By Great Performances

On June 7, 2023,  Hot Bread Kitchen celebrated 15 years of Investing in Breadwinners at their Fête for 15 at The Altman Building in New York City. We were delighted to be their catering partner, and Gary Bedigan, Senior Event Director, and Kevin Jaeger, Event Producer, worked closely with the Hot Bread Kitchen team and the guest chefs to ensure the event went smoothly and that the food and service were beyond par. This included coordinating with dozens of chefs and our culinary team to create a feast for 300 guests including a VIP tasting experience featuring David Waltuck of Chanterelle; Regina Onal of Oohlam; Camari Mick and Mary Attea of The Musket Room and Rafs New York; and Chef Jae of KJUN.

Honoring longtime Hot Bread Kitchen Board Chair Diana Taylor and partners King Arthur Baking Company, the Fête for 15 Breadwinners Benefit gave guests a taste of the diverse flavors and talents of our city–and of Hot Bread Kitchen’s impact on our community and beyond. 

During this evening of community and culinary magic hosted by Gail Simmons, they gave a toast to the collaboration, dedication, and growth that have helped hundreds of women and people of color launch culinary careers and achieve economic mobility over the past 15 years.

Check out the photo gallery and menu below.

Photo credit Eric Vitale Photography



Mar Biscuits, Hav & Mar
with teff and honey. Vegetarian.

Blue Cornbread, Hav & Mar
with togarashi and blue mas
a. Vegetarian

Hot Bread Kitchen Challah Roll


Jerk Chicken Taco, 2 Girls & A Cookshop
Hot Bread Kitchen Breadwinner
Contains nuts. Vegetarian taco available on request.


Sofrito Roasted Chicken, Tatiana by Chef Kwame
Sazón Tomato Stew, Gordal & Castelvetrano Olives, Tarragon
Dairy Free, Gluten Free

Braised Oxtails, Tatiana by Chef Kwame
Thumbelina Carrot, Chayote Squash
Gluten Free

Hot Bread Kitchen Breadwinner


Plantain, Green Pepper & Arugula Salad, Zoe’s Ghana Kitchen
Vegan, Gluten Free

Taro & Sweet Potato Curry, Zoe’s Ghana Kitchen
Contains nuts. Vegan, Gluten Free

Pan Fried Okra, Zoe’s Ghana Kitchen
Vegan, Gluten Free

Rice & Peas, Tatiana by Chef Kwame
Contains nuts. Vegetarian


Comtesse de Malet Roquefort Bordeaux Blanc 2020
Comtesse de Malet Roquefort Bordeaux Rouge 2019


Pizzette Tomato, Ci Siamo
Calabrian Chili

Vegetable Lumpiang, OohlamNY

Shrimp Lumpiang, Oohlam NY

Beef Sudanese Sambuxas, Sambuxa NYC

Feta Dill Sudanese Sambuxas, Sambuxa NYC

Carrot Tartar
Parsley, Horseradish, Capers, Dijon, Onyx Crisp

Tuna in a Birds Nest
Tuna, Wasabi Sesame Yuzu Vinaigrette, Wasabi Tobiko, Micro Shiso

Green Chickpea Pani Puri
Mint, Candied Cumin Seeds



Spiced Walnut Baklava, BiBi’s Bakery

Vegan Coconut Almond Baklava, BiBi’s Bakery

Chocolate Barbary Cookies, BiBi’s Bakery

Jeweled Tea Cookies, BiBi’s Bakery

Tricolore Sundae, Mel’s Pizzeria

Petit Four, Natasha Pickowicz

Photo credit Eric Vitale


By Great Performances

On May 18, Open House New York hosted its Open City Benefit, a “celebration of the power of place and new possibilities for our city.” They celebrated at the newly transformed Powerhouse Arts; the just-opened venue – once a power plant – is now a contemporary art center and large-scale fabrication studio. As long-time OHNY supporters (Liz Neumark, CEO and Founder of Great Performances, currently sits on the board), we were thrilled to be their catering partner for this 400-person gala.

