NYCWFF Goes Virtual With the Biggest Names in Cooking

Hugh Acheson, Amanda Freitag and Marcus Samuelsson are among the chefs on tap for the annual culinary event.

James Beard Award winners, Food Network stars and America’s favorite chefs come together for one of the country’s largest culinary events, the New York City Wine & Food Festival, as the famed affair goes virtual now through October 11.

Martha Stewart, Hugh Acheson, Giada de Laurentiis, Valerie Bertinelli, Eddie Jackson, Thomas Keller, Amanda Freitag and Marcus Samuelsson are among the many personalities on tap for the festival’s 13th anniversary.

Participants appear in one of two cooking series: “Cook From the Book,” in which famous chefs take you through one of their favorite cookbook recipes (you also receive the cookbook); or “In the Kitchen,” live, interactive, virtual cooking with the stars of Food Network and the Cooking Channel.

One of the first up is Valerie Bertinelli, whose “In the Kitchen” segment teaches you how to make a perfect weeknight meal with ingredients you already have in your pantry.

Valerie Bertinelli
Valerie Bertinelli (©John Russo)

When it comes to cooking at home, Bertinelli either likes to keep it simple or go full hog.

“I’m either grilling simple chicken breasts to pair with a yummy salad or testing out a recipe that has me stumped, and making my family taste-test,” she says.

For those who want to try something new but don’t want to spend a lot of time in the kitchen, Bertinelli says, “I’m always a fan of using store-bought ingredients to make your life easier in the kitchen.”

Former NFL star and Food Network chef Eddie Jackson also shares a recipe “In the Kitchen.” It’s Double Stuff Cookies, one of Jackson’s favorite game-day treats.

“Cookies are my go-to guilty pleasure, and also one of my favorite recipes in my cookbook,” says Jackson. “I wanted to do something different, something not associated with me.”

Jackson, who is also a physical trainer, says there’s no need for a “cheat day” if you enjoy your favorite foods in moderation.

“You don’t have to shy away from the foods you like, you just have to understand that you can’t eat them all the time,” Jackson said.

Eddie Jackson
Eddie Jackson (Courtesy NYCWFF)

Another "In the Kitchen" participant is Amanda Freitag, chef and longtime judge on Food Network’s “Chopped,” who shares her recipe for Hearty Gnocchi with Herb Lemon Pesto, as well as her favorite techniques for practical home cooking.

“I always advise the home chef to build upon what they know and then put a twist on that,” says Freitag. “As pro chefs, that is what we do. Instead of starting with ingredients and spices you never heard of all at once, just incorporate new flavors into tried-and-true classics,” she adds.

Freitag has fond memories of cooking with her grandparents, helping to create sweet dishes with her grandmother and savory dishes with her grandfather. Since she helped out with numerous family dishes, “making, forming and cooking meatballs for spaghetti was very exciting.”

Freitag just opened Rise and Thyme in Dallas, a project that was in the works for two years but put on hold due to the pandemic. It demonstrates the resilient nature of the culinary industry.

“Rise and Thyme is an all-day café, not a full-service restaurant, so that makes operations a bit less complex,” says Freitag. “We are just opening now with all the safety guidelines in place and the guests are able to pick up their food and enjoy it in an outdoor environment.”

“I love all of our breakfast dishes,” Freitag adds. “We are doing a breakfast taco and also a Taylor ham, egg and cheese sandwich, which is a nod to my New Jersey roots,” she says.

Amanda Freitag
Amanda Freitag (Courtesy NYCWFF)

Also on the schedule is Marcus Samuelsson, a multiple James Beard Award winner and food activist in New York City, part of the “Cook From the Book” series.

Samuelsson’s cookbook, “The Rise,” is a celebration of Black excellence in the culinary world.

“It’s important to tell the story of Black cooking and how it relates to America,” says Samuelsson. “Black cooks have had to face many injustices and I get to do what I love because of them.”

The audience will cook Shrimp & Grits along with Samuelsson, who has fond memories of fishing with his uncles as a youth. In best sourcing ingredients, he reiterates that fresh is best.

“Go to the local farmers market and buy seasonal ingredients,” he says. “Create relationships with the fishmonger and butcher. That way you’ll get the best cuts.”

Marcus Samuelsson
Marcus Samuelsson (courtesy NYCWFF)

Another participant in the "Cook From the Book" series is Athens’ Hugh Acheson. For Acheson, it’s a chance to safely champion the food festival atmosphere.

“I like supporting festivals that will forge on in these uncertain times, in a safe fashion,” says Acheson.

Acheson appears as part of the festival’s “Cook From the Book” series. He has penned four successful cookbooks, and shares his recipe for Spaghetti with Shrimp and Leeks at NYCWFF.

“Every author is different in how they choose what to include [in cookbooks], but I just try to frame food that is crave-worthy and possible in most kitchens across the country,” says Acheson. “It also helps to be a chef and operate restaurants because what we serve there becomes the slightly simplified recipes that I include in books.”

Hugh Acheson
Hugh Acheson (Courtesy NYCWFF)

In Athens, Acheson operates Five and Ten; in Atlanta, Empire State South and by George. He recently started a podcast, “Hugh Acheson Stirs the Pot,” to share his thoughts on the culinary world.