Taking a bite out of the Big Apple: Food Network New York City Wine and Food Festival
Remember when you leave this earth, you can take with you nothing that you have received, only what you have given. - Parker Fitzgerald
On Oct 16-19, a rather extraordinary event took place in New York City, titled: Food Network New York City Wine and Food Festival or “NYCWFF”—a star-studded culinary affair that raises funds for ending hunger, through charitable organizations such as NY Food Bank and Share Our Strength’s No Kid Hungry. Five hundred chefs, many of which are household names, showed up to get creative for the sake of these charities.
I’ve had the privilege of attending a large number of high profile food and wine events over the last few years, however, this was my first NYCWFF. I was intrigued with the scale and ambition of the event. The sheer scope and quality of talent was beyond impressive. The diversity and variety of events was nearly overwhelming.
What I experienced was very special. I attended a dozen events over a three day period:
- Founder’s Breakfast (hosted by Lee Brian Schrager)
- Blue Moon Burger Bash (hosted by Rachael Ray)
- Dominique Ansel’s Wonderland (hosted by the Cronut Creator himself)
- Rock & Roll Night Market (hosted by Masaharu Morimoto)
- Stacked: A Sandwich Showdown (hosted by “Restaurant: Impossible” Robert Irvine)
- Best Bloody Mary brunch (hosted by the stars of “Chopped“)
- Cigars & Spirits (by Mohegan Sun)
- Tacos & Tequila: A Late Night Fiesta (hosted by Bobby Flay)
- Meatopia X: The Carnivore’s Ball (hosted by Michael Symon)
- Two Grand Tastings
- Mixology Masters (hosted by Justin Warner)
Food is a basic human need, and it is heartbreaking to hear that nearly one out of five kids in our own wealthy society suffer from hunger. The event’s founder, Lee Brian Schrager, set out to do something about it.
Born in Massapequa, New York, his early career included working the cheese counter at Dean & Deluca. A Culinary Institute of America graduate, had visions way beyond an ordinary career in the culinary industry.
Lee’s inspiration for NYCWFF came from the Aspen Food and Wine Classic where he saw that great food and wine can unite folks, create uncommon bonds and achieve lofty goals.
Dozen years later, two wildly successful festivals that gross millions and draw tens of thousands eager visitors annually he dreams even bigger. NYCWFF has something for everyone. Offering 100+ events over four days, the festival attracts fifty thousand guests. Prices for individual events range from below $100 to lavish, exclusive dinners, costing several hundred dollars. Strategically set during the beautiful fall season, the event offers a mix of signature events along with trendy culinary/beverage topics, tastings and demos. The featured chef’s roster is a “who is who” of the industry. Here is a partial list representing a fraction of the talent:
- Ted Allen – Chopped
- Sunny Anderson – The Kitchen
- Donatella Arpaia
- Mario Batali
- Daniel Boulud
- Anne Burrell – Worst Cooks in America
- Michael Chiarello
- Tom Colicchio
- Scott Conant – Scarpetta
- Paula and Bobby Deen
- Bobby Flay – Gato
- Marc Forgione – American Cut
- Amanda Freitag – Empire
- Alex Guarnaschelli – Butter
- Robert Irvine – Restaurant Impossible
- Emeril Lagasse
- Masaharu Morimoto – Iron Chef America
- Marc Murphy – Benchmarc Restaurants by Marc Murphy
- Rachael Ray – Rachael vs. Guy: Celebrity Cook-Off
- Marcus Samuelsson – Red Rooster Harlem
- Aarón Sánchez -Johnny Sánchez
- Chris Santos – Beauty & Essex
- Michael Symon – Lola
- Geoffrey Zakarian -The Lambs Club and The National
- Andrew Zimmern – Bizarre Foods with Andrew Zimmern
Impressed yet? There’s more…
Dozens of the country’s top wine educators, restaurateurs, sommeliers and master mixologists lent their wisdom and expertise over a four day period via a variety of seminars and demos. Andrea Robinson, Ray Isle, Mark Oldman, Anthony Giglio, Chris Patino spoke about wine, spirits and food pairings. If you arrived with no knowledge of what to pair with your favorite wine or cocktail, you were guaranteed to leave with more useful info than you can shake a cocktail at.
The activities started off with Schrager addressing a crowd gathered on the outdoor terrace of the Hudson Hotel. He passionately spoke of what the event means to those who will be helped by the charitable efforts of the many culinary and beverage celebrities in attendance.
The individual events that I attended were all unique and quite extraordinary. It is impossible to pick favorites. The level of creativity and generosity was overwhelming even for professional diner/drinker such as myself.
I am an avid Food Network fan. Getting a glimpse of their real life personalities verses their on-TV personas is quite interesting. Having them cook for you and explain the dishes adds a priceless dimension. I had some unforgettable moments with Chris Santos, Robert Irvine, Alex Guarnaschelli, and Aaron Sanchez. These chefs are as gracious as they are skilled.
Some of the events took place near the Hudson River at Piers 92 and 94, which can be chilly this time of year. I’m not sure whether it was adrenaline, or excitement fueled by the crowd of eager foodies, but I can honestly report I felt no cold. Hours rushed by in a matter of minutes, one sublime bite after another, each re-defining the essence of a burger, sandwich or tidbit.
The Ansel Wonderland event was astonishing. I’m not into sweets, and opt out of dessert more often than not. However, after tasting the creations of New York’stop pastry chefs, I realized that enjoying a desert is not about an individual flavor profile. Sweet, savory or both, it’s about the intellectual challenge, embracing creativity, and pushing the boundaries. Preconceived notions be damned, let the porcini tartlets reign!
Praised worldwide as one of the greatest dining destinations, New York City is a natural backdrop to a gathering of renowned wine, spirits and culinary personalities. Between established icons and up-and-coming talent, NYCWFF has got you covered. If you are a foodie and eating your way around the country, plan your trip around the third weekend of October. You will experience more culinary and beverage greatness in four days than most will in a year. In addition, you’ll contribute to a very worthwhile cause. And that is how it should be. Having a palatal party while directing your inner hedonist to eat and drink for the welfare of others.
View of New York City