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COOKING FOR THE HIGH ROLLERS

The ability to prepare a dish or two in front of an audience and chat amiably while doing so can be learned from chef-savvy media trainers like AirTyme Corp. Hundreds of your cooking peers have done so, and the market for chefs who possess this skill has never been stronger. Get good enough at it and the usual benefits—no-cost promotion of your restaurant, your cookbook, your culinary products—become secondary. The top practitioners of this chop-and-chat art transform themselves into pure performers, creating a lucrative per-appearance revenue stream for themselves in the process.

At the very top of this niche, which is certainly where Bobby Flay resides, there doesn’t appear to be much work involved, either. Think about it: Instead of people paying him to cook food and then feed it to them in a busy restaurant setting, they’ll now pay to simply sit in a concert hall seat and watch him him cook. A personal appearance like this will be like falling off a log for Flay, a veteran of many “Throw-downs,” Iron Chef battles and cooking demos at well-attended food festivals around the country.

Flay will do some other work for the Seneca Niagara Casino, which is located in tourist mecca Niagara Falls, NY. From April 9 to 27, the casino is running a “Winning Recipe” promotion for Seneca Players Club members. It culminates with a drawing for the $10,000 grand prize just prior to Flay’s demo, with Flay doing the drawing. “Not only will one of our patrons win an incredible prize, but the people of Western New York and the surrounding region will have the opportunity to watch Bobby Flay create his culinary masterpieces firsthand,” says Robert Victoria, marketing v.p. For Seneca Niagara Casino.

It wasn’t so long ago that it was big news when a well-known chef opened a restaurant in a casino property, and it’s still a major event today. But there’s a huge difference between running a restaurant at a casino and appearing as the headliner in the main showroom, which is what Flay will be doing in Niagara Falls. The acts scheduled to perform in the Seneca Events Center immediately after Flay are BB King, Steely Dan and Lynyrd Skynyrd. We note that the casino is charging people more to see Flay whip out three dishes than to attend comedian/Deal-or-no Deal TV host Howie Mandel’s performance.

For the Flay event, they’re even auctioning off 10 special seats that will be located on stage. “You’ll see how it’s really done” is the promise for these seats, being auctioned on Ticketmaster with a minimum bid of $60 per ticket. This wrinkle makes us wonder if charging extra—a lot extra—to sit close to a restaurant’s exhibition kitchen could become standard practice in a few years. Why not?

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