By T.J. Walter Posted November 24, 2010, 11:17 AM EST
WASHINGTON On November 13 and 14, more than 25,000 foodies made their way to the Washington Convention Center for the fifth annual Metropolitan Cooking & Entertaining Show. The gathering marked a new record for the consumer expo, which features exhibitors, live cooking demonstrations, and a host of entertaining and cooking workshops.
Denise Medved, founder and C.E.O. of the Metropolitan Cooking & and Entertaining show, credits the attendance boost to an increased focus on marketing by her staff in the weeks leading up to the show. “We worked extremely hard getting the word out, and we looked at it like a race to the finish line, as many people bought tickets later than normal this year,” Medved said. The show used all forms of advertising in its marketing push, with radio ads, dedicated email blasts and several TV ads, two of which were filmed by Paula Deen and Rachael Ray, who both appeared at the show. For the first time ever Medved opted to hire a dedicated PR firm, Jill Collins PR, to promote the event, which in turn helped to increase and organize media coverage and other marketing efforts.
A mainstay of the expo has always been the celebrity chefs, and in addition to Deen and Ray, the 2010 expo also featured demonstrations by Bobby Flay, along with many of Washington’s top chefs (Carla Hall, Todd Gray, and Todd Thrasher among them). With each of the celebrity demonstrations carrying an additional charge in addition to the base entry ticket, Medved offered a multi-celebrity pass this year for attendees who wanted to see all three chefs. The pass, which came at a 40 percent discount, was the result of consumer reaction from previous years, Medved said.
One of the newest events added to the schedule this year was Operation Home Cooking, a special luncheon for 300 spouses of military members. Second lady Jill Biden made a special appearance, and each of the guests received autographs from Deen.
In addition to the seminars and demonstrations, attendees had the chance to purchase goods from more than 300 exhibitors. To motivate sales, the show widened the aisles and gave away free shopping bags from sponsor Geico. A shop-a-thon contest was new this year—attendees who purchased from eight or more exhibitors were entered into a raffle to win $1,000 worth of tickets to the 2011 show.