Nourishing Ambassadors

By on July 19, 2017

Megan Gallagher and Haynes Poe, Jackson Hole Food and Wine

(Photo: Carrie Patterson)

JACKSON HOLE, WY – Megan Gallagher and Haynes Poe are no strangers to creating memorable events that bring people together over food and wine. They hosted dozens of celebrity and rising star chefs at the Grand Teton Music Festival’s wine auction, a philanthropic weekend of posh dinners, wine tastings, and an over-the-top gala that has kicked off the summer season for more than 20 years.

Now the wine auction is retired and the food-loving Gallagher/Poe team is pouring their passion into a new nonprofit: Jackson Hole Food and Wine. Created by local business owners Katrina and Brandon Ryan and Karen and Mike Reid, this nonprofit aims to further the enjoyment of dining and drinking with a higher purpose—giving back to the community.

Gallagher and Poe came on board as director and associate director at the inception of Jackson Hole Food and Wine last year. This June, they launched the first annual Jackson Hole Food and Wine Festival, a three-day weekend devoted to the love of food, wine, spirits and craft brews while reveling in the valley’s most gorgeous locales.

Guests rode the gondola to Jackson Hole Mountain Resort’s Bridger Center deck for the first night’s Taste of Jackson Hole, where local chefs showed off their most crave-worthy small bites, and local and visiting vintners and distillers chatted up guests with cocktails and wine pairings.

For a series of Friday night dinner events, the Jackson Hole Food and Wine team brought in a few of their favorite celebrity chefs: Chris Sheperd of Houston’s Underbelly and Ryan Prewitt of New Orlean’s Pêche. When Gallagher called up Sheperd to invite him to the upcoming food and wine festival, he said “yes!” before she even finished her sentence. Sheperd became smitten with Jackson Hole after Gallagher hosted him at the last Grand Teton Music Festival wine auction, and the James Beard Award winner (Best Chef Southwest 2014) literally jumped at the chance to return.

Prewitt has the distinction of winning two James Beard Awards in one night: Best Chef South and Best New Restaurant (for Pêche) in 2014.

Gallagher and Poe got the chefs and their teams here a few days before the food and wine festival so they could let loose and enjoy the valley. Once the festival was in full swing, the chefs cooked their hearts out at dinner events held at private homes and Savor the South, a barbecue bash with all the Southern trimmings at the Mead Ranch. Prewitt and Sheperd shared stories and food memories on the panel at Big Wines, Small Plates, a wine tasting luncheon celebrating the magic of pairing wine with food.

Proceeds from this year’s events benefit two organizations that make our food culture thrive: Hole Food Rescue and the Culinary and Hospitality Program at Central Wyoming College. You’ve probably seen Hole Food Rescue’s army of more than 85 volunteers around town hauling bike trailers filled with food. Hole Food Rescue diverts an average of 5,000 pounds of nutritious food to 1,000 in-need residents every week.

The Culinary and Hospitality Program at Central Wyoming College is our community’s cooking school. It partners with valley restaurants and resorts to provide innovative, hands-on training to locally grown cooking professionals.

PJH: When I ran into Thomas Keller at the James Beard Awards last year, I was so star-struck I couldn’t speak. Have you hosted any chefs who made you feel that way?

Gallagher: I think I was most star-struck by April Bloomfield. She seemed like such a badass. Her accent for some reason made her intimidating as well. But she gave me a big hug at the airport and all was good.

Poe: I think I was most star-struck with John Besh. I had seen him on several shows on the Food Network and he is simply a culinary legend. I was definitely intimidated, but he and his team were very down to earth and really fun to work with! It was fun to meet and get to know a chef of his caliber!

PJH: When chefs visit, they must love to get out into the mountains. Have you ever lost one?

Gallagher: No, never lost. We have had a few trips to the emergency room but they are always out in time for the event. We had a chef bike off the side of the mountain at Teton Village who was pretty beat up. Other chefs have jumped off Jumping Rock at Phelps Lake. But usually they just go fishing.

