New York City Wine and Food Festival closes with a meat-lover's fantasy: Meatopia, in which some of the world's top chefs cook animals over open flames. This year's version, called Meatopia X: The Carnivore's Ball, marks the return of the event to New York after a one-year hiatus and will feature nearly 30 dishes, including Pat LaFrieda cooking a 1,000-pound steer. We talked with Meatopia founder Josh Ozersky about what to expect.
Where did the idea for Meatopia come from?
I've been writing about meat for a long time. I was the founding editor of [New York magazine's] Grub Street. I wrote the 'Meat Eater's Guide to New York.' ? The beginning was a book party for 'Meat Me in Manhattan' in 2003. Then I started having big meat parties for my birthday. After I started Grub Street, they became these VIP things with amazing chefs like April Bloomfield, Andrew Carmellini, Michael White, Seamus Mullen. We made it into an event open to the public in 2011.
What can people who go expect?
The idea behind it was: We've all been to a lot of grilling and barbecue events. It's all the same celebrity chefs standing around. Everybody makes steak. This is much more of the kind of things chefs do themselves when cooking for each other. Only one guy gets to make steak. Only one guy gets to make short ribs. You have every animal every part: beef cheeks, whole baby goat, lamb chops. They're not the same flavor profile. I have a tandoori master using Indian spices. I have a South American asado guy using those flavors. And the chefs are all cooking it themselves. It's cooked in front of you over live wood fires.
You make a point of not allowing propane. What's different about cooking over an open fire?
Aside from flavor, cooking over open fires is very elemental. It's fundamental to human life in a way no other form of cooking is. It's the kind of cooking people have been doing for two million years. ? The other thing is when you cook over live fire, you have to really cook. You can't just set the recipe and have a random person do it. ? Cooking for 3,000 people over a live fire is not something everyone can do.
You've been expanding Meatopia to other cities. Are meat lovers different in NYC than other places?
The thing with meat lovers in New York is that they're spoiled. I'm not going to say the barbecue is better in New York than in Texas or there's better grilled meats than in Argentina, but in New York people eat the best of everything all the time. ... If you can impress New York diners, you're doing something right.
Are there certain dishes that play better here?
There's a chef named Alex Lee. He's a chef that most New York foodies don't know about, but he's a god in the chef community. He's doing short rib pastrami brined in Dr. Brown's cream soda. That's not something they're going to get in Texas.
Besides Meatopia, what else are you looking forward to at the NYCWFF?
I wrote a book about the hamburger. It's one of my favorite things in the world, so it's always a thrill for me to go to the Burger Bash. I love all the events that take a single thing and show a lot of different versions of it, like Meatball Madness, taco events or the [Ronzoni's La Sagra Slices] pizza event.
If you go: Meatopia X: The Carnivore's Ball is Oct. 19 from 4-7 p.m. at the Esurance Rooftop at Pier 92, 52nd Street and West Side Highway. Tickets $150.