The New York Times Food Festival Presented by MasterCard

October 2019. New York City, Bryant Park & The TimesCenter

On the first weekend of October, the New York Times shared its love of food with New York City, launching the first ever New York Times Food Festival.

The New York Times partnered with Empire to produce both a large public-facing festival in Bryant Park as well as two full days of live Talks programming at The TimesCenter, uniting more than 20 exceptional chefs and restaurants, food journalists and experts with thousands of passionate foodies.

The Bryant Park component featured restaurants and chefs hand-chosen by New York Times editors Sam Sifton and Christine Muhlke including Frenchette, TAK Room, The Beatrice Inn, Emmy Squared, Adda and more. All of the participating chefs sold items not available in their restaurants, all inspired by classic New York City street food.

Saturday morning, The Park opened with a ceremonial “noodle cutting” by Mayor Bill de Blasio and New York Times CEO Mark Thompson on the Main Stage using an 18’ lasagna noodle in place of a traditional ribbon. The Park’s iconic fountain entrance revealed a playful, yet elevated food festival design with red patterns and clean, picnic-inspired accents. A substantial portion of the Park showcased curated restaurants and chefs to the public to allow for the community to experience the event.

In another portion of the Park attendees paid an admission to allow them access to food and beverage available for purchase. Inside the ticketed area, more than 4,000 attendees over two full days found themselves in a food-lover’s paradise of reimagined street food.

The New York Times partnered with Farm to People to provide the Marketplace, a retail environment selling artisanal food items and New York Times merchandise. Additional partners included The Best of Smorgasburg with seven of the Brooklyn institutions’s best vendors and Ample Hills Creamery serving their new, exclusive Times-inspired ice cream, “The Flavor of Record”.

At the East end of the park, the NYT Cooking Stage hosted live cooking demos by Thomas Keller, Angie Mar, Alison Roman, Melissa Clark, and many more. A smaller Workshop Pavilion featured specialty sessions including a Fall wine preview with Times wine critic Eric Asimov, mixology master classes presented by Tequila Don Julio, Bulleit, Tanqueray Gin & Johnnie Walker, and cake decorating classes by Instagram wunderkind Heber Clawson.

The main stage featured sets by DJs Coleman, Aaron DRM, Rich Medina and Natasha Diggs who kept the crowd dancing on the lawn, while custom modular seating supported by Uber Eats and picnic tables gave the attendees a place to enjoy their food. Uber Eats also sponsored two clever installations featuring bicycles and takeout boxes promoting their #LetsEat campaign.

Presenting sponsor MasterCard hosted a tent where card holders and attendees were invited to “Experience the Taste of Priceless,” enjoying custom macarons and complimentary sparkling wine pours. Their tent featured a gorgeous logo installation of illuminated florals for their #StartSomethingPriceless messaging while elegant cutouts in the wall lit displays of the macarons in floral scenes of yellow and red, representing the Mastercard logo.

Just blocks away, The TimesCenter hosted two full days of live journalism, interviews, and book signings in partnership with Kitchen Arts & Letters. Panel discussions included Eating as a Living: Life of a Food Critic featuring Frank Bruni, Ruth Reichl, Sam Sifton and Pete Wells from the New York Times and Bourdain and Beyond featuring Andrew Zimmern and Pati Jinich in conversation with Kim Severson. Other participants included Massimo Bottura, David Chang and Action Bronson, among many others.

Downstairs at the TimesCenter, Johnnie Walker and Bailey’s provided cocktail tastings and Guinness allowed attendees to “Personalize Your Pint” with custom-printed photos in the foam. REI invited guests to customize their own trail mix.

For this first-time festival, Empire served as overall producer of the outdoor festival and TimesCenter activations. Empire’s role included ideation, layout, design, tenting, permitting, security, staging & technical production, staffing, culinary integration, sponsor ideation and activations, management of registration and operations of stages and much, much more.

Empire is a leading producer of world class Festival and culinary events and we were honored to work with The New York Times Company to help produce this successful, first-ever New York Times Food Festival.

To learn more and sign up for information on next year’s Festival visit

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