Powerhouse Arts is a dynamic venue for an event. Large, open spaces provide the perfect canvas for the most active imaginations. As caterers feeding 400 people family-style, it presented a significant challenge: due to the size and scope of the space and event, serving a hot meal would be challenging.

Morgan Golumbuk, Senior Event Director, collaborated with the OHNY team and GP Culinary Director Andrew Smith to curate a menu that would be delicious served at room temperature. We developed two brand-new seasonal protein dishes for the occasion and engaged with partner Eat Offbeat to provide a couple of their incredibly delicious recipes (that just happened to be vegan!): their Chickpea Salad and their Iraqi Sumac Salad.

We tapped into a local source for dessert, serving rainbow-sprinkled cake pops, chocolate-covered Oreos with vibrant drizzles, and multi-hued macarons from Buttermilk Bakeshop. The colorful theme was a nod to the dynamic graffiti and murals covering the venue’s historic brick walls.


By Great Performances

Each year we say it, and each year we mean it: our most anticipated event of the year is The Sylvia Center’s Farm Event at Katchkie Farm. The Sylvia Center has a long history with Katchkie Farm – in fact, the seeds for The Sylvia Center were planted, quite literally, at The Learning Garden at Katchkie Farm. Although a lot has changed, some things remain constant: our passion for The Sylvia Center and supporting their mission to provide nutrition-focused, culinary-based programming.

This year, there were about 150 guests in attendance at the Farm Event and through sponsorships, a raffle, a silent auction, and donations, The Sylvia Center were able to raise over $160,000! Check out the event gallery below.


By Great Performances

After several years of stops and starts and stops again, we’ve been delighted to fill our days with planning and running events for many of our long-time clients at a variety of venues. This past May, we were especially thrilled to execute an event for a health network who hosted their first inaugural black tie celebration and fundraiser at The Glasshouse, one of the most stunning event spaces in New York City. With almost 1,000 people in attendance, it’s an event that they won’t forget – with foods they’ll crave – for a long time.

Guests’ eyes were delighted at every turn as they took in the scenery of the Manhattan skyline, the Hudson River, and beyond; and as they viewed the delectable food on display on trays being passed by our team, at stations, and at chef showcases.

An objective for the event was to encourage mingling and guest interaction, a trend we’ve been observing for the better part of the year. Many organizations are trying to find ways to reduce the time guests spend locked down at a table, instead looking for ways to get guests moving and mingling. Food and beverage stations spread out across the space provided natural cues to encourage guests to move around, explore the space, and engage with others.

It’s an acknowledged truth that we eat with our eyes first, and we pulled out all the stops for this event, serving a variety of passed hors d’oeuvres, setting up multiple stations across the space, and creating intimate, engaging vignettes with our Atelier Stations. From fun presentations of comfort foods like shrimp and grits and spaghetti and meatballs to decadent delights like foie gras, lobster tails, and truffles, we had something for everyone.

Read on to explore the space and vicariously enjoy our food through photos.

Recently opened in 2021, The Glasshouse is the perfect venue for large, high-end events. Located on 12th Avenue between 48th and 49th Streets, Glasshouse features panoramic views of Manhattan, the Hudson River, and beyond from two event terraces, private terraces off their Green Rooms, and the floor-to-ceiling windows throughout the space. State-of-the-art technology for lighting, audio, and video support all visual and audio effects, including a premium experience for entertainment and private concerts. Additionally, the space has the infrastructure for enhanced installations including video walls, step & repeats, and more.

With 75,000 square feet of space and capacity for 1,850 people, the spaces are configurable to allow for varying room sizes and shapes. Truly, an event planner’s dream.

Learn more about Glasshouse at this link.

Hors d'Oeuvres - Luxurious Bites for all Palates

Cater waiters dressed in black processed throughout the space carrying our custom made Busker Trays containing delicious bites of BBQ Shrimp and Poblano Peppers on a Stone Ground Grit Cake. Our chefs turned homestyle comfort foods like shrimp and grits and the spaghetti and meatballs into eye catching bites; created vegan and gluten free hors d’oeuvres like our Habanero Smoked Tofu Tacos on Watermelon Radish Bites that were anything but bland; and created fun plays on dishes like our twist on a classic PBJ with Hudson Valley Foie Gras, Pistachio Butter, and Sour Cherry Preserves and our Duck Rillette Fritter with Cranberry Port Jam on a Rosemary Skewer.

