By Michael O’Connell Posted August 31, 2009, 2:44 PM EDT
Brands observe the arrival of the U.S. Open with a certain amount of tradition, with many of the same partnerships, promotions, and parties held in honor of the tennis tournament every August. This year, culinary stars and tennis professionals again paired up as Taste of Tennis celebrated its 10th outing Thursday night for a crowd of 500 at the W New York.
Bringing in more than 30 chefs from restaurants such as Gotham Bar and Grill, Hill Country, and STK, and U.S. Open competitors Andy Roddick, Jo-Wilfried Tsonga, and Vera Zvonareva, the BNP Paribas-sponsored night of cooking played out similarly to years past. But this anniversary incarnation also incorporated some changes, particularly in the party's relationship to the venue.
“The first year we were here was the first year the W was open,” said event organizer and founder Penny Lerner, executive vice president of AYS Sports Marketing, which produces the event. “We've been able to develop and grow what we do, in part because of the luxury of always having the same space. Even though they're our hosts, people don't always get that W feel because they're not a lounge sponsor. This year we've added a designated W dessert lounge.”
In addition to filling its new area with purple hues and a logo-embossed bar, the W served its tennis court cake and green cupcakes alongside branded cookies, lollipops, and jellybeans.
With consistent sponsorships—and a few more chefs added to the roster—the biggest departure for the 2009 Taste of Tennis was Andy Roddick's abbreviated cooking lesson. In lieu of the bulky stage at the head of the room, producers used a massive bar to help with traffic flow. When the time came for the official demonstration, Roddick was joined behind the bar for a cocktail making lesson from Real Housewives of New York star Bethany Frankel, who prepared drinks featuring sponsor Rums of Puerto Rico.
Taste of Tennis requires yearlong attention from the staff at AYS—especially since New York isn't its only market. An Australian incarnation of the event in Melbourne kicks off the Australian Open in January; planning for that goes into high gear this week.