It's no surprise that, in a region that loves to eat, the No. 1 reason why people attend the annual Erie County Fair is food.
During the 12-days of the fair, the Erie County Fairgrounds plays host to more than 500 food items available at over 125 food stands. With this in mind, organizers will debut a culinary arts center called the "Erie County Fair Cooks! Kitchen & Shoppe"
"The primary mission of the Erie County Fair Cooks Kitchen & Shoppe is to highlight regionally sourced and grown products, promote easy-to-cook at-home meal options, and to expose fairgoers to Western New York's dynamic culinary scene," Erie County Fair CEO and Manager Dennis Lang said.
Erie County Fair Cooks! Kitchen & Shoppe will be located inside the lower level of the fair's security building on the Avenue of Flags in a retail area formally known as "The Mall." It will feature a demonstration kitchen as well as vendors specializing in culinary-related products and services.
"The culinary center should be easy to find on the fairgrounds - just look for the fork in the road!" Marketing Manager Marty Biniasz said in reference to a 15-feet-high steel sculpture representing a fork and knife placed near the building's entrance. "You would need to be 180 feet tall with a huge appetite to handle these giant-sized utensils!"
Each day of the Fair, Erie County Fair Cooks! Kitchen & Shoppe will showcase live cooking demonstrations conducted by area chefs, cooking schools, fair concessionaires and local businesses.
A highlight of the schedule will be the first Western New York appearance by celebrity chef Shaun O'Neale of Las Vegas. O'Neale is the 2016 winner of the FOX Network's "MasterChef" competition. He will appear on the culinary stage the evenings of Aug. 12-13. O'Neale will present his take on modern American cuisine with international influences that appear in his best-selling cooking book, "My Modern American Table: Recipes for Inspired Home Cooks."
With O'Neale as guide, fairgoers can experience first-hand how he won over the judges and earned the title of "MasterChef."
With his signature "'Ooh! It's so good!" slogan, Howard Rosenthal of "Mr. Food's Test Kitchen" will appear during WKBW-TV's "Channel 7 Day at the Fair" on Tuesday, Aug. 15.
For more than 30 years, Mr. Food segments have aired daily on WKBW, featuring recipes that are "doable for anyone in the kitchen." Rosenthal, a Syracuse native, became the face of the "Mr. Food Test Kitchen" after the passing of longtime host Art Ginsburg in 2012.
Rosenthal will share his recipes and sign autographs during his four performances.
"The thing is we don't take it too seriously, but we are passionate and the creative work is great," he said. "In a world where everyone is so into high-end food, we're all about what families are putting on the table after work or school."
On Wednesday, Aug. 9, as part of WGRZ-TV's "Channel 2 Day at the Fair," station personalities Pete Gallivan and chef Steven Binks will appear sharing their favorite recipes.
WIVB-TV's Katie Alexander will tell fairgoers "What We're Doing Wrong in the Kitchen" on "Channel 4 Day" on Aug. 10. Local chefs will include Krista Van Wagner of Prima Oliva, Brad Rowell of the Hamburg Grange Kitchen, Scott Leggett from US Foods, and Andrew Murtha of Carte Blanche & Juicy Burger Bar of Hamburg.
Culinary executives from Delaware North will include Brian Sterner, Brian Waters, Dan Thorington and Matthew Nelson. Fair concessionaries Sal Butera of Salvatore's Pizza Trailer and Linda Lund of Babcia's Pierogis will share recipes straight off the fair's midway, which attendees can prepare at home.
Carrie Meyer and Shelby Braun from the Independent Health Foundation will serve up a series of healthy-eating-themed demonstrations that will include "Learn To Cook With Kale," "Simple Swaps- Healthier Ingredient Alternatives," and "Making The Most of Your Chicken Roast."
The Niagara Falls Culinary Institute will host 12 demonstrations featuring faculty members during the course of the fair. The final weekend of the fair (Aug. 19-20) will spotlight chefs from the Tops Friendly Markets Cooking School.
In total, 60 demonstrations have been scheduled during the course of the Erie County Fair. Demonstrations are free with paid admission.
The Erie County Agricultural Society is a private, not-for-profit membership organization. Established in 1819, the society is the oldest civic organization in Western New York. The mission of the ECAS, sponsors of the Erie County Fair, is to preserve and enhance, by educational endeavors, the agricultural and historical legacy of New York state.
The Erie County Fair strives to fulfill appropriate aspects of the agricultural, educational, entertainment and recreational needs of Western New York.
The 2017 Erie County Fair will be held Aug. 9-20. For more information, visit www.ECFair.org