If you’re a foodie and want to feast on the creations of top chefs — the likes of Wolfgang Puck, Bobby Flay, Geoffrey Zakarian and Michael Schulson — head to Savor Borgata, Friday and Saturday, Nov. 10 and 11, at Borgata Hotel Casino & Spa.
Two days are planned for this festival, which will culminate in a main event in the ballroom 8 to 10 p.m. Saturday. Nearly 1,200 people are expected to gather for the 10th anniversary of this food spectacular, this year themed “The Ultimate Food Experience.”
Indeed, all will be celebrating food, ingredients and creativity, says Becky Schultz, vice president of food and beverage services at Borgata.
“It’s exciting to be part of the 10th anniversary of Savor Borgata,” Schultz says. “We’ve very passionate about food, beverage and nightlife. This event gives all of us a chance to step out of our normal routines and do something really fun and creative.”
The party’s on
Borgata’s Executive Chef Tom Biglan shares this passion for Savor Borgata.
“When the ballroom doors open and customers take a look at the room and start coming in, it’s just a rush. At that point, it’s on,” he says.
Biglan describes the kitchen — a cacophony of clanking dishes and sizzling pans — as chefs and cooks feverishly work, and food runners dash back and forth into the ballroom.
“The adrenaline is really going. It’s just a buzz,” he says.
In the ballroom, people meet, greet, nosh and nibble from station to station, as celebrity chefs serve to-die-for fare that “people normally can’t get in a restaurant,” says Schultz.
Live music, festival entertainers and wine and craft beer booths enhance the evening with spirit and conviviality.
In the beginning ...
Over the years, Savor Borgata has grown in both size and popularity. It originally started as a women and wine event to honor female sommeliers, Schultz says.
But Borgata wanted to celebrate all aspects of food and beverage, so the next year it changed into a sit-down, plated event. The atmosphere, however, was a “little stuffy and polite,” says Schultz.
Then, as food became the centerpiece of celebration, Savor Borgata morphed again and eventually took on the life it currently has today.
Planning for this year’s event began in February, says Biglan. Creating menus, coming up with a theme, determining what worked and what didn’t from last year’s setup were routine parts of creating this year’s Savor Borgata.
“There are a lot of arms and legs and moving parts,” Chef Biglan says.
The main event has 19 different food stations, and spin-offs events take place Friday night and Saturday. To prepare, Schultz and the Savor Borgata team have done non-stop tastings.
“I’ve lost track of how many we’ve done,” says Schultz, who had another tasting scheduled right after her phone call with us.
On the night of the main event, Chef Biglan says he’ll be looking for a bed at around 9:30 p.m.
Unhealthy foods come in a lot of varieties. Everything from a bigger-than-life triple cheeseburger to a butter and cream-laden bowl of fettucc…
“Our days are starting at 4 in the morning,” he notes. “But there’s such camaraderie. We’re all in the kitchen, and we’re excited to see what the reaction is going to be.”
“Nowhere in the country can you find and meet the caliber of chefs who are here for this,” says Schultz. “We take great pride in this event.
“And the fact that it’s been going for 10 years proves that our customers —many of whom are the same people year in and year out — enjoy it.”
A conversation with Michael Symon
By Scott Cronick
All of the big names will be back at Savor Borgata this weekend — Iron Chefs Wolfgang Puck, Bobby Flay and Geoffrey Zakarian along with Michael Schulson, The Sherry Brothers and the Borgata culinary team — but only one of them has a new restaurant to show off.
That’s Michael Symon, Borgata Hotel Casino & Spa’s fourth Iron Chef who returned to his roots and opened Angeline by Michael Symon earlier this year. The multi-million-dollar, stunning Italian restaurant is a “love letter” to his mom, and was the hardest restaurant to get a table at all summer in Atlantic City.
The co-host of “The Chew” will be at the big Savor Borgata event while also teaching a private class how to make cavatelli this weekend. He took the time to tell us about Angeline, what you can expect this weekend and what the secret is to making good cavatelli.
Oh, and if you see the Cleveland native, it’s OK to remind him how the Indians lost to the Yankees in the playoffs.
“The Yankees were the last team I wanted to play in the playoffs,” he says. “And after we lost to them, I remembered why that was. It was a little bit rough.”
Scott Cronick: Savor Borgata is where it all began for you at Borgata. You were a guest host at one point and now you have your own joint in the place … pretty cool.
Michael Symon: Yeah, it’s been an awesome relationship for us. I was going there for a long time, back to when Bobby (Flay) opened his restaurant close to 15 years ago. We just love Borgata. We just love the people, not just the customers but the people who run the Borgata. It was an eight-year relationship before we opened there. But it has been so much fun.
SC: That whole night, it’s pretty cool for any foodie with Flay, Puck, Schulson, Zakarian, but is it also fun for you to be in one room together in a showdown?
MS: Oh, absolutely. Unfortunately, you get busy with life so you don’t get to see your friends as much as you would like to. So weekends like this are a guarantee for us that we get to spend a little time together and hang out and also do some entertaining and cooking, which is what we love to do.
SC: On Saturday, you are actually going to show 30 or 40 people, in a private demonstration, how to make cavatelli with Cavatelli Making: 101 at Angeline. That is an experience for a Michael Symon fan but also for anyone who wants to learn how to make cavatelli, right. Is that fun for you?
MS: Oh my god, it’s so great. I feel like the thing that I like to do most as a chef is to teach and to let people experience food the way I have been fortunate enough to experience it throughout my life. My grandmother taught my mother to make the cavatelli. My mother taught me how to make the cavatelli. I come from a family on both sides with a lot of amazing cooks. So I never went through my childhood without a great meal every single night of my life. And obviously we get to do that in the restaurant when people come to dinner, and that’s fun, but what’s really special to me is getting a group of people — no matter how big or small — together and having that one-on-one experience so they can feel and see and touch and do these things and learn how to make a dish that is a huge part of my childhood and one of the dishes that inspired me to be a chef.
SC: So what’s the secret to good cavatelli?
MS: We put a good amount of ricotta in it and drain it really well so it’s not wet. And you can’t overwork the dough too much or you end up with a tough dough. The ones my grandmother taught me to make are literally as light as a pillow.
SC: I think I ate everything on the Angeline menu but never had the cavatelli.
MS: Oh, you should get it. It’s in the Sunday Sauce — my grandmother’s Sunday Sauce — where we cook the pork down in the tomato sauce for 12 hours so it almost falls apart … all of those pork neck bones. Oh, man, I remember as a kid walking through my grandmother’s kitchen. She would make twice as much sauce as she would actually need, and she would set two loaves of bread next to the sauce, and there was no way you could walk by without ripping off a hunk of bread and dipping it into the sauce that was cooking all day.
SC: Do you know what you’re cooking for the Savor Borgata main event?
MS: We are doing one of my favorite things. We are roasting about 20 porchettas, and we are going to slice it paper thin and serve it on beautiful, little house-made rolls with some mostarda. One of my favorite snacks in the world.
SC: And we can’t forget Savor Borgata Week, where you can eat at Angeline for $39. How is Angeline doing overall?
MS: Angeline has exceeded my expectations. My wife Liz designed the room with the people from Parts & Labor. It’s just an unbelievably stunning room. They recreated a bigger version of my mother’s dining room that we call Angel’s Room, and about half of the recipes are family recipes and about half are my recipes. It’s great because I’m nearly 50 years old now and to be able to do a restaurant that is really like a love letter to my mom and how much she means to me and everything she taught me as a kid to an adult … it has been a really special project to me.