New York -- Chef Events continues to refine its promotional
recipe this year as it plans its annual Cooking Across America tour for the Food Network
and its affiliate cable systems.
Founded in 1996 by president Rick Gore and executive vice
president Joe Allegro -- both former rock-star promoters -- Chef Events became a
subsidiary of Food Network a year later. The company produces a cross-country tour to
bring the network's most popular chefs to the public.
"Chefs today are becoming like rock stars," said
Gore, especially among baby boomers who have traded rock concerts for a good meal at a
The 20-city tour is designed to enhance affiliate
relationships, promote Food Network to current and potential subscribers, increase the
equity value of Food Network personalities -- and to make money for the network.
Tickets to each event sell for $45 to $65, said Allegro,
"and we sell out everywhere we go." Each five-hour event attracts over 1,000
people, he added.
"The tour is built for the masses, not the true
gourmands," Allegro explained. "It's not a black-tie event."
Food Network also makes money through national
sponsorships. Affiliates have the opportunity to court local sponsors, such as area
restaurants and retailers, and to keep any of those local revenues. As an alternative to
selling the local sponsorships, some affiliates offer it free to companies that advertise
on their systems.
Chef Events also gives each affiliate a number of
complimentary tickets for the event, which the operator can sell at a discount to
subscribers or offer free as part of a promotion.
Affiliates also receive booth space at the local event,
plus a name listing in the event guide and gift bags.
In exchange, operators must run hundreds of cross-channel
spots promoting the event in the four weeks before the tour stops in that city. Chef
Events also plugs the promotion with noncable television and print advertising.
Consumers who don't already know the Food Network
often become good candidates for the service once they've attended an event, Gore
Last year, the tour was hosted by television personality
Robin Leach. This year, Bill Boggs, host of Food Network's The Corner Table,
takes over that role.
The chefs -- already busy running restaurants and hosting
cable shows of their own -- make time for the tour as a chance to sell their books. They
also come out for the chance to meet and greet their loyal fans.
"It's almost like being paid to be
worshipped," said Gore.
Four chefs are highlighted at each event, although they
don't share the stage. Attendees are broken into groups of four audiences, so that
each cooking demonstration is more intimate, said Allegro.
Chef Events plans to add new markets for its tour,
including Sacramento, Calif., Indianapolis and Denver. In future years, the company may
expand the tour to include a musical element, Gore said.