Savor Borgata

If you’re a food and wine lover, then don’t miss Savor Borgata: The Ultimate Food Experience, a two-day festival taking place Friday and Saturday, Nov. 9 and 10, at Borgata Hotel Casino & Spa.

The gastronomic extravaganza will feature celebrity chefs — Wolfgang Puck and Bobby Flay, among them — who will cook, teach classes and host intimate dinners at the 11th annual fete, which culminates in the grand ballroom celebration 8 to 10 p.m. Saturday.

Nearly 1,200 people are expected for Savor Borgata, which grows increasingly more popular each year. And for a very simple reason: “Where else can you go to have an ultimate food experience with this caliber of chefs all under one roof?” asks Becky Schultz, vice president of food and beverage at Borgata. “You can taste their creations, shake their hands, talk to them ...”

The atmosphere is festive; live music plays, wine and beer flow, and guests wander from station to station, noshing, nibbling and celebrating all-things food.

For Iron Chef Michael Symon, the event represents an opportunity to interact with his colleagues, whom he doesn’t see often. “We’re always so busy working, but at Savor Borgata, we get together, and we have fun.

“It’s busy,” says Symon of the kitchen on the day of the grand event. “But I’m surrounded by people who truly love what they do. It’s not like they’re punching a clock, making the food and going home. We are all like-minded people doing what we do best. There’s a passion and a joy in it.”

And a bit of friendly competition.

Symon will not reveal what he’s making for the grand event on Saturday night. “If I tell you, Bobby or Wolf will steal my dish,” he laughs, referring to fellow celeb chefs Flay and Puck. “I will give you a hint: It will be Italian.”

As Saturday’s celebration nears, the kitchen hops with energy. Dishes clang, pans sizzle, chefs and cooks work feverishly and food runners sprint back and forth into the ballroom.

It’s “stressful,” chuckles Symon. “But I mean that in the best kind of way. Right before the doors open, I get these little butterflies in my stomach, which is a good thing. A lot of people are coming in. And if you’re going to feed 1,000 or 2,000 people, you want everything to be perfect.”

Schultz and her team have worked hard to ensure that everything is perfect, from the food to the ballroom setup to the spin-off events. (See sidebar.)

“We’re very hands-on and deliberate that way,” says Schultz, “because once that first event kicks off, there’s no stopping things.”

As people fill the ballroom, Symon starts to relax. The lion’s share of work is done, and he gets to do what he enjoys best: Talking to the guests.

“Obviously, we work hard (at cooking), and it’s just great to see people enjoy it,” he says. “Food should make people happy.”

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