This past weekend, we had the pleasure of serving food at SAVOR: A Celebration of Food, Wine, and Spirits presented by Foxwoods Resort and Casino. Chef Robert Irvine of The Food Network is the headliner for this annual event, and is accompanied by a few other celebrity chefs as well as local restaurants to make the event a full on gastronomic experience. The event is for charity and benefits all military personnel through the Robert Irvine Foundation. For those who have not attended this event, it is held in a ginormous room in the convention center in Hartford. People get a little boozy on wine, beer, and/or spirits, then they walk around tasting the food offerings from the local restaurants, and trying not to trip on the carpet. It is a fun time for us interacting with guests and potential guests, but also for the guests who get to try some innovative foods, and talk to their favorite chefs and restaurateurs. I imagine it is a prosperous weekend for the Uber drivers as well.
Behind the scenes, there are some noteworthy events as well that you all are not privy to. First, the locals like us show up in the giant kitchen which easily cost over a bajillion to build out. It is like walking into Yankee Stadium when you used to play for the Yard Goats. I always chuckle when I see all of the extra refrigeration units and ovens that go unused when we do this event or events in the Mohegan Sun kitchen. It truly is eye-popping to see all the excess of equipment. My brothers would vote me out of the partnership if I ever ordered kitchen equipment with such disregard. Anyway, we claim our space at the stove, fryolator, and prep tables only to be removed when the celebrity chefs arrive. We know it is coming and we work around them like their little brothers. Beau MacMillan has kicked me out of my space two years in a row and we had a good laugh about that. I forgive him because the Fried Chicken Bahn Mi he gave me last year still lingers in the forefront of my food brain. All of these celebrity chefs roll in with an entourage and puff their chests a little, but I gotta say, I am not bashing them for it. They are as gregarious in the kitchen as they are in front of the cameras and it creates a fun environment in the back of the house. The pressure is on all of us to perform, we eyeball each others food (discreetly of course), and we silently pass judgement. After a short while, everyone wants to try each others food in the kitchen and everybody realizes that there are a lot of really good cooks there.
This year we offered Arancini Fonduta and Meatball Sliders. These items are rustic and a true to what our restaurants offer. They are also delicious, and the arancini were probably the most popular item at the event (read: good drunk food). I would be lying if I said my inner foodie wasn't a little jealous of the hollowed out egg being served by Jeffrey Lizotte from On20 (it was wonderful), but we are not that kind of place. As our chef, Jeff Gantkin, reminded me, "Mary Ann Esposito just told us that these are the best arancini she has eaten since she was in Italy, and at least 20 people came back to the booth to tell us that this was their favorite thing to eat here." I think Chef Jeff wants to pound my inner foodie into a cutlet. Anyway, we are now discussing the logistics of adding the arancini to our menu. They were that popular.
Finally, I want to take a minute to thank Chef Irvine for his hospitality and his biceps. Both of which are impressive. He pounded a bunch of arancini and I think he hit up Plan B for some burgers, so I know his gym game is on point. He also goes out of his way to thank all the chefs in the kitchen who make this event a success. Not all celebrity chefs we have worked with in the past go the extra mile. Chef Irvine did and it doesn't go unnoticed. I can't think of too many reasons for anyone to venture into Hartford from the 'burbs, but this event is worth the trip.