When Bill Clinton was in his twenties, he lived a few years in the United Kingdom. When he flew home, he would take a bus from the airport to Harlem and walk the length of 125th street. May 14 through 17 was Harlem’s inaugural Harlem EatUp! Festival, and no one in the crowd was expecting to see President Clinton return on Saturday May 16. Standing on the stage in Morningside Park, Clinton said, “Harlem is about music, the churches and the small businesses. But nothing characterizes this neighborhood more than the food.”
And he was right. There was a palpable sense of surprised delight from the planners and attendees.
It’s rare that a food event has so many different goals: Celebrate the community, attract chef and diner attention from other parts of the city, offer education and guidance to culinary students and small business owners, all while shining a spotlight on restaurants and vendors new to cooking for a five-hour ticketed tasting event. But stakeholders from all sides of the equation seemed satisfied with the turnout, the management and content of the events.