Poe: They love coming to Jackson and getting outside. Most of the chef teams are coming from the big city and to see their eyes light up at the beauty and serenity that surrounds them is fun. They’re always on the hunt for wildlife, especially moose.

PJH: Jackson Hole Food and Wine seems to strike a good balance between letting chefs let their hair down and have fun yet still pulling off several days of high caliber events. Do you ever worry that they’ll party too hard?

Gallagher: Well, the altitude can be tough for them. We have runners on call for the events and sometimes we need coconut water and other hangover medicines delivered to the event venues. I had one team who was out very late—I had seen them going strong at Teton Thai at one in the morning. The next day they didn’t show up when they were supposed to for a dinner in a private home. And they weren’t returning calls or texts. I was terrified. They finally showed up just before guests arrived and zipped into professional mode. It was one of the best dinners of my life.

PJH: It sounds like Mother Hen is part of your job description?

Gallagher: Yes. They get off the plane and we hand them water. We have water stocked in their rooms. We tell them over and over, “drink water” and “don’t drink too much” and chase them around and remind them.

Poe: Megan and I strive for the yearly compliment of “your team delivered the most incredible hospitality, thank you.” That is when we have done our job well.

PJH: Have any of the chefs surprised you by being totally different than their public persona?

Gallagher: I expect the chefs who are on TV to be a bit more aloof, but everyone has been super nice. Ricardo Zarate was a hot new chef and he was challenging to work with—not answering emails or filling out paperwork. I honestly didn’t know if he was going to show up. I stand shaking at the airport on pick-up day hoping the chefs will be on the plane. But when he got here he was amazing; he was so sweet, he loved being here and his food was outstanding. He made home-style Peruvian food for us at night after his event.

Poe: Honestly, I think all the chefs have surprised me. They are all outstanding with the most amazing resumes and careers, which can certainly be a bit intimidating but that quickly subsides the moment they land in Jackson. Building relationships with the chefs and their teams is certainly a special part of the job.

Lightning round

PJH: New York or New Orleans?

Gallagher: New York, although New Orleans holds a special place in my heart.

Poe: I love both but New York City is one of my favorites. I love the energyof the city and all the incredible food and drinks spots. The food scene is inventive and inspiring and the culture that surrounds you is exhilarating.

PJH: Beefsteak or Sungolds?

Gallagher: Beefsteak, if it’s freshly picked and perfectly ripe!

Poe: One hundred percent Sungold. I decided to buy my first tomato plant last year and chose Sungolds. I am excited to report that I kept it alive and it produced so many delicious tomatoes. I ate them like candy and they just scream summer to me.

PJH: Desert island chef and why? You get to name two, one local and one from afar.

Gallagher: Thomas McNaughton of flour + water in San Francisco. I ate in his restaurant and also had his food when he was here. It was all incredible and the flavors were explosive, and he would be fun. Locally, I’m torn between several but going to choose Suchada Johnson (of Teton Thai). Who wouldn’t want amazing Thai food every day on a desert island?

Poe: There are too many local chefs to decide between so … as for a chef from afar, I would choose René Redzepi from Noma. I had the pleasure of eating at his pop-up in Tulum, Mexico, this spring and he is a genius at taking indigenous ingredients and creating an exquisite meal. His ability to forage and invent one-of-a-kind meals would be an amazing asset.

PJH: Pinky G’s or SRG steak tartare pizza?

Gallagher: This is a tough one. Can I say both?

Poe: One of my favorite things to do is to go sit up at the Snake River Grill bar and grab a steak tartare pizza.

PJH: Favorite under the radar Jackson Hole restaurant?

Gallagher: Glorietta. Craving their grilled romaine salad and gnocchi right now.

Poe: Thai Me Up. I love their beer and they have some tasty burgers on the menu, which always make for a great meal.


About Annie Fenn, MD

After delivering babies and practicing gynecology for 20 years in Jackson, Annie traded her life as a doctor to pursue her other passion: writing about food, health, sustainability and the local food scene. Follow her snippets of mountain life, with recipes, at and on Instagram @jacksonholefoodie.

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