By Joel Hall
For 17 years, the Taste of Clayton has been treating residents in the Southern Crescent to the best foods the county has to offer and giving local restaurateurs much needed exposure.
Historical Jonesboro will host the smorgasbord once again this Friday, June 13, from 6-9 p.m., at Stately Oaks Plantation.
This year, however, the Taste of Clayton will be missing one of it's longest-participating celebrity vendors. Due to this week's North American salmonella scare, making tomatoes a scarce resource, the tomato sandwiches of Jim Wood and Associates (JWA) will not be featured.
"We're not going to be a vendor this year because we can't get the supplies," said Chris Wood, president and CEO of the public relations firm and a long-time Taste of Clayton participant.
According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, bacteria-laden tomatoes have sickened some 160 people in 17 states since mid-April, causing many producers to halt their shipments.
"It's really unfortunate that the ban came down the week of Taste of Clayton," said Wood. "[With] us being a charity, we're kind of a lower priority, and they[producers] don't even have enough [tomatoes] to get to their customers."
"When people buy tickets, they ask if the tomato-sandwich people are going to be there," said Susan Pelfrey, office administrator of Stately Oaks Plantation, which hosts Taste of Clayton every year as Historical Jonesboro's largest fund-raiser. "It's one of those things that everybody comes to expect. It's just so amazing that something so simple brings so many people together."
Pelfrey said that despite the missing tomato sandwiches, "the phone has been ringing off the hook" from people seeking to purchase advance tickets for the event. For a flat fee, visitors will be able to sample a variety of cuisines, ranging from French to Chinese to American, from dozens of local restaurants.
"You get to have such a variety of food and you get to taste something that you may not get to taste normally," said Pelfrey. "It's good for local restaurants, because it gives them that exposure."
Mameleye Mbaye, executive chef and owner of Peche, a relatively-new French fusion restaurant in Morrow, will be participating in Taste of Clayton for the first time. He said the event will be helpful, given the recently dragging economy.
"It's an avenue for me to let people know about my restaurant, so it has a purpose," said Mbaye. "I hope it will boost traffic and exposure."
Adult tickets are $18 in advance and $20 at the door. Children's tickets are a flat fee of $10. Stately Oaks is located at 100 Carriage Road in Jonesboro. For more information, call (770) 473-0197.