For Zakary Pelaccio, it’s not enough to smell and taste good food.
He has to see it first — and see it up close.
That’s one reason the celebrity chef and co-founder of New York City’s trendy Fatty Crab and Fatty ’Cue restaurants will display his butcher’s skills at this weekend’s Saratoga Wine & Food Festival and Concours d’Elegance at the Saratoga Performing Arts Center.
The festival begins Friday with the Adirondack Road Tour and Gourmet Luncheon. The professionally led tour for auto rallyists will leave SPAC at 10 a.m. and travel Adirondack roads for a 12:30 p.m. culinary appointment at the Lake George Club.
The “Live On Stage Gala” also will be held Friday on the SPAC stage. Saturday’s “Grand Tasting” will include several events, beginning at 11 a.m. and running through early evening. An Angus beef burger bash will cap the evening at 7.
Sunday’s big event will be the 11 a.m. Southern-style brunch at Saratoga National Golf Course.
Prices for events are $175 for the stage gala; $85 for the grand tasting; $60 for the burger bash and $75 for the brunch.
Saratoga Wine & Food Festival and Concours D’Elegance
WHERE: Saratoga Performing Arts Center, Saratoga Springs
HOW MUCH: Events from $60-$175
MORE INFO: www.spac.org
The “Concours d’Elegance” will feature luxury automobiles on the SPAC grounds.
Pelaccio will be one of the stars of the food show. Master wine connoisseur Kevin Zraly and humorist and actor Mo Rocca are also in the mix.
The 39-year-old Pelaccio, who recently opened his Fish & Game restaurant in Hudson, plans to show culinary fans the anatomy of a pig. He’ll tell his audience what cuts can be used in the kitchen.
“With meat, part of our philosophy is to use the entire animal, so it’s total usage,” Pelaccio said in a recent telephone interview. “Whether you want to call it ‘nose-to-tail,’ I just call it ‘cooking.’
“I think what intimidates some people is taking apart the animal,” he added. “I have friends who have raised animals, they send it out to one of the processors for slaughter and those guys butcher it up and they send back this meat that’s been processed in a way you don’t really get the best of the animal.”
Pelaccio, also a proponent of urban foraging and Malaysian-inspired food, admits the demonstration might not be for the squeamish. But he feels people will learn something about their food by taking a look at his techniques.
“I think people need to have a connection to what it is they’re eating,” Pelaccio said. “Once you start to understand what you’re eating, you can work with natural foods, move away from processed foods. If you don’t understand what you’re eating, it’s almost like being removed from your body. I want to know what I’m putting in my body. Hopefully, I’m going to age well. So many people have dietary-related issues as they get older and I think part of that problem is not really understanding food.”
In a second seminar, Pelaccio will cook his fresh cuts.
“I think we’re going to smoke the pork loin, slice it very thin and probably serve it with some homemade mustard and probably some of our own pretzel bread that we bake in the restaurant,” Pelaccio said. “Another dish, I think I might do like a slow-roasted pork shoulder with fresh corn. Corn will still be in season, and the sweetness of the corn and the sweetness of the pork will be great. Probably some sweet chiles and fresh herbs and garlic, too.”
Pelaccio believes people want fresh foods on plates at home and at favorite restaurants. “I get inspired by being in touch with what’s going on. And in my industry, what’s going on to me is what’s coming out of the ground,” he said.
Trending: Set menus
He believes set menus are being used more and more in restaurants, and are favored by both chefs and customers.
“People will come in and they’ll eat what you’re serving, because they know you’re buying good product,” Pelaccio said. “So I think the curated experience is going to build and develop in the restaurant industry and the idea of ‘have it your way’ when you walk in as a customer, that’s going to die out. That’s not going to be with all the restaurants, but restaurants where people know the restaurateur and chef are responsible and they’re sourcing the highest quality ingredients they can find.”
Pelaccio, who cooks with his wife and co-chef, Jori Jayne Emde, said he’s done a bunch of food festivals over the years. “Some have been great, some have been not so great,” he said. “The people at Saratoga seem great, at SPAC, they seem fantastic. It’s a beautiful venue. I’m happy to be upstate. For me, it’s a little quieter. I’m expecting this to be a lot of fun.”
Becoming known as a celebrity chef is also a lot of fun — most of the time.
“For me, if my face is in the news or in the paper, and it helps bring business to the restaurant, I guess that’s a good thing,” Pelaccio said. “Maybe people expect more if you’re a celebrity — in my case, as my wife likes to say, semi-famous. Not the biggest name out there. It’s that and $5 gets me through the toll booth.”