Bright bold flavors, comfort food made luxurious, and decadent bites that hit every taste bad came with enough variety to satisfy a variety of dietary preferences from vegan to gluten free to keto.

Stations - Global Flavors

Strategically spaced throughout the venue, our themed stations captured global flavors and featured regional favorites with a Great Performances twist.

Our Carving Station featured an assortment of carved-to-order meats with accompanying sauces and sides

  • 32oz Bone-In Ribeye with a trio of sauces: Bordelaise, Chimichurri, Horseradish Cream
  • Roast Duck Breast Lapérouse with Gruyère and Mustard
  • Foie Gras Terrine with Pomegranate Gelée, Pistachio Crumble
  • Classic Pommes Duchesse
  • Broccoli Rabe with Lemon, Garlic, Pine Nuts

Our Pinxtos Station featured flavors of Northern Spain and the Basque region

  • Basque Chicken with Tri Colored Peppers, Onions
  • Tortilla Española
  • Aged Manchego and Mushroom Brochettes
  • Wild Cèpes with Cured Quail Yolks
  • Croquetas de Bacalao
  • Hand Carved Jamón
  • Hearts of Palm Salad

Our Seafood Station brought delicacies from the seas and oceans prepared in a variety of styles

  • Crab Salad with Pomelo, Mint
  • Lightly Cured Arctic Char with Olive Oil Poached Peppers, Anchovy
  • Colossal Shrimp with Lemon-Tarragon Aioli and Horseradish and Smoked Tomato Cocktail Sauce
  • Chilled Lobster Tail
  • West Coast Oysters (Fanny Bay, Kumamoto, Big Cove) with Mignonette
  • Young Coconut Aguachile with Avocado, Lime, Cilantro

Tuscan Station transported us to the sun-soaked hill towns of Italy

  • Sage-Stuffed Veal Breast Roulade – Braised Gigante Beans
  • Ricotta Stuffed Ravioli – Morels, Sweet Peas, Parmesan
  • Cavatelli Primavera – Fiore di Sardo Fondutti
  • Grilled Asparagus – Ricotta Salata, Lemon, Basil
  • Eggplant Milanese – Roasted Cherry Tomatoes
  • Roasted Sweet Yellow Peppers – Black Olive, Yellow Raisins, Capers, Anchovy
  • Baguette Spike

Atelier Stations - Showcasing Chefs' Magic

We featured four showcase stations – our Atelier Stations – that allowed our chefs to create made-to-order luxurious dishes. Our chefs demonstrated their great skill, precision, and attention to detail as they crafted their dishes.

  • Japanese Turnips, Eryngii, Matsutake, Trumpet Mushrooms, Black Truffle, Smoked Dashi, Broth
  • Red Snapper Leche de Tigre Ceviche
  • Fresh Cut Toro, Caviar, Yuzu Pearls, Gold Leaf
  • Seared 45-Day Dry-Aged Kobe Sirloin, Japanese Uni and Shiitake Summer Roll (Madeira Gastrique, Oyster Sauce, Chive Purée)

Sweet Finish - Desserts that Captured the Imaginations and Hearts

And of course, what meal is complete without a Dessert Station that offered sweet and savory treats

  • Golden Pistachio Praline Chocolate Truffle on a Gold Lollipop Stick
  • Three-Layer Panna Cotta with Coconut Cream, Passion Fruit, Blackberry
  • Espresso Boca Negra Cake
  • Buckwheat Sable Raspberry Chantilly Creamwich
  • Chocolate & Cheese Board

We also invited a few of our favorite partners to join us and share their specialty desserts: La Newyorkina with their famous paletitas and Fluff n Fluff with their playful and dramatic cotton candy.


