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Celebrity chefs draw thousands to District food show

Chef Guy Fieri on stage with his son, Hunter. Jordan Emont | Assistant Photo Editor.

This post was written by Hatchet staff writer Scott Figatner.

The aroma of freshly cooked food could almost permeate the walls of the Washington Convention Center.

Roughly 25,000 guests attended The Metropolitan Cooking and Entertaining Show on Saturday to sample food from 400 specialty food exhibitors and watch celebrity chefs give cooking demonstrations.

The largest of three shows, including one in Houston, Texas and another in Atlanta, Ga., the event attracts Food Network fans, shopping enthusiasts and followers of D.C.’s best chefs, said Jill Collins, public relations director of the show.

Over the course of the weekend, Food Network stars Paula Deen, Guy Fieri and Giada De Laurentiis cooked while engaging a large audience.

Fieri, host of top-rated television show “Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives,” demonstrated to a packed house of about 2,500 eager fans.

While joking with his son Hunter, Fieri made bacon macaroni and cheese, stromboli with marinara sauce and a s’mores-inspired pizza.

Guests sampled products from hundreds of small businesses, including specialty food companies, caterers, party planners, kitchen planners and personal chefs.

Samplers not only got a taste of the food but also the enthusiasm the business owners brought to each dish. Michael Brown, owner and founder of Mike’s Spicy All-Purpose Sauce, expressed an unmatched passion for the spicy condiment.

“That’s dippin’ sauce, baby!” he said, proclaiming the brand’s motto with a smile.

The event’s general admission tickets granted access to a variety of workshops from “Tea & Chocolate Pairing” to “Flavors of the Caribbean” and “Knife Skills.”

The Bloom Cooking Stage featured James Beard Award-winning chefs hourly.

Michel Richard, owner of District favorites Citronelle and Central, was just one of an impressive lineup of chefs nominated for Best Chef in the Mid-Atlantic. The list also included Joe Yonan, editor of The Washington Post’s food section, and Vikram Sunderam, executive chef of Rasika in D.C.

Yonan, who demonstrated his recipe for sweet potato soup with chickpeas and kale, said while some products did not impress him, the event’s accessibility to the public is what makes it unique.

Guests had the chance to purchase special packages and become VIP members, granting them access to celebrity meet-and-greets, front-row seating and book signings. Some lucky guests enjoyed a meal made of Paula Deen’s recipes at a special luncheon.

“It was very filling,” said Sandy Vatalaro, who had the chance to eat and participate in the luncheon.

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