In November 2023, Aubrey Hunt, a member of our event staff, was awarded a Great Performances Fellowship Award. The $5,000 grant is presented following a rigorous selection process overseen by judges who are notable individuals in the creative and artistic fields throughout New York City. Members of our event staff who meet employment criteria and invited to submit an application to the grant, which comprises a description of their project, a budget and outline of what they’d do with the award money, and any additional supporting materials. We received almost 100 applications and awarded 4 grants.

Aubrey’s project was to complete a children’s book he had written inspired by watching a flock of pigeons take flight while he was working at an event at Jazz at Lincoln Center. He used the grant money to complete his story, hire an illustrator, and get his book published.

His book, The Bird Who Was Afraid to Fly, is now available on Amazon in print and digital formats. We sat down with Aubrey to talk to him about the process and what his plans are next.

GP: We’re so thrilled that you’ve been able to publish your book! Can you tell us how the award helped?

AH: The award actually helped me get over my most difficult hump because the book was already written. I was able to hire an illustrator and then publish the book through Amazon Kindle Direct Publishing.



GP: The story is beautiful, as are the illustrations. How did you find an illustrator?

AH: I went through a variety of sources, but ended up using a freelance service. I found five different artists and I paid each of them to do a sample page from my manuscript, and they could choose their scene. It was great to see their interpretations, but Bahagia’s stood out immediately. Her art style kind of reminded of the art that was in the books that I read when I was young.



GP: Tell us about your writing process?

AH: My commute is kind of long, sometimes 2 ½ hours, depending on where the event is, so I use my commute to do most of my writing. I’ll write or think while I’m on public transportation or even during breaks and downtimes during events.



GP: Where do you get your ideas from?

AH: I get my ideas from everywhere, and a lot of them are about lessons that I essentially wish I could have learned when I was younger. But these are all coming from personal life experiences and that’s why it’s something I feel is incredibly relatable. And when I find inspiration, I’ll just jot down notes and come back to it when I’m off work.



GP: What’s your process as you’re developing your ideas?

AH: I would talk with some of the other staff at GP, especially the people who, when I first came up with the idea and discussed it with them, supported it from day one. Those are the pepole I would turn to and ask if they’d mind reading it for me and giving me their general opinion. That’s worked wonders for me.



GP: It sounds like you have a lot of ideas for new books. What’s next?

AH: Oh yes! I actually currently have two [books] already completely written. They do have to be edited, so that’s my next step, and then I’ll be working on trying to publish at least one if not both sometime this year.



Aubrey’s dedication to his craft and his goal of impacting the future generation through his writing is truly inspiring. It’s clear that his journey as an author is just beginning, and there’s much more to come from his creative endeavors.

This past May we were honored to cater the International Women’s Forum’s opening reception to their 50th Anniversary Leadership Conference at the Museum of Modern Art (MoMA). More than 1000 women from 30+ countries gathered to celebrate a legacy spanning 50 years of women leaders joining in community to support, uplift, and inspire each other.

During the conference itself, our CEO and Founder, Liz Neumark, was honored to receive the Women Who Made a Different Award, which salutes IWF members who have demonstrated innovative, tenacious, and transformational leadership, locally and globally.

The conference concluded with the 2024 Dine Around, a series of dinners, all taking place concurrently, at members’ homes throughout New York City. The largest one to date, it was the culmination of years of planning. Spearheaded by Gary Bedigan, Senior Event Director at Great Performances, it was a true demonstration of all of our core values at Great Performances.

We invited our event captains to capture the evening, showcasing their work in bringing Great Performances into each of the 44 private dinners at IWF members’ private homes, and we deployed chefs and captain-level waiters at each location. We invited our teams to share photos of themselves as they prepared for the event and the beautiful and diverse settings.

Our Team at IWF Dine Around

As we closed the evening, we were overwhelmed with the enthusiasm, camaraderie, and celebration of these incredible women as they gathered around the dinner tables to share a meal.

