Just prior to the start of the 2019 US Open, the event that has become a staple of the pre-tournament festivities, Citi Taste of Tennis, turned 20-years-old.
Citi Taste of Tennis celebrated two-decades of bringing food and tennis together as Cipriani 42nd St. in midtown Manhattan hosted the party, featuring stars of the tennis world and stars of the kitchen, with the event benefiting New York Junior Tennis & Learning.
“They’ve done such a great job over the years,” said Andy Roddick. “This is the 20th one here in New York City; I think I have been here for about 15 of them. It’s great to see what it’s become. It’s such a creative idea, to pair tennis players with celebrity chefs. They saw something that the rest of us didn’t.”
The “they” refers to AYS World, a woman-owned event management and marketing company started by Judi and Penny Lerner, who created the Citi Taste of Tennis event.
“The event has grown quite a bit from those early days when we had just one event and a couple hundred attendees, many of whom were friends and family we invited to help us fill the room,” recalls Penny Lerner. “We now host Citi Taste of Tennis events in Indian Wells, Miami, Washington, D.C. and New York City, and we entertain thousands of attendees throughout the year. From identifying emerging tennis players, chefs and entertainers, to researching the latest food trends, we are constantly innovating to ensure the Citi Taste of Tennis remains ahead of the curve.”
And two decades later, the event continues to be a favorite among both tennis players and chefs as the unofficial start of the US Open.
A highlight of this year’s event was tennis legends Serena and Venus Williams teaming up with chef Richard Blais for an onstage cooking competition, which resulted in the sisters tied for the best dish.
“As a fan of tennis and sports in general, to be able to hang out and mingle with some of the world’s greatest players keeps me coming back,” said Blais.
In addition to Roddick and the Williams sisters, the room was filled with tennis players such as Coco Gauff, Gael Monfils, Elina Svitolina, Daniil Medvedev, Monica Puig, Bethanie Mattek-Sands and many more, as well as former champion boxer Mike Tyson. The collection of celebrities sampled incredible cuisine including truffle gnocchi by Annise Hernandez-Scott of Davio's, "nuclear" green gazpacho with almond pesto courtesy of Kerry Heffernan's Grand Banks, sushi from Chef Morimoto, and tennis ball-shaped cupcakes from Patisserie Chanson.
“I love food, but I also like to have a good time, and Citi Taste of Tennis does a really good job with that,” said Puig. “As you can see, I learned some new skills tonight. You learn something new every day, and I definitely learned how to make sushi tonight.
It’s such a good mix. You have the beauty that is New York City, combined with the great food showcasing the great chefs from here and around the world. It’s the whole package and I’m really excited to be here.”
Citi Taste of Tennis has continued to grow each year over the last two decades, and it will be exciting to see what’s next for the event series as we head into 2020.