Working the party
For an exhibitor introducing a new product at the Food & Wine Magazine Classic, the three-day event is one party, one festive event after another. And sometimes that isn’t exactly a party.For Lyndie Clement, a Texan who launched her Chimichurri sauce – a concoction of parsley, olive oil, garlic and vinegar – in November, Food & Wine has been a classic case. It’s been schmooze and serve, load and unload, some missing luggage here, some good fortune there – and the obligatory stop at that hotspot of Food & Wine week dining, McDonald’s. Here’s a look at Clement’s travels from Austin to Aspen and back.Monday: Things start on a note of good luck. A friend of Clement’s, an Austin restaurateur, offers to schlep her load – four large coolers with 16 gallons of mayonnaise, 15 cases of Chimichurri and 2,800 two-ounce tasting cups – to Aspen on his motorcycle trailer. For free. “That saves a lot on shipping. Being a cottage industry, every penny counts,” said Clement, who is all-Texas in fringed leather pants, oversized hoop earrings and cowboy hat and boots.
Wednesday: Fortunes turn as Lyndie’s friend and Food & Wine helper can’t get out of work on time. They make the flight to Denver, barely, but in Denver, Clement discovers that someone has taken her suitcase. Pushing on, Clement drives to Arvada to pick up the 250 pounds of cooked shrimp she had ordered. After a scare – no one seems to know about such an order – the shrimp are found. Three girls, seven suitcases and 250 pounds of shrimp make it to Aspen at 11 p.m. After picking up Clement’s found suitcase at the airport, they head right for the J-Bar. The three pretty ladies with big Texas accents have no trouble persuading the bartender to fix them burgers, even though they’ve missed last call at the kitchen.
Thursday: Clement has forbidden her friends from coming near the Grand Tasting Tent, directing them to the mountains, trails and beds. The prohibition on work doesn’t apply to the boss, who arrives at the tent at 11:30 – three hours before load-in time. Still, she unloads and decorates till mid-afternoon. At 2:30, she is overcome: “I was tired. And when you look out that tent door, you see McDonald’s. So I got a cheeseburger and fries. You probably shouldn’t put that in the story.”Nourished and refreshed, Clement unloads Freshies – a drink mix distributed by some friends – from one truck to another, in preparation for a pair of parties. It takes her attention away from Chimichurri, but as others have helped her, she’s happy to pitch in. “It’s kind of all a blur. People are calling, akin, can you do this, can you do that?” Besides, Thursday night is a chance to catch her breath with margaritas at La Cocina and a burger (number three of the trip, for those scoring at home) at Jimmy’s. “That was all for fun,” she said.Friday: Up at 8, and right to the Grand Tasting, even though the tent doesn’t open till 11:30. “I’ve only done one other festival and I didn’t know how it works,” she said. “And this is the biggest, most prestigious festival, so … .” For two hours she serves and talks about her product – “It’s super-healthy,” she notes – but the time flies. “It’s fun for me. I love talking to people. So it doesn’t feel like work.”On to Kenichi for the Texas Outlaw party, which she has paid to co-sponsor. It’s two hours of “a lot of schmoozing, a lot of drinking.” Friday night, again, is for the good sort of partying, this time at Matsuhisa.
Saturday: It hadn’t happened yet, but she expected pretty much the same as Friday. The only difference is the party: This time it’s the Snapa party, where she will chat up both Freshies and Chimichurri. “Just one bite and you’ll say, “Chimi some more,” she said, quoting her own slogan. “It’s cheesy, but people remember it.”Sunday: The Grand Testing ends at 2 p.m., pretty much marking the end of the Classic. But it’s not quite a rest day for Clement. “We have to get up at 4:30 or 5 and get the house picked up because our flight leaves Denver at 7:30. So we have Stacy pick us up at the Grand Tasting and drive us right to Denver.”
With the zeal of a new entrepreneur, Clement finds the effort well worth her while. “There’s two schools of thought on the trade shows,” she said. “Some people think you get nothing out of it. But we just came out, we have nowhere to go but up. Every single person who finds out about us, every bottle we sell is a step in the right direction. We’re building brick by brick and this is a way to get people talking about it.”Stewart Oksenhorn’s e-mail address is email@example.com