Inside The New York Times's first, epic food festival, where we saw up close what it's really like to be a professional foodie (2022)

Table of Contents
There are loads of food festivals happening all year-round all over the country. But on the first weekend of October 2019, The New York Times hosted its very first one. The New York Times Food Festival took over Manhattan's Bryant Park ... ... featuring tents filled with what The Times editors and reporters think are some of New York City's best food offerings. Sam Sifton, food editor at The Times, told Insider that the point of the festival was to show visitors what it's like to do "one of the great jobs" — being a food writer at the legendary paper. To do that, they broke up the experience into three parts: The Park ... ... The Talks ... ... and The Nights. The Park was split up into a ticketed area and one that was open to the public. Passers-by who either stumbled upon the festival or missed their chance to buy tickets for the sold-out lawn were able to enjoy the DJ ... ... buy some of the curated food like pizza from Roberta's ... ... video chat with NYT journalists around the world ... ... and more. Guests who purchased a ticket, which sold for $25 per day, were able to roam around the grounds enjoying drinks from the main bar in the center of the space ... ... choose to purchase food from even more restaurants ... ... sit in on workshops held by chefs and other food industry experts ... ... and watch live cooking demonstrations at the Cooking Stage by food writers and cooks alike. Melissa Clark, food columnist for NYT, told Insider that the Cooking Stage was a crucial part of the festival. "That was really important: To have people cooking," she said. "We needed the demos. We absolutely needed them." Clark continued: "I mean I think it's really inspirational for people. People see celebrity demos, but to see reporter demos, it's slightly different — we're less polished. And also to have the reporters talk to chefs who come in and do the demos as well, it just opens up, then we can go deeper. We're The New York Times, we're supposed to go deeper!" Restaurants served up off-the-menu dishes like buttermilk fried chicken liver and gizzards with smoked ranch dressing from Beatrice Inn ... ... and spam corn dogs from Insa. There were vendors selling craft cocktails ... ... and plenty of bubbly and wine as well. The festivalgoers we spoke with were excited about all the foods they've never had a chance to try before. One of the festival producers was enjoying a bowl of noodles on her short break and mentioned that a favorite of the reporters and chefs was the chickpea pancake and lamb dish from Frenchette. So, of course, we had to try it out. After tasting only a handful of the dishes on offer — there were so many to choose from — we agreed that it was the favorite. One festival attendee, Jacqueline Cook, said The Times did a good job with the festival. She said she liked the workshops and that there was a lot of great food to choose from. There was a wide variety of foods on offer throughout the three sections of the park. "There's a lot of fusion-type food," she told Insider, but she said she would have wanted more single-culture dishes as well. The Park — the ticketed portion —featured chefs like Sirichai Sreparplarn, a northern Thai cook from Bangkok, Michelle Puyane, a China-born cook, and Chintan Pandya, a native of Mumbai who was showcasing his Indian food, just to name a few. The next part of the festival was The Talks. Those took place at The Times Center — an event space inside The New York Times building. The Talks allowed audience members to sit in on a reporter's interview process, Sifton said. Each discussion was led by a Times reporter or editor who was interviewing their subject on stage. The New York Times hosts Times Talks throughout the year on various subjects, but this was like a marathon of food-infused discussion —one industry icon after another came out on the stage and each talk was tailored to their expertise. In the lower-level atrium, festival sponsors had stations set up for viewers to peruse in-between talks. There was a selection of alcohol and snacks for sale ... ... and there were also free samples. There was also free ice cream from the Brooklyn-born Ample Hills Creamery. The Nights portion of the festival was a lot less accessible than the other two thirds. Tickets ranged from $80 to $480 for this portion of the event. In describing the idea behind The Nights, Sifton told Insider that he thought, "What if we harvested Pete Wells' brain? What would that look like?" Wells is the chief restaurant critic for The Times. Sifton said they first thought Wells would simply come up with the 10 best restaurants in New York City and that would be it. But time was a factor, and one year wasn't long enough to plan out a large meal at Manhattan's most elite eateries. Then they got another idea: "I thought, 'I'll just ask him where he would spend his own money, and that'll yield a really cool list of restaurants,' which it did." The plan grew from there. Sifton-and-team got the chefs of Wells' restaurant picks like Sushi Nakazawa, Mama's Too, Jeju Noodle Bar, and I Sodi, to come up with "a perfect meal." In general as visitors, we thought the festival was enjoyable and informative. The food was interesting and different — things we wouldn't be able to find elsewhere ... ... and the Cooking Stage was also a pretty big highlight. If you're a fan of panel discussions, you'd be enthralled by the lineup of speakers and the experience of sitting in on The Talks. The schedules and timing of The Talks, the demonstrations happening on the Cooking Stage, and the general operating hours of the park made it difficult to experience everything — especially since the two locations were a bit spread out. Insider went to both days of the festival, and we wound up walking back and forth from The Times Center on 8th Avenue and Bryant Park on 6th Avenue multiple times per day — at least it was a beautiful weekend. Clark told Insider that next year, she would love to see some more integration of food at The Talks, and some more narrative at The Nights — hoping to "as Sam was saying, 'tell a story'" in an even more connected way. For people who are enamored with and immersed in the world of food writing, the idea of creating a festival "to introduce our readers to what we cover as we cover it" becomes extremely apparent and intentional —once you read or hear that was the thought. But for people who just came for the food, like Carol Malkin of Hoboken, New Jersey, it's mostly about the eats. "What the festival really does is expose New Yorkers to restaurants and foods that they may not have ever experienced," she said. "I mean, do we really care what a food critic does in his everyday life?" Well, not everyone does. But as Malkin also said, The Times did a great job delivering on the food festival promise of making seemingly elusive foods more accessible. So even if you're not there for the message, you can still enjoy the festival — which we think is the sign of a job well done. After all, Sifton said, "NYT Cooking showed us something that was pretty exciting, which is that there's an appetite for our food journalism and an appetite that goes beyond the core offering of the page." And The New York Times Food Festival fulfilled that craving for more. Videos

