Yesterday we did a cooking demo at the New York Times Travel show to highlight a trip we're doing to Italy with our travel partners, Context Trips.
The trick behind these demos seems to be to:
1) Have as much as possible prepared before hand as the facilities are minimal - Filling a pot with water to boil gnocchi-bound potatoes cost $15!! We had to buy bottled water as there were no faucets!
2) Get a good night's sleep before hand. The real world doesn't operate on restaurant/bar time, speed or logic!
What you can't be prepared for is the reaction of the crowd.
Who knew that we would be feeding an Octopus that was just coming off a hunger strike?
As we brought the trays of tasting plates out, arms attacked us from all angles, over the shoulders, around the waist, from behind, from the side and from the front! It was feeding time!
Trying to keep the trays balanced, we kept up the pretence that we thought everyone was fascinated by our erudite and delicious tasting highlighting the cuisines of Rome and Naples. We weaved and dodged the flaying tentacles, wishing everyone a 'buon Apetito' which more often than not was greeted with a totally blank expression, soothed only by the introduction of food!
As the feeding frenzy progressed, chef Maryann demonstrated how to make gnocchi (they were great !) and travel expert Katie Parla introduced the program. All this against the frantic masticating of a breakfast-deprived crowd.
At one point we seemed to be hallucinating as gnome-like figures in red headdresses kept pulling at our legs, talking in tongues and asking for food!
Before you knew it it was all over - you only get 30 minutes for these presentations - thank God!
While we had been risking our lives in the piranha infested waters, our colleagues had been identifying the individuals who were actually genuinely interested in the trips to Italy. It turned out that there were quite a few so all was not in vain!
As we made our rapid escape from the scene, the next presentation started on the stage behind us - Two small kids (twins) dressed in national red Ukraine costumes, singing what sounded disturbingly like odes to food or the God of harvest!