Posts tagged ‘enjoyxo’

October 15, 2012

When Directing a Culinary Event for 3,000, Try This

by Jen Wanous

With walkie-talkie in hand, I entered the raw space that took up an entire city block, as ready as I could ever be. The task at hand: to set-up a three-day culinary event for 3,000 people. Set up included: six kitchens for 140 chef presenters, seven different workshop rooms, one main stage that seated 400, two walk-in refrigerators, one freezer, a tradeshow floor room for 50, two pop-up restaurants, 24 different food cart chefs, electricity and plumbing to it all…and two days to do it.

When the opening day hit, like meat in a grinder, time crunched down hard. With a year of planning now behind me, hours transformed into minutes as every request that came in needed immediate action. Crises were near boiling points around every corner. Everyone needed solutions and I was in a role to give them. Like being a chef in a kitchen, this was trial by fire. My mind ran at a fevered pace as names and schedules flew around. There was no time to write down notes; everything was one long mental note demanding immediate action. Bruises on my toes told of my speedy pace, just shy of running for the 100 hours I worked that week.

With problems popping up left and right, I honed my skill of bringing solutions. Here are a few examples.

Problem: Chef Morimoto (read: uber famous chef, aka: “The Iron Chef”) needs wasabi powder in 15 minutes.
Solution: Instruct assistant to go to the nearest store stating, “Seriously, like Super Market Sweep style, run and get it and run back now.”

Problem: Your boss, and CEO of the company (during the second hour of the event), screams at the top of her lungs at you, bursts into tears citing a myriad of crises. Problems like a sign that is not hung and a walkway that is not wide enough. Oh and also during this moment, she threatens to fire you if you take another Instagram picture.
Solution: Fix all noted problems (it takes five minutes) and definitely hold off on posting Instagram pictures until after the event. (Discovering that deep place of compassion for her helps, but may take up to a week to attain.)

Problem: Your only dishwasher breaks.
Solution: Pray.

Problem: Unions threaten to blow up the rat in front of your event and set up a picket line.
Solution: Hire a union member to be your liaison (aka: Wonder Woman) and have her negotiate the union labor needs so that everyone is happy.

Problem: Upset stomach.
Solution: Don’t eat a doughnut covered in peanut butter, thinking you’re getting more protein that way. Eat a Clif Bar instead.

Problem: Your production assistant decides to drink and then has a diabetic crash, passes out cold on the floor, and refuses medical attention then insists on going to the drug store to get meds. You don’t think that’s a good idea but then a few minutes later, you realize he’s already left. Having visions of him passed out in the street, you leave your event and run after him.
Solution: Get an umbrella (it had to be raining), call your mom (because she always knows what’s best), follow your mom’s advice to go back to your event (he can take care of himself) and then when he returns, put him in a cab home and tell him not to come back. (Did I mention cry? Crying is definitely a factor in the solution.)

All in all, I was given a job to manage something that was unmanageable. This was a three-day culinary event for 3,000 people in a completely raw space on a shoestring budget with very little infrastructure. This gargantuan feat was only made possible by the amazing talents of the team I had assembled. I gave them my trust and they gave me their absolute best.

As the Event Director, I could sure sling a walkie-talkie, but what good was that if the people on the other end were not ready on the draw?

If this were a novel, this would be my page of thanks: Candy, the kiwi intern who worked for free (free!) and added value beyond measure. Jacquie who made more than her fair share of super-market sweeps. Amy–another stellar volunteer–caught the pieces before they hit the ground. Sam was the saving grace and saving sass of this event. Layla, was the backbone of the event, her victory (and mine) lied in not needing anti-anxiety meds! Renata, Renata!, my mentor and confidant. Her grace under fire inspires me like none other.

The whole Wizard crew including, Dana, Matt, Sarah, Caryn, and the redheaded guy John. You all bolstered our faith when you helped come up with solutions and powered through each day. To the electricians, the dishwashers, the carpenters, the film crews, the security guards, the cleaning crews, the volunteers, you all are the foundation of this event.

And to the StarChefs crew, everyone rallied! Thank you for humoring me, trusting me, and helping me.

This has been one wild ride of a culinary adventure. Oh, the highs, you ask? Well, eating a deep-fried pizza made by a chef from Naples, *just* happening to be there when the wining pastry champion passes around his cake for a taste; getting Richard Blais his liquid nitrogen (and getting his cell phone number); and tasting and interacting with 140 of the worlds best chefs. Amazing. These are the things that will feed me moving forward.

Check out the official event wrap up here:

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February 24, 2012

Doling Out a Dose of Summer with Pineapple

by Jen Wanous

It’s a bit premature to be anticipating warm and sunny skies, but taking a bite of pineapple can sure have you believing in the promise of summer. Below is a video on how to tackle the task of cutting up a pineapple, including how to tell when they are ripe. Go ahead, pick up that regal fruit, there is a lot of sunshine in each sweet bite.