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Rachel Askinasi

2019-10-13T12:36:00Z

Inside The New York Times's first, epic food festival, where we saw up close what it's really like to be a professional foodie (1)

Rachel Askinasi/Insider
  • The New York Times held its first Food Festival on October 5 and 6.
  • The event was made up of three main features:
    • The Park — a collection of restaurants from around New York City and a Cooking Stage featuring demonstrations.
    • The Talks — a series of discussions between The Times staff and industry professionals.
    • The Nights — ticketed dinner events at restaurants all over New York City.
  • We talked with Sam Sifton, food editor at The Times and one of the Food Festival curators, and Melissa Clark, staff reporter and food columnist at The Times, to understand what it took to get this food-filled weekend off the ground and where they see it going in the future.
  • Sifton told Insider that the festival took just about a year to create and was designed to bring NYT Cooking to life, offering its audience an "IRL experience with the work that we do."
  • Visit Insider's homepage for more stories.

There are loads of food festivals happening all year-round all over the country. But on the first weekend of October 2019, The New York Times hosted its very first one.

Inside The New York Times's first, epic food festival, where we saw up close what it's really like to be a professional foodie (2)

Rachel Askinasi/Insider

Source: Insider

The New York Times Food Festival took over Manhattan's Bryant Park ...

Inside The New York Times's first, epic food festival, where we saw up close what it's really like to be a professional foodie (3)

Google Maps

... featuring tents filled with what The Times editors and reporters think are some of New York City's best food offerings.

Inside The New York Times's first, epic food festival, where we saw up close what it's really like to be a professional foodie (4)

Rachel Askinasi/Insider

Sam Sifton, food editor at The Times, told Insider that the point of the festival was to show visitors what it's like to do "one of the great jobs" — being a food writer at the legendary paper.

Inside The New York Times's first, epic food festival, where we saw up close what it's really like to be a professional foodie (5)

Joseph Augstein for The New York Times

To do that, they broke up the experience into three parts: The Park ...

