Like the Bat signal, a huge projection of the Wine + Food logo on the Francis Marion Hotel signaled the triumphant return of the gut-busting weekend. The sold-out opening night party took over the big tent Thursday night with the Salute to Charleston Chefs. Because this week may be all about geeking out over celebuchefs from across the country, but they wouldn’t even be here if it weren’t for the oodles of local talent. Marion Square has been transformed into an ultra-glam tent city, and last night it was filled with well-heeled foodies and beloved chefs (hello, Wylie, Kevin, and la creme de Charleston’s crop).

Chefs like Mike Lata, Ken Vedrinski, Michelle Weaver, Bob Waggoner, and Craig Deihl manned their respective stations, turning out small plates of their most creative concoctions while chatting up guests. Our favorites of the night included Nathan Thurston’s (The Sanctuary) braised short rib with fresh peas and a dusting of white chocolate; Michelle Weaver’s (Charleston Grill) scallop ceviche with yuzu, apple mint, and Thai basil; and Sean Brock’s (McCrady’s) pheasant cooked in hay with turnips, onions, and black truffle. Of course, there were nearly 20 other culinary icons churning out deliciousness, but we don’t want to make you jealous, in case you weren’t there.

As for the wine, reps from Ben Arnold manned three bars and were ready to help with pairings. This might be a bit sacrilegious to say, but once we got a taste of Charleston Grill’s winning cocktail, the “Ginger and the Professor” we stuck with it the rest of the night. How can you go wrong with bourbon, ginger liqueur, ginger beer, and cognac?

For this sweet tooth, the best part is always dessert, but by the time we got to the sweets area, most of it was already gone. (Locusts!) The beautiful chocolates had disappeared, but there was a little bit of Baked’s scrumptious chocolate cake left, as well as crepes and brownies from Charleston Crepe Company. As the night drew to a close, guests sipped coffee out of wine glasses, while others headed out to the cigar bar for a smoky end to the evening, courtesy of Coastal Cigars.