Television food stars flock to D.C.

Food lovers and industry specialists from across the country – including some Food Network favorites – gathered at the fourth annual Metropolitan Cooking and Entertaining Show in the District this past weekend.

The consumer-based trade show is an annual celebration of cooking and entertaining designed to be a fun and engaging experience for culinary enthusiasts. More than 250 exhibitors participated in the two-day event at the Washington Convention Center, which featured live cooking demonstrations from award-winning chefs and Bravo’s Top Chef contestants, as well as tasting and entertaining workshops.

Small businesses showed off their skills and attracted new customers, including Allison Griesbach, a graduate student at GW.

“The chocolate cake from Caroline’s Cakes was especially appetizing,” she said Saturday.

Newcomers to the industry, such as Irish bread company Granny Roddy’s, were pleased with the turnout.

“Events like these help out seasonal companies like our own, which are affected by the recession,” said Granny Roddy’s owner Joanne Normandin Buto.

Aspiring food critics helped choose the winner out of 30 finalists for the Sofi Awards, an annual competition to honor outstanding specialty foods run by the National Association for the Specialty Food Trade.

“Over 2,500 products participated in the challenge,” said NASFT Chief Marketing Associate Ken Seiter.

“Categories range from vinegars, cookies, chocolates to chips,” he said.

Headlining the event was southern cooking personality Paula Deen, who blended and battered in front of an audience of around 600 people.

Other celebrity chefs, including Guy Fieri, Giada de Laurentiis, and the Neelys, also cooked their favorite dishes throughout the day.

VIP luncheon and book signing events were available to attendees at an additional cost, with some packages costing hundreds of dollars.

Deen brought along her husband and two sons, who often appear on her show on the Food Network, to chat with audience members.

Enthusiastic fans of Paula Deen wore headbands adorned with butter, referencing Deen’s infamous use of butter as an ingredient in her recipes. The queen of southern cooking brought a few of her biggest fans on stage to help her cook pork tenderloin.

“I’ma put y’all to work too, so don’t get comfortable!” she exclaimed.

Around 16,000 tickets were sold in advance and more were sold over the weekend, said Sabrina Stacy, marketing director of the event.

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