Inside The New York Times's first, epic food festival, where we saw up close what it's really like to be a professional foodie (6)

Rachel Askinasi/Insider

... The Talks ...

Inside The New York Times's first, epic food festival, where we saw up close what it's really like to be a professional foodie (7)

Mike Cohen for The New York Times
(Video) Day In The Life of A Michelin Star Chef

... and The Nights.

Inside The New York Times's first, epic food festival, where we saw up close what it's really like to be a professional foodie (8)

Mike Cohen for The New York Times

The Park was split up into a ticketed area and one that was open to the public. Passers-by who either stumbled upon the festival or missed their chance to buy tickets for the sold-out lawn were able to enjoy the DJ ...

Inside The New York Times's first, epic food festival, where we saw up close what it's really like to be a professional foodie (9)

Rachel Askinasi/Insider

... buy some of the curated food like pizza from Roberta's ...

Inside The New York Times's first, epic food festival, where we saw up close what it's really like to be a professional foodie (10)

Mike Cohen for The New York Times

... video chat with NYT journalists around the world ...

Inside The New York Times's first, epic food festival, where we saw up close what it's really like to be a professional foodie (11)

Rachel Askinasi/Insider

... and more.

Inside The New York Times's first, epic food festival, where we saw up close what it's really like to be a professional foodie (12)

Rachel Askinasi/Insider

Guests who purchased a ticket, which sold for $25 per day, were able to roam around the grounds enjoying drinks from the main bar in the center of the space ...

Inside The New York Times's first, epic food festival, where we saw up close what it's really like to be a professional foodie (13)

Rachel Askinasi/Insider

... choose to purchase food from even more restaurants ...

Inside The New York Times's first, epic food festival, where we saw up close what it's really like to be a professional foodie (14)

Rachel Askinasi/Insider

... sit in on workshops held by chefs and other food industry experts ...

Inside The New York Times's first, epic food festival, where we saw up close what it's really like to be a professional foodie (15)

Vladimir Weinstein for The New York Times

... and watch live cooking demonstrations at the Cooking Stage by food writers and cooks alike.

Inside The New York Times's first, epic food festival, where we saw up close what it's really like to be a professional foodie (16)

Vladimir Weinstein for The New York Times

Melissa Clark, food columnist for NYT, told Insider that the Cooking Stage was a crucial part of the festival.

Inside The New York Times's first, epic food festival, where we saw up close what it's really like to be a professional foodie (17)

Rachel Askinasi/Insider

"That was really important: To have people cooking," she said. "We needed the demos. We absolutely needed them."

Inside The New York Times's first, epic food festival, where we saw up close what it's really like to be a professional foodie (18)

Rachel Askinasi/Insider

Clark continued: "I mean I think it's really inspirational for people. People see celebrity demos, but to see reporter demos, it's slightly different — we're less polished. And also to have the reporters talk to chefs who come in and do the demos as well, it just opens up, then we can go deeper. We're The New York Times, we're supposed to go deeper!"

Inside The New York Times's first, epic food festival, where we saw up close what it's really like to be a professional foodie (19)

Vladimir Weinstein for The New York Times
(Video) Packing for Iraq 🇮🇶 My 92nd Country!

Restaurants served up off-the-menu dishes like buttermilk fried chicken liver and gizzards with smoked ranch dressing from Beatrice Inn ...

Inside The New York Times's first, epic food festival, where we saw up close what it's really like to be a professional foodie (20)

Rachel Askinasi/Insider

... and spam corn dogs from Insa.

Inside The New York Times's first, epic food festival, where we saw up close what it's really like to be a professional foodie (21)

Rachel Askinasi/Insider

There were vendors selling craft cocktails ...

Inside The New York Times's first, epic food festival, where we saw up close what it's really like to be a professional foodie (22)

Rachel Askinasi/Insider

... and plenty of bubbly and wine as well.

Inside The New York Times's first, epic food festival, where we saw up close what it's really like to be a professional foodie (23)

Rachel Askinasi/Insider

The festivalgoers we spoke with were excited about all the foods they've never had a chance to try before.

