I am so proud to be a part of the queer community. I am constantly amazed by the work we do and the strides we make and the resilience we possess. It's been on my mind recently because it's almost time for Feast Portland (a wildly fun and successful food and wine festival in Portland, OR) behind which is the kind of lesbian power couple that truly inspires me.
Connecticut native Carrie Welch (Co-Founder of Feast) and New Jersey native Jannie Huang (Creative Director of Feast) live in Portland, OR and run a successful PR firm called Little Green Pickle, as well as a this massive event together (along with co-founder Mike Thelin) while raising a baby boy they just welcomed into the world in August.
To my mind, they are a perfect example of what a queer family looks like in 2014 - another hard-working couple living and loving and making it all work, come what may.
How did you and Jannie meet?
C: Jannie and I met at the Food Network while we were both living in New York City. Crazy, right? I had never told anyone I thought I might be gay, beyond a couple short dalliances in college. I knew it was a turning point in my life, so that night, I jumped. We have literally been together ever since. I fell in love with her so fast and hard, I didn't know what hit me. Now, I am grateful as my ex-boyfriend is happily married in Southern California and I am living a life I could only have dreamed of.
J: Carrie doesn't remember, but I met her at the elevators of Food Network. We were the only two working at 8pm at night.
What is Feast?
C: Bon Appétit Presents Feast Portland: A Celebration of Oregon Bounty is a four day, 30 event festival that celebrates everything that makes Portland and Oregon awesome around food and drink.
This is our third year, and we are a festival that unites the top culinary talent from around the country with the bounty of our region over four extraordinary days of intimate dinners, large-scale tastings, hands-on classes and more, hosted at unique venues across beautiful Portland, Oregon. The events take place this week, September 18th-21st.
Feast Portland is also a festival with a mission and over the last two years we have raised $99,000 which has been donated to our charitable partners Share Our Strength and Partners For A Hunger-Free Oregon.
J: Our first-born. We put our blood, sweat and tears into Feast Portland each year.
How did Feast come to be?
C: Jannie and I moved to Portland, OR in 2010 with plans to open a restaurant here. As soon as we set foot in Portland I'd heard about this guy Mike Thelin. I Facebooked him to see if he'd have coffee with me. I was in total hustle mode back then - no idea what I was doing, or where we'd end up, but I figured the more people I could meet, it would lead somewhere.
Mike and I met at Coffeehouse Northwest and I'll never forget it. We started talking about a food and drink festival in Portland at that first meeting. Why didn't Portland have one? By our next coffee, we decided to go for it, and Feast was born.
J: Honestly? It surprises me every day that this is what we get to do for a living. We couldn't have done it without the amazing team we have. Sometimes I wonder, if Carrie hadn't had coffee with Mike, or met Emily Crowley (our Festival Director) on a dance floor, none of this would have ever happened.
What are your work backgrounds?
C: My one and only job before moving to Portland and starting our two businesses here was the Food Network. I worked with Rachael Ray, Bobby Flay, Ina Garten and other stars on a daily basis, and learned so much from each of them. It truly was a dream job.
J: I interned at Sony Music for three summers answering phones and assisting in CD Extras, anyone remember those? After two years, I was laid off and decided to go to culinary school. I dropped out after three months because I got a full time job at Brides.com. I had to pay the bills! I was, of course, the lesbian who couldn't get married, building these pages and ads for the brides to be. Two years later, Food Network was hiring for a senior web designer. Food and web design, the perfect marriage!
Once I met Carrie, it was all over. We had new dreams. Dreams of starting a family and slowing down.
Has Jannie been involved since the get go?
C: Of course! We are a team and do everything together. Whether she likes it or not, Jannie is and always has been an integral part of Feast. The team nicknamed her the Swiss Army Knife - she can do anything, anytime, and always gets the work done at an extremely high level. She makes me proud over and over again each year.
J: She has no choice. We are one of those weird couples who do everything together.
What's it like working together?
C: I know it sounds super cheesy but we love working together. We really do. She is the yin to my yang and when I get crazy over something, she always brings me back down to earth. I think because I admire Jannie so much, in everything she does, it works well for us.
J: I can't not be with Carrie. With the new baby, it's actually going to be hard for us to not be together. We constantly talk about work. We just love what we do! Don't worry, there are fights that happen here and there, but they always end up in even better ideas.
Have you ever thought that might not be the best idea?
C: Only when we are fighting. But, it never lasts long.
J: Well, as long as it's not the worst idea.
You have another business venture together as well, correct? Can you tell me a little about that?
C: We run a public relations firm called Little Green Pickle together. We represent top chefs, restaurants, artisan food products, beverages and anyone doing something cool in food or drink, that's our litmus test. We started in 2011 once the restaurant idea was over and now have six staff and over 20 clients
J: It's super exciting. I think the most gratifying part of Little Green Pickle is we are helping small businesses and creating jobs at the same time. It blows my mind that we are responsible for people's careers.
What advice do you have for couples who think they might want to work together or who are currently working together?
C: Oh boy. I think you have to really like being together 24/7, to start. I joke that we are that creepy lesbian couple that spends every waking minute together. We really are! I am so thankful for our relationship where we are true partners in every sense of the world. I will think about something I want to happen - that shirt should get picked up, the dishes should be done, we should go to the farmers market - and Jannie will already be either doing the task or thinking the same thing.
J: If you are not enjoying it, just don't do it! But if you love it, it can be the best time of your life. I loved all of my jobs, but this one is by far the best.
You two just welcomed a beautiful new baby boy into the world. He arrived just weeks before Feast! How has that experience been in terms of juggling home and work and both of being inextricably involved in both?
C: Yes! Taylor Lee Welch was born on August 31. I think as a couple we juggle and multitask by nature and just do it so often that we are used to it. We take turns getting up with the baby and sleeping, we email while rocking him to sleep, I've learned how to do a lot with one hand, and we just keep on trying to do the best for him, for our work and for ourselves every day. I can't tell you how lucky I feel to have this incredible family.
J: Holy shit. It's crazy. The amount of planning. The amount of work. The amount of hormones that go back and forth! It's a wild ride and I wouldn't change a bit of it.