By Great Performances

40% of nonprofit organizations reported losses in total revenue for 2020. Partly attributed to a dramatic decline in program-related revenue, it can also be attributed to a decline in donations. Overall, 37% of nonprofit organizations reported a decline in donations in 2020 compared to 10% of nonprofit organizations in the preceding 5-year period and more than 70% of organizations reported that individual donations are essential or very important to their business. (Source)

As Covid restrictions lift and people reunite at events, restaurants, theaters, and in the office, there’s opportunity for nonprofits to recover and rebuild their donation bases. Prior to the pandemic, many nonprofit organizations held galas and events for awareness, education, community, networking, and fundraising. With our return to events, nonprofit organizations can extend their current outreach programs with live events to re-engage and grow their donor base. We spoke with some leading nonprofit event planners and partners to get a better idea of what’s happening with nonprofit organizations and how they’re coming back to live events.

Across the board, we’re seeing an increase of in-person nonprofit events, which is exciting for everyone from the nonprofit host who’s able to reconnect with their donor base to the gala attendee who is delighted to get all dressed up with somewhere to go! Rob Arango, Director of Client Development at CPS Events at The Plaza, notes that there’s been more attention to the step-and-repeat as guests are dressing up, eager to meet, greet, and have their photos taken. Even those first moments arriving at an event are celebratory! For anyone who’s watched the awards shows these past months, we’ve seen more glitz, glamor, and excitement on the red carpet.

Aside from being standard operating procedure for nonprofits to host events, galas, and live fundraisers to raise money and engage donors, there’s been increasing pushback on virtual only events (we specify virtual-only for reasons we’ll elaborate on later). The cost and effort of hosting virtual events didn’t deliver the returns in engagement and donation dollars that organizations realized from live events. As Shaun Roberts, Vice President at Great Performances notes, everyone from corporations building teams to religious organizations leading their congregations is seeing the importance of community. Specifically, education institutions are hosting alumni functions, hospitals are rebuilding fundraising efforts, artistic and performance-based groups are inviting guests back into their spaces, and socially aware organizations are rebuilding their education and outreach programs. “No matter how great the technology, it’s impossible to replicate the networking that takes place at live events,” observes James Munz, Vice President of Sales at Ziegfeld Ballroom, home to many nonprofit events including fundraisers, galas, and celebrations.

“Live events not only raise money; more importantly they are used to cultivate new donors,” reports Mike Warren, Director of Catering at CPS Events at The Plaza. Often, gala attendees will sponsor a table and invite guests who might make a connection with the cause and become a supporter. But there’s been another shift in how galas are held, notes Roberts. Instead of being tied to a table and chairs, more events are starting to have more mobile events (and not the digital kind) where guests are encouraged to walk around the space and network. “It’s been a heated debate within many organizations,” he says, “and a decision that’s very personal to each nonprofit.” Speaking with caterers, planners, and venues can help determine which event style makes the most sense for each nonprofit’s goals and constituency.

Health and safety are still top of mind for many nonprofit organizations planning events but staying on top of the latest requirements and protocols can be stressful and confusing. Munz stresses that it’s important to talk to the experts: the caterers and venues who are best able to advise on best practices that support the health, safety, and comfort of event guests. This can be anything from accessibility to ventilation. “We believe in full transparency and providing as much information as necessary to put our clients and their guests at ease. We can also share what some other nonprofits are doing to help provide some context.”

For most organizations, events look like they did pre-pandemic. Groups who are already going out are going out with a relaxed (or exhausted) attitude towards Covid stipulations: tables are not entirely distanced, and check-in is swift. At GP, we are asking our staff to be vaccinated and to remain masked, but many clients are asking that masks be removed, a sign of their desire to make everything appear as it once was. There are some planners and nonprofit organizations who are still staying on the side of caution, but Warren observes that these are few and far between and it may be as simple as setting a table for ten guests for eight.

Some nonprofit organizations aren’t quite willing to let go of the virtual component and are looking for hybrid events. Munz acknowledges that hybrid events can be a great opportunity to capture a wider audience; however, they require an extra level of planning and expertise. Roberts cautions that planning two events in one may result in increased costs and effort and that nonprofit organizations considering hybrid events need to be clear about their goals and expectations for each group of attendees. Selecting the right partner is critical to help create a program that flows smoothly. Munz notes that he’s seen the virtual portion of the hybrid event pause while the in-person attendees were being served their meals. With their deep expertise in hosting events, planners can help create a run of show and make program suggestions to make the event run seamlessly from both perspectives.

