Jacques Pepin, host of Fast Food My Way, and John Baricelli of Everyday Baking from Everyday Food hosted cooking demos, with Pepin demonstrating curing salmon and Barricelli giving tips on making mini raspberry tarts. Meanwhile, Lidia Bastianich, host of Lidia's Italy, signed copies of her newest cookbook and greeted fans.
The event also brought together some of the biggest names in the local food and wine scene. Guests were able to sample fine Italian meats and cheeses courtesy of DiPalo Selects of Little Italy, and then move on to hot dishes from CoolFish Grille & Wine Bar of Syosset, Stone Creek Inn of the Hamptons, and city restaurants Industria Argentina and Centrico.
They could also sample baked goods from Barricelli's SoNo Baking Company of South Norwalk, as well as several quality wines from all over Europe and South America.
Barricelli is relatively new to the television food scene, but Pepin and Bastianich have been cooking on the small screen for years. Pepin actually co-hosted a show with Julia Child, the queen of television cooking, while Bastianich got her start in the trade after an impressive guest appearance on the legend's show.
Pepin said that the whole culture surrounding food has changed, and that people nowadays are more knowledgeable about cooking, as well as using quality ingredients.
“When I first came to America, I went to D'Agostino's, a fine supermarket in Manhattan, and asked for mushrooms. They told me Aisle 5, where the canned goods were kept,” Pepin, who hails from France, recalled. “You had to go to a specialty market just to buy common white mushrooms.”
Bastianich said that the whole world of television cooking has changed, and not necessarily for the better.
“There's a lot more buffoonery now,” she said in between signing books for fans. “When I was cooking with Julia it was a lot more about educating and communicating with the viewer.”
Both Pepin and Bastianich said that part of the key to their success is, in fact, that they aren't trying to be actors, but have a genuine love of cooking that comes across to the viewers.
“We aren't actors, we can be only one thing,” said Pepin, who has hosted several different series but said they were all very similar in nature. “I can't change who I am.”
Bastianich went so far as to film her series Lidia's Kitchen in her own kitchen in her home in Douglaston.
“I told them that I had to do it in my own kitchen,” she said. “If I am going to be talking and cooking, I need to know where everything is.”
Lidia's family moved from Italy to New Jersey in 1958, where they stayed for six months before moving to Queens, where she has been ever since. She said growing up in such a diverse borough with strong immigrant communities enabled her to keep alive the cuisine from her homeland, adding that often times she was able to find speciality ingredients in the immigrant enclaves in Queens long before the markets of Manhattan carried them.
“I think growing up in Queens kept me in a very family mode,” she said.