotia food and film fest offers feast for eyes and bellies alike

Anthony Bourdain, a celebrity chef turned food writer and journalist acclaimed for his food travel series

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Anthony Bourdain, a celebrity chef turned food writer and journalist acclaimed for his food travel series "Parts Unknown" and "No Reservations," as well as his best-selling book "Kitchen Confidential: Adventures in the Culinary Underbelly" will make an appearance at "Devour! The Food Film Fest." THE CANADIAN PRESS/ho

Foodies and film fans alike will have common cause to celebrate this fall as a small community in the heart of Nova Scotia's wine country gets ready to host what organizers are billing as the world's largest food and film festival.

Located in the idyllic Annapolis Valley, Wolfville is set to further cement its reputation as a culinary destination as it prepares to welcome a slew of world-renowned chefs and film directors to the fourth incarnation of Devour! The Food Film Fest.

"Our vision is to create the Sundance of food films," says Michael Howell, the festival's executive director.

A longtime chef and restaurateur, Howell founded the Slow Motion Food Film Fest in 2009 as part of the slow food movement to celebrate traditional and regional cuisine.

From an initial showing of 1,000 people, the festival's popularity, which saw attendance numbers double every year it was held, led organizers to rebrand the event in 2013.

This year, 8,000 people are expected to descend with cinematic and gustatory gusto on the town of hardly more than 4,000 when the five-day festival kicks off on Nov. 12.

"What we think that Devour is doing is putting (Wolfville) on the map as a great place to explore the intersection of food and art and culinary tourism," says Howell. "There's long been restaurants here. There's long been tourism here. But there hasn't necessarily been culinary tourism."

While the festival's final lineup will be announced this September at the Toronto International Film Festival, Devour will screen about 50 films submitted from around the world, ranging from shorts to feature-length productions, both educational and entertaining, all inspired in some way by food and wine.

What ultimately sets Devour apart though, says Howell, are the accompanying events, which include educational workshops, dining sessions and experiential tourism adventures.

Workshops ran the gamut between food and film-centric, ranging from lessons on butchering a pig and using foie gras, to how-to instructions on writing a food blog and pitching to the Food Network.

"There's a growing appetite for chefs and food in the media," says Howell. "People are eating to discover."

He describes the festival as ideal for people who "love to explore the world through the lens of film as they also satisfy the cravings of their belly."

Further testament to the event's burgeoning reputation is the scheduled appearance of Anthony Bourdain, a celebrity chef turned food writer and journalist.

Bourdain is an award-winning CNN television host acclaimed for his food travel series "Parts Unknown" and "No Reservations," as well as his best-selling book "Kitchen Confidential: Adventures in the Culinary Underbelly."

Howell says he's "over the moon" about the decision to attend Devour by Bourdain, a man Howell describes as a personal hero.

Serendipity played a role in the 1 1/2 years of talks involved in booking the food celeb, says Howell.

"We were told when we began these discussions a number of years ago that it was on his bucket list to be involved in a film festival."

Bourdain will personally curate his all-time favourite food film, "Eat Drink Man Woman" by director Ang Lee, before hosting a question-and-answer session and book signing in Wolfville for the opening-night festivities.

"We're just trying to be more than a food festival and more than a film festival," says Howell. "This whole idea that people can eat and enjoy at the same time is something that's very dear to us."

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If You Go…

Devour! The Food Film Fest is scheduled for Nov. 12 to 16 in Wolfville, N.S.

For more information and to order tickets visit www.devourfest.com.

Info (at)devourfest.

Follow (at)gwomand on Twitter

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