Tuesday, March 6
I hit the beach early (a.k.a. 11 AM) to get a good spot at Rachael Ray's cooking demo.
Her crowd was huge (as you can imagine) and everyone was very eager for RayRay to come onstage. For those who didn't catch her at the festival opening's Burger Bash or her book signing the day before, this was the first time they'd be seeing her.
Rachael was introduced by a former intern and now current employee of the festival, as well as festival director Lee Shrager. Both praised Ray's dedication to the festival throughout the years and remarked on just how much her popularity has grown these past few years.
Rachael gave everyone a warm welcome and launched into her menu quickly. It's amazing how "second nature" this appeared for Rachael, as she was the hands-down champion of both cooking and engaging with the audience simultaneously.
Even when her audience wasn't all that engaging.
Rachael has become such a celebricook that her audience was most interested in simply being in her presence. Rachael took continuous questions throughout her entire demonstration, despite the majority of them being something like:
"I watch you all the time and would love for you to autograph my _________."
"It's my dream in life to have a picture with you, Rachael."
Okay, these are not questions, people. And they're also not the easiest things to do (take photos and sign stuff) while cooking! Still, Rachael was immensely generous and pretty much fulfilled everyone's photo/autograph request.
She kept answering the same questions she gets asked by every newspaper, TV, whatever interview, and let us know that she'd be having children "never." :-)
It was driving me crazy, so I had to think of something relevant and smart to ask. Something that any old fan wouldn't think of.
Unfortunately, the only thing coming to mind was her wax figure (it had just been unveiled that week). So I yelled out, "How does it feel having your own wax figure" or something like that.
"Creepy," Rachael replied. Then she said something about how great a job they did and how she and "wax Rachael" went to an event together that week.
Then someone chimed in with another, "Can you sign my _____?"
Oh well. Rachael had to literally jet and get to the Oscar's, so her Sunday presence was limited to that hour in the morning. Still, she's great to see in person and truly a professional when it comes to dealing with the fans, keeping a segment moving and making things fun. I'm so happy I had the chance to see her "do her thing" in person.
The other big event I wanted to catch on Sunday was Nigella Lawson's question and answer session. She elected not to cook and instead fielded questions from her large crowd. And it was really fun.
All the KitchenAid kitchens had these large, diagonal mirrors above the counters so audience members could see what the chef was doing (kind of like those overhead shots a lot of FN shows employ). Well, as I've mentioned, many attendees were there for reasons other than finding out what kind of onion was being sauteed.
For Nigella, those mirrors served another purpose:
Haha! I'm a dork, but I'm sure I'm not the only one who looked.
Nigella was great with the crowd and was actually quite helpful, as her audience had real questions to ask for a change.
Nigella on men:
"Women don't know that men can think about nothing. We're always asking, 'What are you thinking about?' and then getting upset when they say 'nothing'. If they're watching a football match, they're just watching a football match. They're all surface and I love them for it."
I don't really remember what that was in reference to, but I have it recorded and thought it was funny.
She also fielded a lot of great questions about her favorite chefs, her penchant for purchasing cookbooks late at night online, and her feelings about American cooking.
One of the most intriguing things I heard her talk about was how the popularity of Italian cooking in the west actually influenced the UK and created more interest in Italian cooking than Italy itself-- and Italy it much closer to the UK than California!
She spoke so casually and elegantly and really is a goddess, if I must say.
Sunday also included more and more tasting in the grand tasting tents. Heaven.
I also caught a bit of Dave's cooking battle, but had to leave early. He seemed really "tired" and wasn't that into it, anyhow.
Sunday was a bit shorter of a day for us. We were pretty dead from the after party still.
Luckily, we had an amazing dinner at Spiga that night and had a little more time to enjoy South Beach before returning home.
I'm being honest when I give my highest praise to this festival. It was amazing experience and I hope to make it back next year.