Dine Around 2024 Menu

Butlered Hors d’Oeuvres

  • Chickpea Pani Puri, mint, candied cumin seeds
  • Potato Cornet, wild mushroom mousse, sorrel
  • Tamari Ginger Tuna Poke, crisp sesame tuile

First Course

  • Cherries & Pearls Salad, bibb lettuce, goat cheese, radish, mint, tarragon

Entrée

  • Branzino & Roasted Spring Vegetables, saffron, lemon, carraway crisp
  • Vegan Torta Panzanella, roasted and smoked vegetables, herbed polenta, balsamic glaze, basil oil

 

Dessert

  • Assorted Petit Fours, fresh fruit tartlet, flourless chocolate cake bite, key lime tartlet, lemon curd pavlova, carrot cake bite, vanilla macaron

At the end of each Dine Around, our team baked a tray of our delicious GP Chocolate Chip Cookies as a sweet treat to leave for the hosts to enjoy.

A crowd favorite, I have fond memories of peeling corn, picking cilantro, and preparing the jalapenos and limes with my fathers and brothers. I strongly recommend using charcoal and wood for a better flavor!

Ingredients

  • sweet corn
  • garlic
  • butter
  • 1 cup mayonnaise
  • lime
  • chihuahua cheese
  • cilantro, chopped
  • jalapenos, sliced

Procedure

  1. Blanch sweet corn in salty water, then grill on the low side of the grill for 5 minutes with the lid closed (this helps the corn pick up some of the smokey flavor from the wood). Rub the corn with garlic butter, and place back on the grill until the butter melts, then remove from grill.
  2. Cut the corn kernels from the cob and add to a bowl.
  3. In a small bowl, combine mayonnaise, the juice from 1/2 a lime, 2 pinches of salt.
  4. Add mayonnaise mix, chihuahua cheese, fresh cilantro, and sliced jalepeno to the bowl of corn, reserving some for garnish. Mix well, garnish with reserved cheese, cilantro, and jalapenos, and serve.

This was a favorite special occasion dish while growing up in Florida.

Ingredients

  • 8 Tbsp unsalted butter, plus 3 Tbsp melted butter
  • 1 medium onion, finely diced
  • 2 tsp chopped tarragon leaves
  • 2 Tbsp chopped Italian parsley
  • 2 oz crumbled, cooked chorizo
  • Kosher or sea salt
  • freshly ground black pepper
  • 1/4 lb crumbled, toasted cornbread
  • 4 each hard shell lobster tails

Procedure

  1. Melt 8 Tbsp butter in a saute pan over medium heat. Add onions, season with salt and pepper, and cook for 5 minutes or until soft but not browned. Stir in tarragon and parsley, cook for an additional minute. Remove from heat and cool.
  2. With a cleaver or chef’s knife, split lobsters in half lengthwise. Remove and discard sac and intestine. Remove and reserve tomalley and roe, if present, and place in small bowl. Break into small pieces with a fork. Using the back of a knife, crack the center of each claw on one side only. Season lobsters with salt and pepper. Place lobster halves together on a baking sheet, cut side up,  to resemble a butterfly.
  3. Mix the tomalley and roe into onion mixture. Gently fold in the cornbread and chorizo. Divide mixture between the lobster halves. Do not pack the stuffing tightly or it will affect the even baking of the lobster.
  4. Brush exposed tail with remaining 3 Tbsp melted butter. Bake for 20-24 minutes at 375 degrees. Serve with drawn butter and lemon.

Our chefs come from myriad backgrounds and experiences, but they all share a passion for food and hospitality. We’ve asked them to lend their voices to share their Mother’s Day memories, stories, and recipes.

Chef Solanki Roy

Venue Chef, 550 Madison

My father is a simple kindhearted man. He has seen the India Pakistan partition as a child, and understands the horrors of war like no other, he migrated to India leaving his homeland behind and started everything from scratch, so he instilled some strong values in me like hard work and perseverance. My father is a very evolved soul, he has broken away from old school patriarchy and is a feminist by heart. 

