I pulled into a spot between two mini vans in a distant corner of an already jam packed parking lot. Armed with a camera in one hand and a wad of coupons in the other; I took a deep breath and began what would be my grocery grand opening adventure. This weekend, Pittsburgh welcomed a new premium grocery store, called Market District, perched high on a hilltop among a newly developed shopping plaza. To kick off the grand opening festivities, the store hosted several events including a cooking demonstration by Ted Allen, host of Chopped on Food Network.
There were a million things I should have been doing on the unusually warm Saturday afternoon. But I choose to spend it at a new grocery store where I hopefully would become inspired by the energy and newness of the space. Admittedly, Chopped isn’t one of my favorite shows on the Food Network, but it’s always fun to see a celebrity in person and all the excitement that surrounds the experience. Plus, it makes for a really good story to share with you.
Right on time, Ted was introduced with flare to a crowd of about 75 – 100 people of all ages. I could tell many were mothers after seeing the rows of strollers lined along the perimeter of the seating area. Thankfully I was able to squeeze into a close enough spot to have an unobstructed view of all the action. The demo kitchen is an expansive space with the latest video technology built-in to allow the preparation to be broadcasted onto flat screen TV’s mounted above. It actually felt like I was at a taping of a real live TV show.
Ted demonstrated what I would consider two and a half recipes. The first recipe was a simple salad of thinly sliced raw zucchini and vinaigrette. The long thin strips of green amazingly beautiful spread across a round white plate. I smiled when he shared how much he prefers to use white plates as the perfect canvas for food. That is exactly how I feel. The next portion of the demo was a marinated roasted shrimp skewer that could be served on top of the zucchini salad. The final recipe was a simple apple tart on a disk of puff pastry. That recipe received a full applause, apparently the people of Pittsburgh like their sweets.
Just as I expected, Ted in person is exactly how he is portrayed on TV. His tone and presentation skills were very fluid as he walked through all the details of the cooking procedures. There was also very few awkward silence moments as he kept the discussion going by engaging with the audience. Unlike some demos I’ve attended in the past, this audience was lively and inquisitive. Many of their questions involved his shows and future projects. My most favorite moment was when a little girl caught Ted’s attention and pulled him aside to ask a question. It was a really sweet moment and kudos goes out to her mother for having such a well-mannered child.
From the expansive show kitchen to the camera man broadcasting the action of the flat screen TV’s overhead to Ted’s fluid engagement with the audience; I would say it was a pretty darn good day. In my next post, I’ll share with you some fun photos I took of the new store while weaving around gaggles of soccer moms with strollers.