The New York City Wine & Food Festival, held October 17–20 (866-969-2933; nycwff.com), is still a few weeks away, but Lee Schrager, founder of the perpetually popular event filled with celebrity chefs (like Michael Symon, pictured above), delicious food and parties aplenty, is already gearing up for action. As he heads into the sixth installment of the now-classic affair, we chatted with him about the upcoming lineup, how he would strategize a visit and what the celebrity chefs can’t wait to do.
Q: How do you keep the festival fresh but still hold to its original mission?
A: The festival’s mission is to raise as much money as possible to help fight hunger with Food Bank for New York City and Share Our Strength’s No Kid Hungry campaign—that has always been our goal. We keep the program fresh by identifying new trends, continuously listening to our talent, fans, sponsors and talking with industry leaders about what’s coming up next.
Q: What are you particularly excited for this year?
A: I’m looking forward to our first large-scale pizza celebration, La Sagra Sunday Slices (October 20) hosted by Anne Burrell and Adam Richman, as well as our first tailgate event Jets + Chefs: The Ultimate Tailgate (October 19), hosted by Joe Namath and Mario Batali, and the entire series of pairing seminars hosted by Food & Wine and led by some of the greatest chefs and wine and spirits experts.
Q: What do you think is the best way for guests to navigate the fest?
A: Plan ahead if you are going to multiple events to make sure you leave yourself enough time to get from one venue to another. Drink lots of water and wear comfortable shoes!
Q: And what do the participating chefs look forward to every year?
A: I think they enjoy connecting with all of their fans so much throughout the weekend—and seeing each other! Our chefs come from all over the world and the festival is a chance for them to reconnect with their colleagues from across the globe.
Looking (Even Further) Ahead: The Food Network South Beach Wine & Food Festival runs February 20–23, 2014, but you can book a spot now for an exclusive, 12-person sushi-rolling class with Nobu Matsuhisa and executive sushi chef Oscar Norborikawa at Nobu in Miami Beach. The event precedes a lunch at the restaurant (12 to 3 p.m.; $150), but once the dozen spots are filled, no more will open up. February 22, 10 a.m.; tickets, $350; 1901 Collins Ave.; e-mail email@example.com.