Being mindful of guest behavior advises event timelines and runs of show. Munz advises that nonprofits organizations consider adjusting their events to a shorter programmed event followed by a post-dessert reception. This allows those guests who feel uncomfortable to leave and those who feel comfortable to stay longer and socialize – a hybrid of the seated events and the networking sessions.

Event planning is also happening at a shorter timeframe. Although many nonprofits are booking venues, caterers, and other vendors months in advance, guests are waiting until closer to the event date to RSVP, making it difficult to confirm guest counts. And then there are the nonprofits that are booking events on shorter notice. Although it is possible, the current employment landscape can present a challenge. “We always recommend that our clients book the date as soon as they can so we can confirm a venue and ensure proper staffing at their event,” Roberts advises.

At the end of the day, all of the event experts and their nonprofit clients agreed on one thing: nonprofits absolutely should be hosting live events. “There used to be gala fatigue, then we had Zoom fatigue and Covid fatigue. People are eager to get back out in person,” Arango shares. People are yearning for a face-to-face connection, and it’s obvious in the excitement demonstrated when guests are together for the first time.

Encouraging those who are reluctant to venture out to an event can be as simple as providing them with more information, Roberts notes. “Be clear with what the evening holds so people can make their own choices. If you have an amazing key speaker, people will turn out for that; and keep the event to the point—no fluff.” Once you’ve identified your event goals, create a program that will engage your guests. Gone are the days when people stay at a gala until 10:00 pm because they have to; they will stay because they want to be there.


By Liz Neumark

We have a passion for serving others. There is nothing predictable (think weather), simple (think complex pre-event emotions) or easy (have you driven a truck in NYC?) for our sales and planning teams. But every day, they get it right! 

With thanksgiving in mind, we want to share some of the wonderful notes we receive from our clients. It is a tribute to our GP family but also a reminder of how powerful the written note of thanks can be.

Wedding, Wave Hill, The Bronx, NY

About the Event

  • Event: Wedding
  • Location: Wave Hill
  • GP Planners: Amanda DiUglio, Emily Schreiber

From the Client

Amanda!!! We can’t thank you enough for everything you and the GP team did to make our wedding so perfect on Saturday. 

Like…REALLY can’t thank you enough.

At our brunch yesterday morning, the GP food and service was the talk of the town! Everyone was raving about everything they ate (cookie pizza obviously included!!!) and made special note of how amazing the service was and how wonderful the staff was. One of our friends said it was the safest and most “back to normal” she’s felt in 2 years. She said they’d turned down numerous events over the last few months but felt confident we’d have a plan in place for making everyone feel good. She said your team went above and beyond her expectations. 

Did I mention people loved the food???? 😂😍 Literally everyone was raving about everything from the fritters and the taco station to the pretzel bread/baguette (um yes! I love pretzels and didn’t know this was gonna be a thing!) to the steak to the incredible perfectly melted-ness but not too melted of the ice cream. (This is an excellent thing, I say that as an ice cream connoisseur.) People were like, “Wait isn’t wedding food supposed to be like..not good??” At our wedding, it was AMAZING!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! 

We really just are amazed at how incredible everything was. The room was electric and people were so happy and we know it’s because they felt SAFE and happy and fittingly full! 

We really are just wowed. I want to also give a HUGE shoutout to Tasha who was cool as a cucumber and a wonderful human being. I didn’t realize the GP bridal attendant would be so key to our day (I mean, delivering Diet Cokes is obviously key to the day…but I didn’t realize she would be with me the whole night!!), and I believe it’s a HUGELY marketable part of the GP package. Grateful to Tasha for carrying my chapstick (critical!), helping me with my Saks-disaster of a bustle and sourcing granulated sugar when I got the hiccups! (It DID work, for what it’s worth!) 

If I can be a reference for you guys or a website testimony or anything moving forward, I would be ecstatic to be. I’m on a list of 500 women in media/tech/entertainment and plan to send around your email and the GP info when I do a write up of how amazing my wedding vendors were. 