 

A sampling of Chef Solanki’s menu at 550 Madison.

The best culinary tip passed onto me is, cook from your heart and positive emotions, anything cooked with love compassion and good thoughts tastes good. 

 

Anything cooked with anger, aggression or toxic work environment translates to food. So keep kitchen culture healthy, no yelling, no throwing pots and pans or glorifying abuses in kitchen. It’s not good for anyone, the cooks, the customers or the food. 

Chef Andrew Smith

Culinary Director

As a culinary professional I have seen most holidays as just another working day. A day in which other people go out and celebrate. That held true for me until Fathers’ Day on June 19th, 2010. That was the day my first son was born. My wife went into labor in the very early hours the morning before when her water broke. She labored over the 30 or so hours culminating in an emergency c-section. After my wife and I welcomed our son into the world. He underwent the usual rituals of stamping his hands and feet and general checkup. Then he was returned to my wife’s arms for so much needed rest. I took this opportunity to get myself a cup of coffee. I took the elevator down to street level and crossed the street to the local coffee shop. As I stood in line waiting for my coffee another patron looked at me a said happy Father’s Day. At first it did not register that they were speaking to me. Then I realized that they had noted the hospital wristband I was wearing. I thanked them a bit awkwardly and turned to leave. As I went out back onto the street, I reflected on the fact that this was now and for the first time a day that meant something more than a busy brunch.

Chef Marvyn Willams II

Venue Manager & Chef, Wollman Rink

As the years have gone by Father’s Day has become a time that I look forward to. It’s a time where we get to light the grill, grab the dominoes, play catch with the family, and grab a cold one. In my family we love to grill, and we use a combo of wood and charcoal. Wether we spend Father’s Day in Belize or here in the states there is a go-to recipe that I always tie this time of year with and it’s become a family favorite: my roasted corn salad. I love to make variations of this recipe depending on what I can find at the local market back home in Belize or here in the states. I have fond memories of peeling corn, picking cilantro, jalapeno and limes with my father and brothers.  And the best part is that kids love it too!

Chef Alex Beddoe

Sous Chef, Wollman Rink

Growing up, Father’s Day was pretty much an extension of Mother’s Day since I was raised by my mother. So why not give her an extra day of celebration? She did the best she could being an only parent at covering both sides of parenthood for which I am grateful.

On the culinary side, we had moments when I would help in the kitchen to complete meals for the day or holidays we would spend together. One of my favorites would be Puerto Rican style pasteles. Not something done in the summer, but it was something that stood out to me growing up. The amount of work going into making the dish can be fun for a kid as well as exhausting. From seasoning the pork shoulder to grating the fruits and veggies such as plantains and yuca.

Now an actual recipe was never had. Most of the time it felt like we were winging it, however the end results were always satisfying.

Nowadays, meals do not get made on Mother’s Day as I would like but I still remember the ones we shared while growing up.

You might ask why this wasn’t shared on Mother’s Day. Well, I figured for someone who didn’t have a father to celebrate it with, I’ll give the recognition to the one who filled that role for me.

Chef Joe Bachman

Venue Chef, Rockefeller University

For special occasions, like Father’s Day, our choice was influenced by being from Florida. We enjoyed Baked Chorizo & Cornbread Stuffed Spiny Tailed Lobster! The tip that was passed down was to not overcook the meat.

I owe pretty much all my passion, Love and ambition about food to my Dad. Since I have memory, he has always motivated me to at least try different things, ingredients, cuisines, flavors.

He is someone that know a lot about food and also likes cooking and does so very well!

Many years ago, 23 or so, I was with My Dad at home. Just the two of us because my Mom and my sister had left. It was lunch time and I remember him asking me what I wanted to eat. I replied that I didn’t know so he said “don’t worry, I got it”

Just a few minutes later, we were sitting down in the outdoor patio that the house had and I was enjoying my first ever SPAGHETTI AGLIO E OLIO. It was magical, and as I write these words I promise you I can still enjoy those exact flavors in my mouth remembering that moment.

