Whether or not you’re prepared for the temporary population explosion that Bele Chere brings, there’s no turning back now. The gargantuan street festival began its takeover of downtown Asheville late Thursday night, as vendors’ booths and stages were erected in the newly traffic-less streets of Asheville.
But for local restaurants, preparations began even earlier, as chefs tried to gauge how much extra produce they need in order to feed the hungry crowds this weekend. The eateries running double-duty — those that are operating food booths in the festival as well — have even more guesswork to do; there’s no telling how many mouths they’ll feed between their festival kiosk and their regular restaurant service. During Bele Chere, many pointed out, there’s really no such thing as normal.
We visited Chai Pani owner Molly Irani near the Vance Monument, where her staff began preparing their temporary kitchen early this morning for inspection by city officials, which began at 10 a.m. By 10:30, all had been checked, approved and employees were sitting idle in the calm before the storm, waiting for the Bele Chere crowds to arrive at noon.
The real hustle — at least at that hour — was over at Chai Pani’s permanent kitchen, where employees were dutifully cranking out pakora batter and slicing okra to sustain the weekend’s eaters. Kitchen employees told Xpress that transporting the prepared food all the way across town to their booth was a rather harrowing experience, especially with all of the road closings.
Watch the video below to get a small taste of the action.