Inside The New York Times's first, epic food festival, where we saw up close what it's really like to be a professional foodie (24)

Rachel Askinasi/Insider

One of the festival producers was enjoying a bowl of noodles on her short break and mentioned that a favorite of the reporters and chefs was the chickpea pancake and lamb dish from Frenchette. So, of course, we had to try it out.

Inside The New York Times's first, epic food festival, where we saw up close what it's really like to be a professional foodie (25)

Rachel Askinasi/Insider

After tasting only a handful of the dishes on offer — there were so many to choose from — we agreed that it was the favorite.

Inside The New York Times's first, epic food festival, where we saw up close what it's really like to be a professional foodie (26)

Rachel Askinasi/Insider

One festival attendee, Jacqueline Cook, said The Times did a good job with the festival. She said she liked the workshops and that there was a lot of great food to choose from.

Inside The New York Times's first, epic food festival, where we saw up close what it's really like to be a professional foodie (27)

Rachel Askinasi/Insider

There was a wide variety of foods on offer throughout the three sections of the park. "There's a lot of fusion-type food," she told Insider, but she said she would have wanted more single-culture dishes as well.

Inside The New York Times's first, epic food festival, where we saw up close what it's really like to be a professional foodie (28)

Rachel Askinasi/Insider

The Park — the ticketed portion —featured chefs like Sirichai Sreparplarn, a northern Thai cook from Bangkok, Michelle Puyane, a China-born cook, and Chintan Pandya, a native of Mumbai who was showcasing his Indian food, just to name a few.

Inside The New York Times's first, epic food festival, where we saw up close what it's really like to be a professional foodie (29)

Mike Cohen for The New York Times

Source: The New York Times

(Video) EPIC Goat BATTLE! New BEST Food at Yak and Yeti and LOST My Magicband

The next part of the festival was The Talks. Those took place at The Times Center — an event space inside The New York Times building.

Inside The New York Times's first, epic food festival, where we saw up close what it's really like to be a professional foodie (30)

Mike Cohen for The New York Times

The Talks allowed audience members to sit in on a reporter's interview process, Sifton said. Each discussion was led by a Times reporter or editor who was interviewing their subject on stage.

Inside The New York Times's first, epic food festival, where we saw up close what it's really like to be a professional foodie (31)

Mike Cohen for The New York Times

The New York Times hosts Times Talks throughout the year on various subjects, but this was like a marathon of food-infused discussion —one industry icon after another came out on the stage and each talk was tailored to their expertise.

Inside The New York Times's first, epic food festival, where we saw up close what it's really like to be a professional foodie (32)

Mike Cohen for The New York Times

In the lower-level atrium, festival sponsors had stations set up for viewers to peruse in-between talks. There was a selection of alcohol and snacks for sale ...

Inside The New York Times's first, epic food festival, where we saw up close what it's really like to be a professional foodie (33)

Rachel Askinasi/Insider

There was also free ice cream from the Brooklyn-born Ample Hills Creamery.

Inside The New York Times's first, epic food festival, where we saw up close what it's really like to be a professional foodie (35)

Rachel Askinasi/Insider

The Nights portion of the festival was a lot less accessible than the other two thirds. Tickets ranged from $80 to $480 for this portion of the event.

Inside The New York Times's first, epic food festival, where we saw up close what it's really like to be a professional foodie (36)

Courtesy of The New York Times

Source: The New York Times

In describing the idea behind The Nights, Sifton told Insider that he thought, "What if we harvested Pete Wells' brain? What would that look like?" Wells is the chief restaurant critic for The Times.

Inside The New York Times's first, epic food festival, where we saw up close what it's really like to be a professional foodie (37)

Mike Cohen for The New York Times

Sifton said they first thought Wells would simply come up with the 10 best restaurants in New York City and that would be it. But time was a factor, and one year wasn't long enough to plan out a large meal at Manhattan's most elite eateries.

