When is the last time you pow-wowed with Bobby Flay, made pies with a former White House pastry chef or watched as Wolfgang Puck personally sliced lamb for your dinner plate? If you’re a fan of the Food Network or just love to eat, the two-day Savor Borgata food festival is a can’t-miss event. “Savor Borgata really is a onestop shop where in one night you can see Geoffrey Zakarian and Bobby Flay and have a great dining experience,” says Becky Schultz, vice president of food and beverage at Borgata.
Savor Borgata, held annually the first weekend in November, celebrated its eighth year this past fall. “The event has expanded from a one-night event to two days filled with demonstrations, tastings and spin-off events. Now we even kick off the week before with Restaurant Week at the Borgata, offering value-driven menus at all of our fine dining outlets,” Schultz explains. Attendance has also grown, with this year’s Saturday evening showcase attended by 1,200 guests. Tickets are purchased in advance for all events (depending on availability, tickets may be available day of), which range from food and beverage tastings, pasta and pie-making classes, book signings and exclusive multicourse private dinners, culminating in Saturday evening’s main event. This year marked the third year that Savor Borgata’s main event was Street Eats, which employed the popular food truck theme and allowed attendees to sample food from 17 different stations, as well as sip wine and craft beer in the biergarten.
The transformation from ballroom to a funfilled ambiance with internationally themed food trucks took two days, but the planning begins months before, typically beginning in March. “We expect to start planning for the 2016 event in January this year because we want to make some changes and keep it fresh,” Schultz says. “We like to say that we plan to work and then work the plan.”
The Borgata is well known for its fine dining restaurants from standout celebrity chefs including Wolfgang Puck, Bobby Flay, Geoffrey Zakarian, as well as rising stars in the culinary industry. The idea behind the festival is to celebrate the resort’s culinary offerings while appealing to the public’s love of food and chefs. “Our chef partners (Flay, Zakarian, Puck) and our in-house chefs work really well together, but it does require a lot of coordination,” Schultz explains.
So what are the biggest challenges to running an event like this? “Manpower,” Schultz says. “You have to remember we keep all of our restaurants open during the event so there are a lot of moving parts.” Initially, just setting a date for the event was difficult when juggling calendars for world-renowned chefs. “Now they know it’s always the first weekend of November, so there are no conflicts,” she says. “It’s a tremendous amount of work, but we all love it.”