It’s about those moments that leave a mark on you forever. There are certain flavors that you’ll remember for the rest of your Life and this is definitely one of them.

The dish was so good, so simple, just amazing. Of course I had more than one plate!

Dad, I celebrate this Father’s Day remembering on of the best culinary moments of my existence.

On the surface, a wedding planner may not seem like an essential expense, especially when pitted against the more obvious needs of food, your dream venue, and a good DJ. But what most newly-weds-to-be don’t know is that hiring a wedding planner can actually save you money.

And that’s not all. Great Performances Wedding Specialist Amanda DiUglio spoke on the ways in which hiring a wedding planner might just save your big day.

Save Time

“Let the planner do the hard work. Let them research and find out information about all the places you’re looking [and] at the vendors so you don’t have to do any of the stressful things. They can come in [and] they can say here are my top five recommendations and take you through it without you having to do the hours and hours of work it really takes to plan the perfect wedding.”

Save Money

“They can help negotiate. They can help recommend different vendors that might have different price points. They can get you exactly what you’re looking for and help you really craft your budget to make sure it works all within what you’re looking to spend.”

Save Energy

“Your planners have worked in weddings for normally a very long time and have a good list of vendors who they love partnering with. They’re suggesting them because they do a great job and they want your wedding to come out perfect. So trust their recommendations and really look into the vendors that they recommend.”

Each season has its perks and pitfalls when it comes to planning a wedding, but oftentimes the positives can outweigh the more unfavorable aspects.

 

Great Performances Wedding Specialist Amanda DiUglio highlighted for us the top 3 reasons why you should consider getting married in the spring.

 

#1 All is in bloom

 

Flourishing in the influx of sunny days, gardens and greenery are bound to be blooming in abundance. Whether you decide to host your ceremony outside or indoors, pulling from the lush natural elements is sure to give your special day an extra dose of serenity. From bountiful bouquets to stunning organic backdrops, you can’t go wrong with incorporating the fruits of the season in your wedding design.

 

#2 Post-winter and ready to party

 

Shedding the dreary days of constant gray, woodland creatures aren’t the only ones emerging from hibernation. Though more of the metaphorical variety, it’s undeniable that the first signs of sunlight draw out even the most introverted individual’s desire to socialize. A spring wedding is an enticing break from the monotony of the colder months, sure to increase that RSVP rate and bring together all those you haven’t seen since before the first snowfall.

 

#3 Temperate temperatures

 

With warm afternoons and cool evenings, the moderate embrace of spring is sure to create a comfortable atmosphere for your many celebrations. The perfect porridge for a wide array of guests, you’re certain to settle somewhere “just right” when it comes to desired degrees. No sweating through suits or shivering in sleeveless dresses, there will be smiles all around, allowing for an enjoyable exchange of vows.

Main photo credit Gulnara Samoilova

You’ve dodged enough red flags to make it to the altar, but unfortunately there’s still a few you’ll have to look out for when searching for a vow-worthy venue.

 

Though the historical mansion is beautiful on the outside, perhaps the interior doesn’t match the exterior? Or the incredibly popular modern museum that’s miraculously available on the exact day you need happens to also be hosting a splatter painting workshop in the same room?

 

There can be causes for concern no matter the space, but that doesn’t mean some can’t be worked around. We asked Great Performances Wedding Specialist Amanda DiUglio what she considers to be major red and green flags to watch out for when figuring out where to have your wedding.

The venue refuses to let you see the space before the event. 

“Big red flag. Absolutely not. You should always walk through and see exactly what you’re getting before your wedding so you know what the layout’s going to be, how the day’s going to flow, and all of those important details.

The venue has bad reviews online.

