On the far west side of Manhattan, a sleek gray event space had been transformed into an Instagram-friendly, food lover’s paradise. Stations were set up across the perimeter of the room, doling out dishes like parmesan-crusted jalapeño grilled cheese and pad Thai carbonara in bite-size form. Off to the right, the walls were covered in a yellow, black and white check featuring illustrations of eggs in their various forms—poached, scrambled, hard boiled. Next to that, a swing set covered in flowers sat on fake grass against a blue-sky backdrop.
The room was packed: Lines extended from every food station, crowds gathered around small high-top tables scattered throughout the room. And if you looked closer, you’d start to see signs of why so many people were there. Not just for the food, or the photo opportunities, but because of the person whose name was attached to the event: Chrissy Teigen.
Mini-skewers topped with tiny photos of her face stuck out from sandwiches and drinks. A life-size photo of Teigen with her husband, EGOT-winning musician John Legend, and daughter Luna had Luna’s face cut out, so guests could pose as if they were Teigen and Legend’s 2-year-old. At the front of the room, there were shelves holding products from Teigen’s newly launched line of kitchenwares at Target. And at the back, there was a stage featuring a backdrop that read CravingsFest! in a cursive scrawl with Teigen’s name printed underneath.
In a world where (thanks in large part to Instagram) celebrities are more accessible than ever, Teigen has still managed to make a name for herself for being relatable. Though she started her career as a model, best known for appearing on the cover of the Sports Illustrated swimsuit issue, she’s long since expanded beyond that role: She’s a television host of the smash hit series Lip Sync Battle, a sought-after celebrity spokesperson, a must-follow Twitter personality and of course, the author of two cookbooks: Cravings, and the newly released Cravings: Hungry for More.
CravingsFest, which was hosted as part of this fall’s New York City Food and Wine Festival, is one of Teigen’s first ventures into the experiential. Her willingness to interact with fans, particularly on social media, was a major catalyst for the event. “I’ve always felt the entire Cravings brand should be interactive, whether it was the ability for people to ask me cooking questions on Twitter or people sending me photos of their meals on Instagram,” said Teigen. “I always loved being able to connect with fans in every way possible. CravingsFest was just that: bringing those same people I already love interacting with, all in one place.”
Bryan Icenhower, president of IMG LIVE, part of Endeavor Global Marketing, who put on the event, said that as Teigen’s cookbook was half recipes and half an inside look at her life, doing an event like CravingsFest was a natural way to pull back the curtain on Teigen even more. “Bringing it to life is not something all celebs could do, and she was able to do it with ease just by being herself,” he said.
The event was deeply personal, too: Icenhower said that Teigen was involved in nearly every aspect of designing the event, from the decor to the menu to the programming—which included a cooking demonstration with Teigen, Legend and her mom, Vilailuck Teigen, that Chrissy Teigen called “hysterical and so perfectly us.”
“She spends a lot of time in the kitchen, she cooks with her family, and all of the recipes are very deeply personal to her,” Icenhower added. “That made for an event [in which] she could tell the stories, you could taste all of the recipes, you can connect with her on a much more personal level, to really bring it all together in an experience you couldn’t do otherwise.”