By Ronnie Davis, Managing Director, Great Performances

There is something incredibly special about working in the “Greatest City in the World” to quote the smash Broadway Play Hamilton. It is unlike doing events anywhere else. Last week’s annual New York Times Dealbook Summit proved this once again. We at Great Performances have been privileged to work on this event for many years now and bear witness to some amazing and newsworthy insights from some of the most interesting minds to grace a stage. It is moments like this that make working in New York so unique. Set in what I consider the most beautiful room in the New York Event world, the Appel Room at Jazz at Lincoln Center, we heard business trends from cooperate giants like Bob Igor of Disney and Jamie Dimon of JP Morgan Chase. United States Vice President Kamala Harris and Isaac Herzog, the President of Israel offered insights to current events. TV producer and screenwriter Shonda Rhimes shared thoughts on some of the hit shows she has been a part of, and of course there was the controversial interview with Elon Musk that is still grabbing press attention.

In support of this great conference, we served breakfast using recipes from the New York Times “Cooking” in a successful attempt to capture the essence of New York City in our culinary offerings. Among the breakfast selections:

 Vegan Pancakes Vegan Pancakes Recipe – NYT Cooking ( and  Chia Pudding with Berries and Popped Amaranth Chia Pudding With Berries and Popped Amaranth Recipe – NYT Cooking (

For lunch Great Performances Chef Andrew Smith created a beautiful salad of Tuscan Kale, Red Endive, Watercress & Watermelon Radishes with Roasted Pears, Toasted Pumpkin Seeds, Quinoa, and a Seasonal Cider Vinaigrette. We then offered guests a choice of proteins also curated from the NY Times “Cooking.”

Grilled Chicken Breast Grilled Chicken Breasts Recipe – NYT Cooking (

Seared Plank Salmon Cedar Plank Salmon Recipe – NYT Cooking (

Grilled Tofu Grilled Tofu Recipe – NYT Cooking (

At the conclusion of the Summit there was a Reception offering a selection of Hors D’ Oeuvres, Champagne and Cocktails from our current Fall menus held in the Ertegun Atrium with views of Columbus Circle and Central Park as attendees listened of course, to a Jazz Trio playing in the background.  A remarkable finish to a unique New York experience thanks to the New York Times.

The privilege of being “In The Room Where It Happens” in the Greatest City in the World is why we do what we do. This amazing City keeps giving us remarkable events like the Dealbook Summit.

I love New York.


It goes without saying that all of us at GP love food. We asked our team members to share some of their memorable food moments from 2021. From introducing new foods to a baby’s palate to honoring loved ones through cherished flavors and traditions, we’re sharing some of our favorite food moments.

Pureed Baby Food

Ali Rea Baum, Senior Event Director

One big culinary change that has occurred in my life in 2021 is adding pureed baby food onto the menu. For our 7-month-old, every few days we try to introduce new foods and tastes. One day we try pureed carrots, the next the same item but with some cinnamon, and the next day some scrambled eggs. Whether she likes the food or not, she always manages to get more on her face (or the floor) than in her stomach.


Morgan Golumbuk, Event Director

When I think about New York City – and what I love about dining in New York City – I think about Kiki’s. I think about tumbling in from a cold night swathed in coats and scarves and beanies and sitting down to unpretentious, well-executed food in an unpretentious, well-executed restaurant. The evening after wrapping up my last wedding of the year in mid-December, I met my cousin for a perfect Greek meal there: roasted lemon potatoes, grilled octopus, braised lamb, moussaka and, of course, the essential staple, horiatiki. Described on the menu as “traditional-no-lettuce-having-Greek salad,” the dish is full of chunky tomatoes, onions, cucumbers, bell peppers, kalamata olives, and a wedge of feta that could’ve served as a meal all its own. It was the perfect mix of refreshing and indulgent, and a memorable end to a very, very memorable season.

English Trifle

Linda Abbey, Executive Vice President

I inherited the hospitality gene from my dad George who loved to have “people ‘round” to cook for them. One Christmas he made a show-stopper English trifle — homemade lemon sponge, layered with apricots, brandied custard, blackberries, strawberries, and raspberries. Since dad is no longer with us, I now continue the tradition of whipping up his recipe in the trifle bowl he gifted me years ago.