Wedding, Glenmere Mansion, Hudson Valley, New York

About the Event

  • Event: Wedding
  • Location: Glenmere Mansion
  • GP Planners: Amanda DiUglio, Emily Schreiber

From the Client

You beat me to it! 

Our experience with Great Performances under your leadership was impeccably professional and delightful from start to finish. 

GP was the shining light among vendors amidst the roller coaster trajectory of the pandemic. 

The quality of your food, service and presentation, second to none. 

[We] are grateful to you for helping to make our daughter and son-in-law’s celebration at Glenmere so delicious, beautiful and memorable. 

You haven’t seen the last of us!

Conference, The Glasshouse, Manhattan, New York

About the Event

  • Event: Technology Conference
  • Location: The Glasshouse
  • GP Planners: Jill Cole, Sara VanWeichen

From the Client

Thank you to you, Forrest, Ken and the rest of the GP staff for all of your help and support leading up to and during the event.

I’m not sure how the event would have turned out if you weren’t one of our partners as we took on the Glasshouse as a venue. You helped us navigate so much from what you shared and who knows how much more was done behind the scenes. It’s so comforting to know that catering is something you never have to worry about when we do our events with you. 

The food and service was top notch as always. Gotta love it when your CEO tells you he gets so many compliments on the food and how we always have the best food at our events. 

Again, thank you. I absolutely love working with you all and I hope you pass this along to your bosses! Or if I should share it directly, let me know. I know the past 1.75 years haven’t been the easiest in your industry, but I’m so glad you are all still here. 

Good luck with your upcoming weddings!

From the Planner

It has been an absolute pleasure to work together on the [event] this week and throughout the planning process. Your immaculate attention to detail, your poise under pressure, and your creative collaboration are qualities we respect and appreciate so much. Thank you for your time, your heart, and for the laughs along the way (we had to laugh sometimes, didn’t we??).


Again, from the bottom of our hearts, THANK YOU! Best of luck with your busy wedding weekend (and to your GP team catering another [one of our events] this evening!). We can’t wait to see more of you and your work very soon.

Nonprofit Gala, Brooklyn, New York

About the Event

  • Event: Nonprofit Gala
  • Location: Brooklyn, NY
  • GP Planners: Jill Cole, Sara VanWeichen

From the Client

Thank you so much for following up – I am still pretty comatose right now, but there is pretty much one thing that I’m happy to reflect on, and that is the greatness of Great Performances.

Everything last week was perfect. We got SO many comments from guests about how good the food was, and how much of it there was… we were never ever concerned about the transition from seated dinner to cocktail and whether people would be full… it was obvious that they were! I also must commend you on the incredible work ethic of your team. Your staff is really astonishing, from the top on down. I remarked to Forrest at some point (and then later Susan) that what your staff really embodies is “hustle” – that’s what you want to see of every single person at an event, and there is not one person on your team who is without purpose, focus, and speed. It’s something that other vendors and event managers should envy. And you know, truly, that I adore Mack and was ecstatic to have him there. He is such a special, hard working person, and I feel lucky to get to work with him, Forrest, and you two.

So long short, everyone was very happy. Thank you so much again for everything!!!


Last year, I joined the Board of Open House New York, an unusual organization that is, ironically, one of NYC’s best kept secrets. Founded in 2003, Open House New York “promotes broad, unparalleled access to the city—to the places, people, projects, systems and ideas that define New York and its future—and fosters civic dialogue about how the city functions and who it serves.”

As a die-hard New Yorker, I’m passionate about Open House New York because I believe that this kind of openness and access is vital to the economic health, equity and cultural vitality of New York—it is exactly what our city needs to get back on its feet. It brings us together, opens doors to new insights, educates, inspires and changes the way we look at our landscape.

In about 10 days, OHNY will be hosting OHNY Weekend, a testament to the collective and resilient OPEN spirit of New York.. 

What is OHNY Weekend? On October 16-17, New Yorkers (and visitors) can have unparalleled access to the places, people, projects, systems and ideas that define New York as dozens of partners open their doors to participants. This citywide festival of design, culture, and infrastructure will unlock 150 sites across the five boroughs, inviting New Yorkers to explore everything from Midtown skyscrapers to Brownsville libraries to Grand Concourse Art Deco architecture.