Beef Teriyaki with Broccoli and Bell Pepper

This is a recipe from Vivian Sicherman, it is one of her family’s favorites. The meat is marinated and then broiled, imparting a nice charred flavor. Of course, if you have a barbeque, now would be a good time to use it. In light of my current focus on pineapple, I went ahead and added some of the sweet n’ tangy fruit to her recipe. More specifically, I pureed the tough and chewy center – which would normally be tossed and composted – to the marinade.

The enzyme in the core, bromelain, is a natural meat tenderizer. This quality is what makes it a great addition to a steak marinade, breaking down the chewiness of skirt steak. However, if eaten on it own and in great quantities, it will also start work it’s magic on the inside of your mouth. The lesson here, kids, is to take caution when idly gnawing on the woody center of your freshly cut pineapple! The powerful enzyme is concentrated in the core – so, though it might leave your hunger for protein-eviscerating enzymes sated, it will probably leave your mouth feeling like the bio-hazard bin outside of one of Dexter’s charming ‘workspaces.’ Simply put, having a technique for taking it out is key when preparing.

You can use the marinade on planks of extra firm tofu too for a vegetarian version. Serve with rice. Serves 3-4.


2 lbs skirt steak

1 lb broccoli, chopped

1 red bell pepper, sliced

½ cup pineapple, large dice

2 tablespoons olive oil

For the Marinade

Core of a pineapple, pureed

¼ cup soy sauce

3 tablespoons brown sugar

¾ teaspoon ground ginger

1 ½ teaspoon garlic powder

2 tablespoons white vinegar (apple cider or rice vinegar is fine)

3/4 cup olive oil or vegetable oil


1. Preheat oven to 350°. Combine all ingredients for the marinade in a small dish or large Ziploc bag. Add the steak, coat well. Marinade in the refrigerator for at least 30 minutes and up to 3 hours.

*If you don’t have a food processor to puree the pineapple core, you can combine all marinade ingredients in a blender.

2. Toss the broccoli, bell pepper, and pineapple with olive oil (or sesame oil if you have it), salt and pepper. Bake 30 minutes, flipping half way.

3. Turn your broiler on high (that part of your oven, on the bottom, that you hardly ever use). On a rimmed baking sheet, place the pieces of meat (retain extra marinade). Broil for 12-15 minutes, flipping half way, until you get some black charring.

4. Pour the extra marinade in a small saucepan. On high heat, bring to a boil, reduce heat to low and simmer for 10 minutes.

5. Cut meat, combine with vegetables, and pine apple, top with marinade reduction and serve with rice.

April 11, 2011

Ode to New York: A Vegan Ice Cream Guide

by Jen Wanous

On my third year anniversary of living in New York, I would like to dedicate an ode to the best vegan ice cream this wonderful city has to offer.  Many of you know that I am lactose-challenged and as you probably also know, I love ice cream.  This makes for a challenging scenario, but with some digging, sweet, cool, creamy deliciousness can be found!  Below are reviews of what I have enjoyed here.

Right photo courtesy of Kelsey Leland, check out her blog at:

You see, I used to be able to eat dairy like a champ.  Hot days at the beach in my Southern California hometown would never be complete without some Thrifty’s ice cream, pizza was plentiful and cheddar cheese to complement all the Mexican food was essential.   Then came college and my earthy-herbal vegan days where I cut out dairy completely.  When I decided I was over it, I tried to go back to my decedent milkshake-loving ways and I quickly realized that I was doomed!! It was a particularly low point in my life.  I had indeed become lactose intolerant- joining the ranks of my mom’s side of the family- we would all pay dearly for our cheesecake indulgences on Thanksgivings.

It’s estimated that 75% of adults in the world are lactose intolerant. Your body is missing lactase, which is the enzyme you need to digest lactose.  Prior to pasteurization, milk contains lactase but the high heat process of pasteurization destroys it, making it hard for us to digest if we don’t already produce lactase.  If you can find a trusted local, raw milk producer, you might not have any reaction at all.  (In NYC, it is illegal to sell non-pasteurized milk…but ask around someone might be able to hook you up!)

Lactose intolerance is the heavy, stomachachey feeling you get from eating pizza, cream soup or ice cream.  (Lots of bubbles…you know what I’m talking about.)  Of course, the severity can vary.  If you tune into your body enough, you can start to notice what might bother you the most.  The sugar-lactose combo that is found in ice cream is particularly challenging for your body to digest.  It might be worthwhile to pay attention to any correlations you notice between symptoms like: stuffy nose, you have to clear your throat a lot (ehem), for kids- if they get ear infections often, asthma, snoring or just tummy aches in general.  It might not seem like such a big deal but over the years, I’ve noticed that I get totally grumpy when my stomach hurts, so for me it’s just not worth it to suffer through—especially when there are so many wonderful alternatives!

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