The smell of spices and expertly prepared meat envelops my nose. I am surrounded by tables covered with beautifully crafted dishes. Chefs in uniform diligently serve out more. In ever corner there’s a caterer with cocktails with names like “The Bramble”. And it’s all mine for the taking! How did I get here? Have I died and gone to Food Heaven?
It all started with a drunk Facebook message.
“OMG I drunk Facebooked last night!” My roommate announced one Saturday morning. “This is the problem with having an iPhone! It’s too easy to connect with anyone at any time and make a bad decision!” I made a face, fearing the worst. A text to an old boyfriend, a new boyfriend, something accidentally sent to a parent: my mind was a buzz of worst case scenarios. She showed me the correspondence:
“I can’t believe I did that! I didn’t even finish it! It’s so embarrassing!” Um you messaged our old boss who was like, the chillest person ever. She even signed this “xx”. Plus look at her response! You’re FINE. You’re even surprisingly professional when drunk, I laughed. Two weeks later, I’m working at the New York Food and Wine Festival.
I arrive at 8AM and spend the entire day setting up for The Art of the Taco- Hosted by Bobby Flay. It’s in a huge event space in Soho, 3 connected rooms with high ceilings and windows for the taco tastings and a lower level “Patron Lounge”. The event is sponsored by Patron tequila and The Food Network. The buzz is it’s one of the festival’s most popular events, completely sold out at $200 a ticket. Which is ironically less than I am making for my full day’s work. But it’s not difficult work, in fact it’s rather fun. The crew is really chill, even the stressed out event planner is keeping her cool. In true NYC fashion, one of the caterers is a guy I haven’t seen since 2007 when we did a summer theater program together. He’s lost some weight, gotten a hair cut, I never would have recognized him, had he not stopped dead in his tracks and stared at my face.
I basically spend the whole day moving furniture, setting up displays, and looking for things no one else can find. “We want to fill Patron bottles with soap and put them in the bathroom. Cute, right? Can you find the soap? It should be in one of the 500 boxes littering the event space. I don’t know an approximate location: just look through all of them.” Jobs like this lead me to discovering boxes of Godiva chocolate, left over from the dessert event the night before. I spend the rest of the day sneaking truffles: Coconut Carmel, Midnight Dark, Red Velvet Cake Truffle. Unfortunately, I get in big, big trouble for sneaking. I rue the day I ever found those chocolates, because at the end of our day, I’m invited to stay for the event.
I’m not exactly starving, but that doesn’t stop me from being absolutely ecstatic about this opportunity. Tacos made by top New York City chefs? Open bar of Corona and Patron cocktails? Mingling with major foodies? I am taking full advantage, no matter how full I get. I will eat tacos to the point of puking, if it comes to that. I sign my time sheet, try to jazz up the outfit I spent all day moving furniture in, and take the elevator up into the 3 room event space.
Food heaven. I don’t know if I’ve ever eaten so much, not even in my freshman-15 “OMG the cafeteria has soft serve!” days. I walk you through Food Heaven tomorrow. I even took pictures.