SIGN UP!!  You can participate IRL or join a virtual tour.  See the city from a new perspective – open your eyes, hearts, minds, doors and experience New York in ways you never knew.

There is a great kick-off event for supporters (and I know the food is going to be great!)  I invite you to lend your support to OHNY Weekend as a festival sponsor or by purchasing tickets to the Launch Party, taking place on October 14 on the rooftop of the Stavros Niarchos Foundation Library in Midtown.

Let’s share the secrets of OHNY and New York with the rest of the world!


By Great Performances

Each year, we’re honored to plan and cater The Sylvia Center’s summer benefit at Katchkie Farm. Over the years, the event has evolved, most recently becoming a farm-to-picnic-table (or blanket!) celebration in the Learning Garden at the farm. This year, 250 people attended and were able to enjoy the beauty of our farm from the fields full of summer vegetables and sunflowers to the Learning Garden framed by the rolling Catskills on one side and woods on the other.

With a menu curated by Chef Georgette Farkas and featuring ingredients sourced directly from the fields, it was a delicious event that highlighted the best of summer flavors. Read on to learn more about the experience. To donate to The Sylvia Center and learn more about future events, visit their website by clicking here.

It was a beautifully warm, sunny day in July, and one could feel the anticipation and excitement as guests walked along the path (or rode in one of the golf carts!) flanked by fields of sunflowers. As guests registered for the event and bought raffle tickets, happy chatter turned to exclamations and warm hugs as familiar faces were spotted and friends reunited. The Sylvia Center Executive Director Jonathan Cetnarski was on hand along with CEO and Founder of Great Performances, Liz Neumark, to meet guests and towards the registration table Guests were greeted at the registration table by The Sylvia Center team, including Executive Director Jonathan Cetnarski, and by Liz Neumark, CEO and Founder of Great Performances. After registering and joining the raffle, they proceeded to the food tent where they picked up their picnic bags and headed to the Learning Garden where there was plenty of space to spread out and enjoy their feast. Drinks were served under the shade of the Pavilion, which also hosts the pizza oven we used last year. This year, Rafi Bildner brought his Hilltown Hot Pies pizza truck and served his pizzas – always a fan favorite!


Delicious food highlighting the best that summer in New York has to offer was packed in cooler bags that guests picked up on their way to their tables. The menu included fresh, flavorful foods like NY Collection of Cheese & Charcuterie, Dried Apricots, Assorted Flatbreads; Gazpacho; Parker House Rolls (cultured local butter); Sweet Pepper Roast Chicken (cippolini onions, smoked paprika aioli); Corn and Cherry Tomato Succotash (edamame, swiss chard, feta cheese, roasted sunflower seeds, lemon-basil miso vinaigrette); Roasted Sweet Yellow Peppers (cherry tomatoes, black olives, capers, anchovy, yellow raisins, basil); Watermelon & Radish Salad – featuring both watermelon and watermelon radishes – (kale, cucumber, black beans, ginger lime vinaigrette); Lemon Grilled Baby Zucchini (whole wheat apricot couscous); our fan favorite Eggplant Chermoula; and Peach – Blackberry Crumble Bars.

As a special thank you to our guests, Farmer Jon picked cherry tomatoes fresh from the fields and we paired them with a savory basil parmesan pesto.

Rafi Bildner debuted his Hilltown Hot Pies pizza truck and served made-to-order Neapolitan style pizza with his own artisanal, wild-yeasted dough featuring produce picked from the farm and local cheeses and meats.

About Great Performances

Founded in 1980 as an event waitress service for women in the arts who wanted a flexible way to supplement their income, GP has grown into one of the country’s leading catering and events companies In addition to working with partners like the Plaza Hotel, Jazz at Lincoln Center, the Brooklyn Academy of Music, the Brooklyn Museum, the Apollo Theater, and Wave Hill, Great Performances promotes sustainable food practices through its organic farm in Upstate New York and offers emerging artist scholarships to service staff.

