Lahore may have been gearing for Lahore Eat (set for Feb 10) but in a surprising twist — there's a new food festival happening a week before it!
Asad Sheikh of the popular Facebook group Foodies R US has teamed up with Coca-Cola for the Coca-Cola Food Festival 2017 — a festival that hopes to become the "Coke Studio of Food". Staying true to Coke's support for the local music industry, the Coke Food Fest will feature a bunch of exciting live acts, including Quadrum, Asim Azhar, SYMT, Amanat Ali, The Basement, Khumariyan and Overload. The event is taking place on February 3-5.
"It was my idea [to have a food festival] and we went to Coke. They became our sponsor and we decided to treat this as the Coke Studio of food," says Sheikh.
Foodies R Us started off as a Facebook group which caught a lot of attention and grew. According to Sheikh, "Foodies R us started off as a passion about three and a half years ago. I always liked to tell my where to go and what to eat and some friends pushed me to start this group."
"It became the biggest group in Pakistan. It was primarily Lahore-based but now its bigger with members across the border," he adds.
"At Foodies R Us we have been helping people develop businesses. And we have done so countless times. You'd be surprised at how many small home-based services have turned into major businesses just because we have been pushing them. So we are out there to help. I feel no insecurities when I see a business boom, I feel like it is my accomplishment as well. "
It was this passion for food that led Asad to the idea of a food festival and it became an important project to him. "This is my baby. I thought of this almost two and a half years ago when we had 7000 members and it's been on my mind since then. Last year we almost went for it but we felt we were not ready at that point. This year we decided we just have to do it and we have to do it with a bang. We created a lot of noise."
But the question is, does Lahore need two food fests in a month?
With CKO's second Lahore Eat festival happening on February 10, some would find it excessive for another large-scale food fest to precede it just the week before. But Asad explains: "Just because Lahore Eat is happening doesn't mean this should or shouldn't happen. I just wanted to do a food festival. We have a background of food. I don't want to question their background but I know what our background is and we have around 60,000 members who are on board with this."
"Pakistan needs these kinds of festivals, we are starved of entertainment. You need variety. I guess right now we are the variety. We have just entered the field and we hope we can make a mark," says Coke Food Fest's Asad Sheikh
Lahore Eat and Coke Food Festival have more than just the core idea of 'food with festivities' in common. In fact, there are numerous eateries that will be participating in both events. Examples include Cosa Nostra, Jumbo Gyro, Bombay Chowpatti, Cha Cha Jee, Bamboo Union, BYOB, Loco Taco, The Shack, Maro Tandoor, Ministry of Burgers, Ice Curls, Awesamosas, Kaka Gurda Champ, Venus, Ginsoy and The Local Eatery.
So if you miss one of these now, you have next week to catch up!
"There is no competition," reaffirms Asad. "They have their own ideas, we have our own ideas. Honestly, I wish them well and I wish them luck. Pakistan needs these kinds of festivals, we are starved of entertainment. You need variety. I guess right now we are the variety. We have just entered the field and we hope we can make a mark. There are hundreds of different festivals all over the world and no place restricts themselves to a single event. I would love for more places to do different events. I would never feel threatened by that I would welcome it. It would help the local food industry."
"At the end of the day its about having as many events as we can. It's the people that win and we get to provide entertainment and that is it for us," says Lahore Eat organiser Omar Omari
Organisers of the Lahore Eat feel the same way. Omar Omari welcomes the newcomers, saying, "At the end of the day, our event was just a way of giving back to the people. We wanted to give back to the people of Karachi and then we extended it to Lahore. Food was just an excuse for us to do an event. To bring people together and have a good time. And that's exactly why we have our events at public spaces. People have offered us private spaces but it just doesn't go with our ideology, despite the difficulties that come with managing it."
Omari adds, "We welcome competition! At the end of the day its about having as many events as we can. It's the people that win and we get to provide entertainment and that is it for us. We are all sorted, all our sponsors and places are ready and we are excited, and we don't feel any negativity towards the Coke Food Festival. To call them a rival would be redundant because it is actually a win-win situation where we do events and the people have a good time."
Looks like Lahore is about to have a crazy couple of weekends loaded with food, entertainment and food!