Stone Crab

Lauren Bivona

I recently had an amazing dinner at Joe’s Stone Crab! This restaurant has been a Miami staple since 1913. The stone crabs at Joe’s are famous for being incredibly fresh and sweet. The claws are paired perfectly with a homemade mustard sauce – a savory combination of mustard, mayonnaise, Worcestershire sauce, and A1 steak sauce. I was inspired to make the mustard sauce at home, so I visited a local fish market to buy the stone crabs. Delicious!

Cinnamon French Toast with Caramelized Blueberries & Maple Syrup

Ronnie Davis, Managing Director

My Grandmother hated wasting anything; probably a result of her Russian heritage. After a holiday dinner there was always breakfast the next day to consider. She would take leftover Challah bread and make her version of French Toast. She would add a half teaspoon of ground Cinnamon to the egg batter, and sauté both sides until brown. When you thought it was finished, she would top it Berries, mostly Blueberries, and bake it for 12-14 minutes until the Berries had “Caramelized”. Add Maple Syrup and you have an amazing dish. Over the years, I started using French Bread in place of the Challah and serendipity! I think of her whenever I make it.

Feast of the Seven Fishes

Carina Hayek, Director of Marketing

Our main tradition during any holiday season is variety. I can count on one hand (maybe with a couple extra fingers) how many times we’ve had turkey for Thanksgiving in the 30+ years we’ve lived in the United States. But one tradition we’ve borrowed from our fellow parishioners and adapted in our own way is the Feast of Seven Fishes. A traditional Christmas Eve feast for Italian-Americans, it’s a grand meal featuring a variety of fish dishes. But in the midst of the epic amount of baking we (read: my mother) does in the days leading up to Christmas and the equally epic feasts we have on Christmas Day, we needed a rest on Christmas Even and opted for a cooking-free, smaller version of Seven Fishes and order sushi. We don’t do this every year, but often enough to make it a delicious, stress free tradition.


Kate Michelli, Sales strategy & Operations

Some photos from our Wigilia – Polish meatless Christmas Eve Dinner.  The dinner has been a tradition passed down in my family for generations. All items are homemade.

We start off with Oplatek (The unleavened wafers are baked from pure wheat flour and water, are usually rectangular in shape and very thin. The Opłatki wafers are embossed with Christmas-related religious images).  Each person shares a small piece of their larger piece with each person while wishing them well in the new year.  Once that is over we sit for a toast and the meal begins.

First course:

  • Mushroom soup with onions (with or without oyster crackers)


  • Fish – this year was haddock and salmon
  • Kapusta (split peas and cabbage)
  • Homemade cheese, potato and sauerkraut pierogi

Also on the table:

  • Cooked prunes
  • Black olives

Spinach Pie

Cherish Knudsen, Event Producer

This is a family recipe that we make for the Holidays or just whenever we feel like it. It is yummy, comforting, and sort of healthy!  My mother and I just made it over the Holidays for our family to enjoy.  It is not only one of my personal favorites but even my nieces and nephews love it!  Great way to eat your greens while still feeling comforted… Most of all, its made with love… Enjoy!

Spinach Pie

Yields 2 Pies


  • 10-16 oz pkg frozen chopped spinach per pie (depends on how dense you want it)
  • 2 Pie crusts – fresh or frozen
  • (If use Pillsbury crust – 2 in one pkg-follow directions: Roll out like you roll a rug – don’t pinch it off with the flap going away from you)
  • Plastic food gloves (to squeeze water from spinach)
  • 4 – 5 Eggs (total)
  • 8 oz of each: whole milk Mozzarella cheese & fontina cheese
  • 3-4 cloves Garlic per pie
  • Mushrooms (if you want)


  1. Boil, then simmer spinach and press to drain water (use just enough water to cook)
  2. Saute garlic (*and mushrooms if you’d like) in a little extra virgin olive oil
  3. Place cooked (& drained) spinach into oil with garlic (mushrooms?) – add mixture of mozzarella and fontina cheese (10-16 ounces/ pie) and 2 eggs per pie…heat, melt & combine mixture….add salt and pepper to taste….
  4. Put pie crust in oven while pre-heating 4-5 minutes (350 degrees)
  5. Put spinach mixture in pie crusts
  6. Cook pies for 40-45 minutes
  7. Let pies stand for approx. 5-10 minutes before cutting…. And enjoy!

