The New York City Wine and Food Festival (NYCWFF) held a grand tasting at Pier 94 in Chelsea on Sunday, Oct. 18. Renowned chefs from the Cooking Channel and Food Network demonstrated their techniques, while countless restaurants from around the country offered samples of their favorite recipes. During the festivities, a few of these Influential chefs were able to share their culinary philosophies exclusively with Mood of Living. This tasteful event benefited both the New York City Food Bank and Share our Strength: No Kid Hungry Campaign.
Lee Schrager, NYC Wine & Food Festival Founder
Miami-based founder of NYCWFF, Lee Schrager, studied at the Culinary Institute of America in N.Y., and the School of Hospitality Management at Florida International University (FIU), before spending 17 years working his way up within InterContinental Hotels (IHG). There, he advanced from room service manager to Vice President of Food & Beverage. With experience and networking under his belt, Schrager then went on to create the South Beach Wine and Food Festival in 2002, and, later, the NYC Wine and Food Festival in 2008. These events allowed Schrager to combine his passion for event planning with his passion for food.
With the help of chefs, promoters, and sponsors, Schrager plans each food festival over a year in advance, striving to make each event bigger and better than the year before. An integral part of this year’s festival is sponsor No Kid Hungry; a nonprofit that aims to solve child hunger in America. Schrager says he is extremely passionate about the cause, and has acquired the help of other influential celebrity chefs to aid in promoting the campaign.
Celebrity Chef Robert Irvine
In the reality TV series Restaurant: Impossible, Robert Irvine helps turn around failing restaurants within a two day period using a budget of $10,000. Because of his tough-love approach and his expertise as a restauranteur, Irvine’s series has an 80% success rate at saving unsuccessful businesses. At age 15, he began his career in cooking after enlisting as a chef in the Royal Navy. Today, Irvine’s passion for cooking and his experience with military culture are what drive his culinary success.
Each year Irvine participates in NYCWFF, where he enjoys making personal connections with audiences and aspiring chefs.
“Food is the crux of life…we don’t want to just eat to live, we want to live to eat,” Irvine said.
Celebrity Chefs Debi Mazar and Gabriele Corcos
Husband and wife, Debi Mazar and Gabriele Corcos, host the popular Cooking Channel show called Extra Virgin. Mazar is a long-time actress; widely known for her roles in Goodfellas and Entourage, while Corcos, born in Florence, Italy, knows everything there is to know about Tuscan cuisine.The couple met 14 years ago in Italy where they discovered their mutual passion for cooking. Now living in Brooklyn, Mazar and Corcos’ cooking philosophy centers around family, authenticity, and locally sourced produce.
In the early 2000s, the couple created their own food blog, Under the Tuscan Gun, which evolved into a YouTube series. Due to its popularity, the Food Network offered them their own show, premiering nearly a decade later. Now in the show’s fourth season, audiences can tune-in to watch Mazar and Corcos’ comedic exchanges unfold in the kitchen as they cook their favorite italian cuisines. At NYCWFF, audiences laughed at their witty banter and hilarious antics while indulging in their delicious recipes.
While filming Extra Virgin, Mazar says that their only rule is: rules are meant to be broken. Due to the show’s success, the Cooking Channel provides them with total control. They autonomously write and produce all the material. For Mazar and Corcos, this means staying true to themselves as cooks, and sharing the Tuscan lifestyle of simple, delicious food with family, friends, and viewers.
Justin Walker, Executive Chef at Earth at Hidden Pond of Kennebunkport, Maine
Executive Chef, Justin Walker, embraces farm-to-fork cuisine paired with unexpected elements. He presented us with his popular chicken, featuring black squid ink, buttermilk, sesame and Isot chili.
“I like to take unusual ingredients and use them in a way that is interesting, without becoming taglines,” Walker said.
On the left: Blaine Staniford, Executive Chef at Grace of Fort Worth, Texas
Blaine Staniford, Executive Chef at Grace in Fort Worth, Texas, found creativity and freedom by experimenting with locally sourced ingredients.
“Being a chef, food is everything. It is life. It is the pleasures of the table, food, wine, conversation. It is the center-point of life,” Staniford said.
Scott Gottlich, Executive Chef of The Second Floor by Scott Gottlich of Dallas, Texas
Above all, Chef Scott Gottlich, Co-owner and Executive Chef of The Second Floor by Scott Gottlich, loves cooking for his two sons. He finds inspiration in preparing meals for his family, as well as nurturing a personal connection with his customers.
“Our focus is on an emotional tie to food…elevated comfort food is the way we look at it,” Gottlich said.
Chef Eric LeVine, “Chopped” Winner, 2011
Acclaimed Chef, Eric LeVine, winner of “Chopped” and the Chef of the Year Award by the International Chef’s Association, presented samples of his artisanal frozen food line, Ravioli Revolution, at the NYCWFF.
“The biggest piece of advice that I can give to people who want to get into this industry is stop playing checkers and start playing chess,” LeVine said. “Instead of trying to get the quick fix, the quick rise to stardom [is to] learn how to cook, learn how to do the foundation, and learn to be passionate about what you do. Make it your life.”
From Left to Right: Haylie Duff, Katie Lee and Valerie Bertanelli
Food Critic Katie Lee, as well as, actresses Haylie Duff and Valerie Bertinelli, mingled with the crowd and snapped photos with fans at NYCWFF.
The evening ended with the Meatopia event on the rooftop of Pier 94. Guests and chefs mingled while eating a variety of delicious meat-based dishes, and in the distance, the sun could be seen setting beneath the skyline.
Photography by Thomas Graff