QEDC Director of Public Relations, Marketing and Tourism Rob Mackay, who organized the event, explained that the central purpose of the annual Taste festival is on fundraising to support general operating costs of the corporation, including the costs of programs like the entrepreneur space and the incubator that helped launch several of the evening’s participating culinary establishments.
“But while this is our fundraiser, this is more than anything a celebration of Queens,” Mackay pointed out. “When we think about Queens, we think about great food, great people, and small businesses.”
James Giordano, program director for the Travel, Tourism and Hospitality Program at LaGuardia Community College, was excited to have his students working to help the event run smoothly, as they have done for several years.
“Rob Mackay and Seth Bornstein have a close relationship with the college and about four years ago, we just asked if they needed any assistance. Now it’s become a bit of a ritual for us,” Giordano said. “It helps us to build up internship opportunities for the students, and some of those can roll over into part-time or permanent positions down the road. It’s great personal experience and great for their résumés.”
Kevin Melvin, sales manager for Desserts that Matter, the 10-month-old company awarded first place in this year’s dessert competition, was not surprised that his brand walked away a winner for their dairy and gluten-free, soy, almond and coconut-based ice creams, since there is a growing market for dairy alternatives and gluten-free options.
“We strive to be the best at what we do, and our ice cream speaks for itself,” Melvin said. “Our founder, Malcolm Stogo, has been in the business for over 40 years, and he knew when he started the company that dairy-free ice cream is something that can be for everybody.”
For this year’s Taste, Mackay said, the QEDC was able to bring in 50 vendors – nine more than last year – and draw in about 700 attendees.
“We had everything from Amerivents to Zenon, so we really had everything from A to Z here,” he said. “We had vendors from all the way in Northeast Astoria down to Pa-Nash, which is located two blocks from Valley Stream on the Nassau boundary, so we really had the entire borough covered.”