Caesars Entertainment’s Atlantic City Food and Wine Festival will return for the fifth year beginning July 25, and they will celebrate by bring back an Atlantic City favorite as its headliner: Robert Irvine.
The star of The Food Network’s “Restaurant Impossible,” a long-running series in which Irvine helps resurrect struggling restaurants, will join The Neelys — Pat and Gina — who have also appeared at the festival for the past few years, and newcomer Rocco DiSpirito.
The Neelys are stars of The Food Network’s “Down Home with the Neelys,” which offers Southern recipes and tips.
DiSpirito is best known for his Italian-American fusion style and starring in the former NBC reality series “The Restaurant,” which chronicled his rocky relationship with China Grill Management honcho and restaurateur Jeffrey Chodorow. DiSpirito, who won a James Beard Award for his cookbook “Flavor,” was also a contestant on Season 7 of “Dancing with the Stars” and launched a syndicated TV show “Now Eat This! With Rocco DiSpirito” in September.
The big draw will be Irvine, whose former show “Dinner: Impossible” and appearances on what seems like nearly every Food Network series including “Iron Chef America” and “Worst Cooks in America,” have propelled him to stardom. Irvine, who served as executive chef at Trump Taj Mahal Casino Resort, Resorts Casino Hotel and Caesars Atlantic City, will offer two “Chefs in Kitchen” events, where he will interact with the crowd for exclusive gourmet dining experiences inside Arturo’s at Bally’s Atlantic City 7 p.m. July 26 and 6 p.m. July 27 for $150 each. He will also offer a demo 9 p.m. July 27 for $50 at Caesars Atlantic City, and will appear at other events, including a new one: a “Beach Soiree” 10 p.m. July 27 with The Neelys and DiSpirito, priced at $50 at Sammy’s Beach Bar at Bally’s.
“It’s an honor and privilege to be back in Atlantic City,” Irvine says. “Atlantic City is one of the go-to places in the food industry and for great culinary personalities. I love coming to Atlantic City. It’s where I began my career and where I’ve spend a lot of time. So it’s always like a coming-home party for me.”
The four-day festival, like previous years, will offer events at all Caesars Entertainment properties, which also include Showboat Casino-Hotel and Harrah’s Resort. More celebrity announcements are expected.
“Tourism along the Jersey Shore and the famed Atlantic City Boardwalk is alive and well and we’re thrilled to bring back the exciting Atlantic City Food and Wine Festival for its fifth anniversary celebration,” says Danny Brockdorf, regional vice president of marketing for Caesars Entertainment. “Despite the challenges brought on by Hurricane Sandy last October, the Jersey Shore is as strong as ever and we are looking forward to attracting both new visitors and faithfuls to Atlantic City for a weekend of amazing food, great wines and spirits and all-around fun, Jersey Shore-style.”
The festival will offer less events than past years, including four sessions of the popular Grand Market inside Bally’s instead of six, and the elimination of other signature events such as the Cheesesteak Battle, Sunset Sliders, Sweet & Stylish and Viking Cooking School demos, but the weekend is still packed with plenty of culinary treasures.
Highlights will include Irvine’s appearances; Blues, Brews & BBQ noon July 27, where BBQ vendors offer an all-you-can-eat feast of ribs, chicken, brisket and plenty of cold beer for $65; the new Beach Soiree that offers an evening beachside party with gourmet passed hors d’oeuvres and cocktails; the Gospel Brunch at the House of Blues hosted by the Neelys 11 a.m. July 28 for $60 that will include Southern brunch favorites buffet-style and a gospel performance; and the new Island Luau, also hosted by The Neelys, 6 p.m. July 28 at The Pool at Harrah’s that will offer hula dancers, flamethrowers and plenty of Hawaiian food.
“It’s very cool to be the headliner in Atlantic City,” Irvine concludes. “I have a hit show on The Food Network that does amazing things for people, and I think people in Atlantic City and around the country appreciate it and are entertained by it. I always felt Atlantic City was the birthplace for my career, and I am always excited to see old friends and make some new ones.”