Eat, Be Merry, And Help Improve NYC's School System At The 22nd Annual Taste Of Tribeca On May 21

The 22nd annual Taste of Tribeca will take place this Saturday, May 21, from 11:30 a.m. to 3 p.m. For those of you that love good food, and more importantly helping out those in need, this event is for you.

As the oldest fundraiser to benefit the arts and enrichment programs at two neighborhood public schools, PS 150 and PS 234, this event is typically is attended by 3,000-4,000 people. Not to mention it's ran entirely by parents and volunteers from local high schools and businesses. Festival-goers have the opportunity to taste feature dishes from almost 60 of the neighborhood's best restaurants, including Restaurant Marc Forgione, Little Park, and Sarabeth's.

I had the opportunity to interview some key members of the Taste of Tribeca team including Claude Arpels co-chair, and Rocco Damato, of Bazzini. Here's what they had to say about this outdoor culinary festival:

The Daily Meal: How did you get involved with the Taste of Tribeca?
Claude Arpels: I attended Taste of Tribeca when I first moved to the Tribeca neighborhood; it might have been the organization's third year. I was a bachelor at the time and had no idea it was a school fundraiser. I had a blast.

Looks like there's a huge turnout for restaurants willing to join this event. What do you think encourages them to participate the most?
One of the joys of running this event is the eagerness of participants. Restaurants love the event. Taste of Tribeca is as much a community event for restaurants as it is a school fundraiser. It is the only chance restaurants have to mingle among each other.

Restaurant workers who are usually in back of house get to spend the day outside interacting with their neighbors and customers. Restaurants helped build this neighborhood into what it is today. They are proud of that, and at Taste of Tribeca, they can put that on display. It is also good marketing for them. New restaurants usually reach out to us before they open to ask to participate.

How important is the community in making this event successful?
It would not exist without the community. Restaurants, large businesses (like Citi) and small local ones who sponsor us, along with neighborhood residents and visitors, all come together to make this event happen. Not to mention how much we depend on an army of volunteers from the two public schools who organize Taste of Tribeca, but also from neighboring high schools and offices.

In the next five or 10 years, what do you envision for Taste of Tribeca, or the entire trend of neighborhood "Tastes?"
This is my last year co-chairing Taste of Tribeca. I have worked on it for the last five years and I look forward to seeing a new generation of parents from our schools take over. The architecture of the event stays the same, but we always find ways to make it a little different every year. I hope to see the event continue to expand the community.

Last year, we added the Taste of Tribeca Beer and Cider Tour, which allowed us to involve bars, local craft beer and cider producers (which had not previously participated). I expect we will see kids feature more prominently, perhaps working with restaurants to create and serve some of the food at the event.

As far as the trend for Taste events, I hope to see them continue to grow and spread. We take immense pride in having helped create a blueprint for a school and community building event that can be replicated in so many places. Every year, we are approached by school communities who want to start their own Taste and we gladly share our experience with them.

How do you get involved in the food community and why is food sustainability and agriculture so important to you?
My dad was French, so food was always part of my cultural upbringing. I have loved to cook since I was a kid and I have become gradually more involved in the food world, attending the French Culinary Institute 10 years ago, investing in restaurants and small food businesses, learning to grow my own vegetables.

My interest in sustainable food and agriculture is motivated in part by this love of food and by my passion for the environment. Agriculture is the number one polluter in the world. Bad food is one of the primary drivers of early mortality and rising health care costs in the nation. My hope is that by helping to change the food system, I can have a positive impact on our future.

How did Taste of Tribeca get started?
Rocco Damato: Initially, Bazzini sponsored a fund raiser in its small store and shipping dock because the community was faced with cuts to the arts program in our schools. To me and many others, it was outrageous and unacceptable. The fund raiser collected $10 per person, at the door, by the PTA for P.S.150. It was considered a huge success at that time, having collected over $1,000. It's not much these days, but better than receipts from cookie and rummage sales back in the day.

The theme for discussion at the event was how to raise substantial funds to fill the hole in the art budget. After all, this was Tribeca, the home of many artists... A conversation started when Steven Wils began to discuss the idea of restaurants using a venue of "tasting" to market themselves. There were four of us involved (Steven, myself, two parents Deborah Pearson, and Collette Wong). It was on the shipping dock inside the building near the corner of Jay and Greenwich.

What was the thought process behind this great idea?
Since Tribeca was becoming a restaurant mecca, we could develop a model that would be a win for restaurants and our schools. A perfect socially conscious community effort. The first few Taste of Tribecas were held on Jay St. because I offered the use of the Bazzini building and personnel... I remember the excitement when the total receipts of our first event amounted to $28,000. Just writing it now makes me smile.

Anything else?
It's really important to mention Katherine Freed, our council member, who was so helpful in overcoming city obstacles for licensing and such as well as the dozens of hardcore committed parents, without whom all the ideas and organization would have come to naught. Not only the parents in the first years but all those who continue to make it a genuinely honorable community event... Congratulations to the parents and community for its continued success. I know the founders are proud of the event and the hard work of parents.

To get tickets and more information on the 22ndĀ annual Taste of Tribeca, click here.

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