Ted Allen and Rocco DiSpirito will spread food love at Taste of Atlanta

Ted Allen and Rocco DiSpirito are two high-class foodies who believe in bringing good food and drinks to average Americans.

That's why they enjoy attending food events that draw a cross-section of normal food lovers, not just the upper-crust culinary elite. Such as Taste of Atlanta, the wide-ranging festival taking place today and Sunday at Atlantic Station, at which the two chefs will make headlining appearances. Atlanta's annual restaurant celebration has been known to spotlight local favorites from Table 1280 all the way down to Waffle House, and it's that unabashed love of food that appeals to both Allen and DiSpirito.

"The good life, it's in the air between people. It's not a specific wine or foie gras," DiSpirito said in a phone interview. "People have really been embracing this foodie world, but none of that really matters. It's important to really laugh a lot and don't let food get in the way."

"Queer Eye for the Straight Guy's" food expert Allen will be in town as part of his nationwide tour with Robert Mondavi Private Selection wines. At Taste of Atlanta, he'll offer a seminar on the basics of pairing wine with food. Rather than giving specific rules on which wines can and can't be paired with which foods, Allen serves up four different reds and whites with several plain foods, then has attendees mix and match to figure out which types of wines - sweet or dry, crisp or buttery - taste best with which flavors.

"The basic idea is you want a wine that won't completely overwhelm the dish. Otherwise, you're not going to taste the food," Allen said. "Hopefully, it unlocks a passion for them to explore wine more."

DiSpirito, meanwhile, will demonstrate three recipes from his new book, "Rocco's Real-Life Recipes" (Meredith, $19.95). The book offers dishes that combine fresh ingredients with convenience foods. Most dishes can be made in one pan, and every recipe calls for 10 ingredients or less.

"I'm not a snob. I know the average, everyday American can't afford to be a snob, not just in terms of money but also time," DiSpirito said.

He believes there are more options than ever - from the always expanding frozen meal industry to the dozens of varieties of prepackaged lettuce mixes on grocery store shelves - for consumers who want great food without having to make much of an effort.

Besides headlining Taste of Atlanta, these two cooks have one other thing in common - they're well-known as television food experts. In addition to Allen's "Queer Eye" role and DiSpirito's NBC reality show "The Restaurant," both served as guest judges on this season of the hit Bravo reality show "Top Chef."

Allen, a former journalist who was a restaurant critic for Chicago magazine before moving into the television world, said he thinks of food television as being a bit like food writing.

"Food television is not the same as toppling a corrupt politician, but if I can turn people on to something as important as wine, or convince them to eat good cheese instead of bad cheese, I find that really rewarding," Allen said.

SideBar: If you go

' What: Taste of Atlanta

' When: 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. today and Sunday

' Where: Atlantic Station

' Cost: General admission is $35 for 10 tickets, and VIP admission is $60 for 20 tickets and access to a wine-tasting tent.

' Info: Visit www.tasteofatlanta.net.