“A big red flag. I think you should listen to all these other couples. I think take everything with a grain of salt, and I also recommend maybe reaching out to them if you see them on Instagram and asking them why they had a bad experience.”

They do have a backup plan in case of bad weather.

“Green…yes, absolutely! We love that. Especially if you’re outdoors! It does rain and we want to make sure that we are prepared for it. And if you plan for it, it normally doesn’t happen. So take the backup plan!”

They provide you limited time to set up.

“Is there a middle ground? I think that could be a beige flag. Having vendors that know the space and know how to work within the space is very important and what they can do is they’re going to showcase to you the things that you can do within that amount of time and…make sure that you’re guided the best way possible.”

You’re the only event at the venue that day.

“Green. I think that’s a must…it’s your special day. You’re paying a lot of money for this and we want to make sure that you are the shining star that day and all attention is on you. So definitely make sure that you are the only event happening that day.”

The venue is available for your desired date but has repairs scheduled for months prior.

“I think that’s ok…I’d get some more information on exactly what that is and what their schedule is…is it the end of their scheduled maintenance or is it the beginning of it?”

The venue has limited parking.

“Green. That’s okay! You run into that in a lot of venues, specifically more historical venues. There’s ways that you’ll work with valet companies to make it work for your event.”

They work with Great Performances.

“Biggest green flag out there. We’re so excited to partner with our exclusive venues and with our preferred venues. We’re honored to be part of your wedding!”

Main photo by Joseph Lin

This is a childhood dish I remember as one on regular rotation at home. It always signified changing seasons.

Ingredients

  • 1.5 oz onion
  • 3 Tbsp Paprika
  • 2 Tbsp butter
  • 1 pt chicken broth
  • 3 lbs Large Diced chicken breast
  • 1 c sour cream
  • 2 Tbsp Flour
  • 1.5 lbs Egg Noodles

Procedure

  1. Marinate chicken with diced onion, paprika, salt overnight.
  2. Sear the Chicken until golden brown on the outside.
  3. Add chicken broth, heat to simmer, cover and let cook 30 min.
  4. Remove chicken from broth and set aside.
  5. In a Separate Bowl, take sour cream, flour , and mix in mixing bowl adding water until you reach a pancake batter like consistency.
  6. Add sour cream mixture to the broth and simmer until it reaches a gravy like consistency. 
  7. Add Chicken Back in to broth.
  8. Serve over Egg noodles.  Garnish with parsley.

This recipe is passed down from my mother. Of course, we measure with the heart, but everything you need to know to make the best Arroz con Pollo is below!

Ingredients

  • Chicken: Use bone-in chicken breast for this recipe.
  • Seasoning: Cumin, sazón with azafran, bay leaf, salt & pepper.
  • Vegetables: Carrots, peas, green beans, onions, scallions, garlic, red and green bell peppers.
  • Flavor: Tomato paste, chicken broth, and chicken bouillon.
  • Oil: Olive oil, canola, or vegetable oil will work.
  • Rice: Use long-grain white rice.
  • Herbs: Cilantro

Procedure

  1. Put the chicken breast, 5 cups of water, and the remaining ingredients for the stock in a medium pot. Bring to a boil, cover, and reduce the heat to medium-low. Cook for 20 to 25 minutes. Turn off the heat and let the chicken rest in the pot covered for about 15 minutes. Let it cool, shred, and set aside. Strain the stock and measure 2 ½ cups, then set aside.
  2. In a medium pot, heat the olive oil over medium-high heat. Add the onions, green peppers, garlic, and red bell pepper. Cook until the onions are translucent, about 4 to 5 minutes.
  3. Add the rice, tomato paste, chicken bouillon, and sazon goya. Stir until the rice is well coated, about 3 minutes. Add the chicken stock and bring to a boil. Then reduce the heat to low. Cover and simmer for about 15 minutes. Add the peas, carrots, and green beans and cook for an additional 7 minutes. Add the shredded chicken and cilantro, mix well with a fork, cover, and cook for 5 more minutes.