The Fabulous Food Show

My favorite food event of the year is always the Fabulous Food Show, at the I-X Center.  It shines a national spotlight on all that the Cleveland food scene has to offer, to 30,000 people over the course of a weekend.  Vendors, purveyors, artisans, chefs, foodies, students and avid eaters gather for three days celebrating all things FOOD.

ffs-steak-cake

This year they offered new things like a Baking Pavilion, Cocktail School and Friday night fund raising event, Savor Cleveland, to raise money for No Kid Hungry.  It was a fun evening attended by some of the celebrity chefs in town for this dynamic event.  The floor was also peppered with samples, and special offers for everything from salsa, to knives, to artisan cheese.  The neighborhood stage was a great showcase for local talent to demo techniques and recipes.  And the main stage offered presentations and Q&A from celebrity chefs like Aaron Sanchez, Daphne Oz, Michael Symon, Damaris Phillips and Melissa D’Arabian.

Once again I was honored to participate on a main stage event.  CLE Cooks for a Cause was expanded this year to include 8 teams of two, a local celeb and a local chef-going head to head in a “Chopped” style cooking competition.  Each team selected a charity to compete for.  The show itself donated $500 to each of our charities, plus donated the proceeds from reserved seating.  I was playing for the Hunger Network of Greater Cleveland.

It was a rematch.  Chef Matt Mytro, of Flour, and I went back at it against Matt Fish, of Melt Bar & Grilled and Jeremiah Widmer of Q104 FM. We’d been ribbing each other for the better part of the year since the last time we cooked against each other at the Fabulous Food Show last year.  But Mytro and I wanted to take the title away from Team Melt.

We were given beef as a protein and the chefs set about rapidly raiding the back stage pantry for something they could pull off in 30 minutes, and still impress judges like Damaris Phillips, and former White House Chef, Sam Morgante.

Chef Mytro conceived, executed and plated a beautiful sirloin steak with a celeriac puree and a punchy salad on top.  He tasked me with making a perfect meatball, and braising it in some marinara.  His bold flavors and my comfort zone worked in our favor.  WE WON!  The judges were very complimentary of Mytro’s flavors and my ability to get the meatballs done in such a quick amount of time.  It felt good to win!  (especially because Matt told me his partner threatened to take his chef’s coat away if he lost a second year in a row!)

ffs-mytro-and-jen

To watch the entire competition from the perspective of the stage, click here for my Facebook Live broadcast.

I also scored, with some one on one interview time with three of the biggest celebrity chefs featured in the Fabulous Show.  It’s always an honor and a blast to talk to Cleveland’s own Iron Chef, Michael Symon.  Great to catch up with him about plans for Lolita, progress at Mabel’s and his yearly opportunity to show off the CLE culinary scene.  To watch my entire one on one with Chef Michael Symon, click here for my Facebook Live broadcast.

jen-and-daphne-oz

Chef Symon brought in fellow cast member from The Chew, Daphne Oz.  I loved visiting with her about tempting toddlers with healthy food, and her new cook book, The Happy Cook.  She is stunning in person and remarkably relatable.  To view my entire interview with Daphne Oz, click here for my Facebook live broadcast.

jen-and-damaris-phillips

And one of the newest members of the Food Network family, Damaris Phillips was also in town.  Phillips, of Southern at Heart, is as sweet as pecan pie and a ton of fun.  She is a great resource for those trying to please a variety of dietary needs, especially come holiday times.  She’s a southern meat-eatin’ gal who married a vegetarian!  My entire interview with Damaris Phillips can be viewed here.

The Fabulous Food Show is my happy place (one of them) it combines the energy of the Cleveland food scene, with incredible talent, learning opportunities, cutting edge products, fan favorites and delicious food.  Mark your calendar and get there next year!

Fabulous Food Show: Cooking Competition, Culinary Gala and an Iron Chef One on One

The Fabulous Food Show is indeed that, a fabulous celebration of good food, celebrity chefs and innovative vendors.  It was an incredibly busy week for me, making good use of time and access to some big players.

fab food show chef michael symon

I got some one on one time with Cleveland’s own Iron Chef, and cast member of The Chew, Michael Symon.  We chatted about how the food show is evolving, his new cookbook (5 in 5 For Every Season) what Cleveland needs to do to continue its trajectory into the upper echelon of the food world, and spoke about the long-awaited Mabel’s, (a sore subject!) Symon’s East 4th St. barbecue joint.  He tells me it is about a year behind schedule and way over budget, but yet still on track to fill a void in the local food scene.  This will mark his 12th restaurant-he has 8 B Spot locations, Lola Bistro, Lolita, Roast (plus 2 Bar Symon locations)  The man is busy but still as gracious, and down to earth as you’d expect.

I was also an honorary table host at the Cleveland Culinary Awards Gala, which recognized industry leaders and icons.

Culinary Ambassador: Michael Symon

Restaurant Vangaurds: Parker Bosley from Fresh Fork Market, and Sokolowski’s University Inn

Beverage Trailblazer: Paulius Nasvytis of The Velvet Tango Room.

culinary awards menu

I was treated to a four course meal and the company of some of the most creative and delicious dinner companions I could dream up.

fab food show contestants

The “main event” of the weekend for me was a Media Cooking Competition on the main stage, pitting WDOK 102.1 FM personality, Jeremiah Widmer and Chef Matt Fish, of Melt Bar and Grilled against me and Chef Matt Mytro from Flour Restaurant.

fab food show cooking with matt mytro

We were given a surprise “main ingredient” to work with, salmon, plus access to anything in the main stage pantry and fridges.  Which, if I’m being honest, was pretty meager.  It was the last cooking event of the last day of the show.  The cupboards were awfully bare.

The pressure was on.  The judges were Gail Simmons of Bravo TV’s Top Chef, Food Author and Host, Mark Decarlo plus newly minted judges from the World Food Championships.

We had 30 minutes.  The instructions from my partner, “stay busy and entertain the crowd.”  I did my best to assist in our salmon poached in chili oil, with a butternut squash puree and creamy apple/celery slaw… including trying to distract our competitors, and bribing our judges with ice cream.

When time was up, we tasted everything we’d made (the most important key to good cooking according to Mytro) and presented it proudly to the judges.

In the end, team “Euctownninjas” (we’re both from Euclid) came up short.  But even as the loser, I still feel pretty good because I have to pay up on a bet I made with Jeremiah, and participate in their station’s annual charity radioathon, benefitting  UH’s Rainbow Babies and Childrens Hospital.

 FFS panel

To cap off a very busy and productive couple of days, I was invited to participate in a panel discussion about the Cleveland culinary scene.  I got to sit alongside Chefs Michael Symon, Chris Hodgson, Jason Roberts, Izzy Schachner and Rocco Whalen to talk about what the city is doing right, what challenges they’re facing as restaurateurs and what they’d like see next for the local food scene.

fab food show jen and jeremiah

After an eventful week filled with such incredible and talented people , I’m exhausted and hungry for more involvement in the local food scene and beyond.  Look out, world.