Have you been to NYCWFF? It’s remarkable. The event sprawls over the entire city -- from intimate dinners, to kid-friendly workshops, to events on massive piers designed for cruise ships. All net proceeds go to benefit No Kid Hungry and Food Bank For New York City.
Because I was “festival talent”, I got access to all the tentpole events on Piers 92 and 94. I wanted to go to everything, but as you’ll soon learn … I was not successful.
The first night was Burger Bash hosted by Rachael Ray. It was a meat-lover’s dream, with 30 burgers + requisite sides (usually in the potato family).
Because it was the first event and I was too excited, I didn’t pace myself correctly and only tried twelve of the thirty burgers. Shame on me. Here are some of my favs.
Obviously the BEST burger was from Alex Guarnaschelli and her team at Butter. They also had the best reaction when you voted. They’d bang on the grill, jump up and down, and give you high fives.
I said hi to Alex of course. We haven’t seen each other since Star Salvation! I owe a lot to this woman and her warm but firm manner. We clicked during Star Salvation, and that comfort translated into my performances and ultimately helped me win SS and then the whole shebang.
The next day was my Grand Tasting cooking demo which I wrote about here.
Later that night, I attended Food Network’s 25th Birthday Party, hosted by Bobby Flay, Giada De Laurentiis, Alton Brown, and Ina Garten. This was an awesome event, with a wide variety of food, great music, and lots of Food Network stars mingling about.
Many Food Network stars were congregating in a VIP pen (for lack of a better word), where the public could wait at the periphery and take pictures. I was unsure if I could go in, until I ran into Palak (from Season 14!) and she said, without wavering: We’re going in. (Palak: Please be my life coach.)
We needn’t have worried, because we were welcomed inside. And it. Was. Wild. Seeing all the excited fans clamoring for Alex, Bobby, Marcus, Katie Lee, Scott, Anne, Valerie and so many others hit home: Food Network stars touch so many lives. I talked to many Food Network hosts and chefs and they were all so nice and supportive. I really felt part of the family.
One thing that cracked me up me is that I caught a peek of the cheat sheet that vendors get to ID VIPs. And there I was, next to Martha Stewart, Rev Run, and Christina Tosi.
I even basked in some of my own fan attention, working my way through the crowd. I talked to people visiting from different countries, celebrating anniversaries, longtime NYCWFF ticketholders, and those who rooted for me on Food Network Star from the very beginning.
I was chatting with fans for so long, I was literally the last one in the VIP pen! I didn’t even notice because I wanted to talk to and thank each and every person who approached me.
The next day, I was still buzzing from all the love (and champagne). I had my fill and was ready to go home. I called my Dad and said he could have my ticket. He and my mom spent the day at the Grand Tasting and Backyard BBQ and had a great time.
Name on the NYCWFF marquee ✔️
Fun demo filled with family stories and cooking tips ✔️
Met (or reunited with) idols and welcomed into the Food Network family ✔️
Connected with hundreds of fans in person! ✔️
Treated my parents to a VIP foodie experience ✔️
All in all, it was an unforgettable weekend. People … IT’S HAPPENING.