In 2019, Great Performances moved to The Bronx. Six months later, Covid-19 hit New York and the entire city shut down. GP transformed its kitchens, almost overnight, to begin providing meals for those most in need: senior citizens, the food insecure, and hospital and healthcare workers on the front lines of the pandemic.

As New York is reopening, Great Performances opened the doors to its new kitchens in Mott Haven where it creates delicious food for a wide variety of events. Click here to see some sample menus.

GP is actively looking for new people to join their team. If you’re looking or know someone who is, check out our most recent listings or contact HR.

Governor's Island

Learn more about Governor's Island

The Dish Blog

Watermelon Cucumber Tonic

Eat, Drink & Be Literary With BAM

cucumber watermelon tonic

Pro Tip:

Taste your watermelon. A pinch of salt can help bring out the flavors and, if it’s not sweet enough, feel free to add a pinch of sugar, especially if you’re going to combine it with soda water.

Great Performances has long partnered with BAM and the National Book Foundation on Eat, Drink & Be Literary, a unique series for readers, writers, and diners. Now adapted for the digital space, the series welcomes world-renowned authors Sigrid Nunez, Tayari Jones, and Luis Alberto Urrea for these one-night-only live events. Find out more about the series here.

Great Performances will be crafting a new cocktail each month and we’ll be sharing two versions: a cocktail and a zero-proof cocktail so that everyone can enjoy! Cheers!


Although this Watermelon Cucumber Tonic is a bit more complicated than some other cocktails, we think it’s worth it to prepare the juice from scratch. As a shortcut, you can purchase watermelon juice and use Hendricks Gin to get some of the cucumber flavors. Adding a garnish of a slice of cucumber and a sprig of mint will bring the cocktail together nicely.


  • 6 cups cubed seeded watermelon, divided

  • 1/4 cup mint leaves, divided

  • 1/4 cup fresh lemon juice, divided

  • 1 English cucumber, peeled, sliced, and divided (about 3 cups)

  • 2 1/2 cups tonic water, chilled

  • 1 1/4 cups of gin


  • Mint leaves
  • Cucumber slices
  • Watermelon wedges


  1. Prepare the Watermelon Cucumber Juice. Combine half of each watermelon, mint, lemon juice, and cucumber in a blender or food processor. Line a fine sieve with 4 layers of cheese-cloth, allowing cheesecloth to extend over edges. Strain watermelon mixture through prepared sieve over a bowl, reserving juice mixture. Gather the edges of the cheesecloth together. Holding cheesecloth over sieve, squeeze to release the remaining juice mixture. Discard solids. Repeat procedure with remaining watermelon, mint, juice and cucumber.
  2. Make the Cocktail. Combine 2 1/2 cups juice mixture with the tonic water and gin, stirring well to combine. Pour over ice and garnish with mint, cucumber, and watermelon wedges.


If you’ve already prepared the watermelon cucumber juice for the above version, you can use any remaining here. Alternatively, you could purchase watermelon juice from the grocery store. Adding a garnish of a slice of cucumber and a sprig of mint will bring the drink together nicely.


  • 6 cups cubed seeded watermelon, divided

  • 1/4 cup mint leaves, divided

  • 1/4 cup fresh lemon juice, divided

  • 1 English cucumber, peeled, sliced, and divided (about 3 cups)

  • 2 1/2 cups tonic water or soda water, chilled


  • Mint leaves
  • Cucumber slices
  • Watermelon wedges


  1. Prepare the Watermelon Cucumber Juice. Combine half of each watermelon, mint, lemon juice, and cucumber in a blender or food processor. Line a fine sieve with 4 layers of cheese-cloth, allowing cheesecloth to extend over edges. Strain watermelon mixture through prepared sieve over a bowl, reserving juice mixture. Gather the edges of the cheesecloth together. Holding cheesecloth over sieve, squeeze to release the remaining juice mixture. Discard solids. Repeat procedure with remaining watermelon, mint, juice and cucumber.
  2. Make the Cocktail. Combine 2 1/2 cups juice mixture with the tonic water or soda water, stirring well to combine. Pour over ice and garnish with mint, cucumber, and watermelon wedges.