Unstructured Meals and Greenmarket Finds

Liz Neumark, Founder and Chair

Our end of December at home was quiet.  The kids were scattered around the globe having been home for 2 weeks during Thanksgiving.  It was a time of unstructured meals and zero family obligations.  

My first food project involved canning about 20 lbs of apricots and cherries I had frozen during the summer.  My efforts yielded 4 cases of jams and chutneys. 

On Christmas Eve, I made latkes from the bag of russets left over from Chanukah.  Latkes are amazing for any holiday!  I had a few heads of late season broccoli from the Greenmarket and roasted them on a cold night with olive oil and sea salt, along with fried gnocchi and sage in butter.  Pure comfort.

(The steak and cat is wishful thinking on the part of Kimchi who only wished that meat was for her.  Silly Kitty!)

Not pictured are the endless cheeses I ate, the creamiest creamed spinach (local!), crock pot soups and stews, various smoked fish on black bread and everything else that drove me back to the gym this week in search of self-discipline.  It was a peaceful and delicious end to the year.


In early February I got a call from Samantha Sackler, a longtime partner & friend who owns an LA based production company called The Firm, asking me if we would be willing to work on a Drive-In Premiere and help with registering guests & distributing Movie Snacks to each one as they arrive. She knew that the criteria her client laid out was completely in our wheelhouse. First and foremost, in the instructions was that there can be NO plastic anywhere and everything had to be environmentally friendly. Our culinary team created a compostable box that we were able to label for the client of Popcorn, Candy, and a Glass Bottle of Water. At first, I did not know who the end client was but when I found out more, I had to smile and remind myself of what a very small world it really is. As it turns out the Premier was for the National Geographic Network’s new program Genius: Aretha.

First degree of separation: National Geographic is a long time Great Performances’ client as is The Firm, and we have collaborated on many events for both. My colleague Jill Cole has led the catering efforts for National Geographic’s first season of Genius: Picasso, starring Antonio Banderas, as well their Oscar Winning Documentary film Free Solo.

Second degree: we have had the distinct honor of working with The Queen of Soul herself, Miss Aretha Franklin on several occasions, dating back to a private dinner concert for our partners at Jazz at Lincoln Center and most recently in 2015 at a Gala at the Plaza Hotel. Working with her was like a dream and I was humbled by her kindness and RESPECT.

Third degree: in 2017 we produced and catered a fundraiser in the Hamptons for 600 guests and the headliner I got to spend time planning, in rehearsals and though the evening with the amazing Cynthia Erivo, who is starring in Genius: Aretha.

The opportunities to spend meaningful time with these amazing people is something that only happens because of Great Performances. Those of us who do this every day cherish these moments and find enormous reward in simply the experience. Sitting on a couch with Aretha Franklin telling stories about her musical beginnings is priceless. Having dinner backstage with Cynthia Erivo and hearing about her performance in The Color Purple is beyond imagination. Have drinks with Samantha Sackler and her team after a successful project is more fun than anyone deserves, and I am grateful for her friendship.

All of this is possible because of our dedication to “Being of Service” which is one of the founding principles of Great Performances. There is great nobility in serving others…which we are all so lucky to do every day. We all cannot wait until our industry rebounds from this pandemic, and we return to what we are meant to do.

Virtual Event Planners

Necessity is the mother of invention — or in our case, of reinvention.

Physical events have always been our dinner rolls and cultured butter at Great Performances and we’re optimistic that we’ll be able to return to those days. But with the restraints imposed by Covid and the need to ensure our clients’, guests’ and staff’s health and safety, we’ve pivoted our business in many different ways.

RDP, our events arm at Great Performances, has more than 40 years of event production experience across 26 countries and 65 cities. With a diverse portfolio including physical and virtual events, we’re delighted to launch the newest iteration, RDP Virtual Events.

Under the aegis of seasoned caterer and event production manager Ronnie Davis, our in house team of experts are ready to provide strategic, consultative and production services for virtual events.

“Virtual events are nothing new to us,” explains Ronnie. “We’ve been doing this for years. The only difference is that now RDP Virtual Events is fully focused on this as a way to continue help our clients strengthen their relationships, engage their guests, and share their vision.”

Learn more about RDP Virtual Events.


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