Inside The New York Times's first, epic food festival, where we saw up close what it's really like to be a professional foodie (38)

Mike Cohen for The New York Times

Source: The New York Times

Then they got another idea: "I thought, 'I'll just ask him where he would spend his own money, and that'll yield a really cool list of restaurants,' which it did." The plan grew from there.

Inside The New York Times's first, epic food festival, where we saw up close what it's really like to be a professional foodie (39)

Mike Cohen for The New York Times

Sifton-and-team got the chefs of Wells' restaurant picks like Sushi Nakazawa, Mama's Too, Jeju Noodle Bar, and I Sodi, to come up with "a perfect meal."

Inside The New York Times's first, epic food festival, where we saw up close what it's really like to be a professional foodie (40)

Mike Cohen

Source: The New York Times

In general as visitors, we thought the festival was enjoyable and informative. The food was interesting and different — things we wouldn't be able to find elsewhere ...

Inside The New York Times's first, epic food festival, where we saw up close what it's really like to be a professional foodie (41)

(Video) Heart Attack Grill • 20,000 Calorie Burger • MUKBANG

Rachel Askinasi/Insider

... and the Cooking Stage was also a pretty big highlight.

Inside The New York Times's first, epic food festival, where we saw up close what it's really like to be a professional foodie (42)

Vladimir Weinstein for The New York Times

If you're a fan of panel discussions, you'd be enthralled by the lineup of speakers and the experience of sitting in on The Talks.

Inside The New York Times's first, epic food festival, where we saw up close what it's really like to be a professional foodie (43)

Mike Cohen for The New York Times

The schedules and timing of The Talks, the demonstrations happening on the Cooking Stage, and the general operating hours of the park made it difficult to experience everything — especially since the two locations were a bit spread out.

Inside The New York Times's first, epic food festival, where we saw up close what it's really like to be a professional foodie (44)

Rachel Askinasi/Insider

Insider went to both days of the festival, and we wound up walking back and forth from The Times Center on 8th Avenue and Bryant Park on 6th Avenue multiple times per day — at least it was a beautiful weekend.

Inside The New York Times's first, epic food festival, where we saw up close what it's really like to be a professional foodie (45)

Rachel Askinasi/Insider

Clark told Insider that next year, she would love to see some more integration of food at The Talks, and some more narrative at The Nights — hoping to "as Sam was saying, 'tell a story'" in an even more connected way.

Inside The New York Times's first, epic food festival, where we saw up close what it's really like to be a professional foodie (46)

Vladimir Weinstein for The New York Times

For people who are enamored with and immersed in the world of food writing, the idea of creating a festival "to introduce our readers to what we cover as we cover it" becomes extremely apparent and intentional —once you read or hear that was the thought.

Inside The New York Times's first, epic food festival, where we saw up close what it's really like to be a professional foodie (47)

Vladimir Weinstein for The New York Times

Source: The New York Times

But for people who just came for the food, like Carol Malkin of Hoboken, New Jersey, it's mostly about the eats. "What the festival really does is expose New Yorkers to restaurants and foods that they may not have ever experienced," she said. "I mean, do we really care what a food critic does in his everyday life?"

Inside The New York Times's first, epic food festival, where we saw up close what it's really like to be a professional foodie (48)

Rachel Askinasi/Insider

Well, not everyone does. But as Malkin also said, The Times did a great job delivering on the food festival promise of making seemingly elusive foods more accessible. So even if you're not there for the message, you can still enjoy the festival — which we think is the sign of a job well done.

Inside The New York Times's first, epic food festival, where we saw up close what it's really like to be a professional foodie (49)

Rachel Askinasi/Insider

After all, Sifton said, "NYT Cooking showed us something that was pretty exciting, which is that there's an appetite for our food journalism and an appetite that goes beyond the core offering of the page." And The New York Times Food Festival fulfilled that craving for more.

Inside The New York Times's first, epic food festival, where we saw up close what it's really like to be a professional foodie (50)

Rachel Askinasi/Insider
Read the original article on INSIDER. Copyright 2019.

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