By Linda O’Flanagan
Reality television takes another bite out of the real estate biz this week with the launch of the web show “What’s Cooking in Real Estate?”
The brainchild of networking impresario Judy Sahagian, the show blends two of the industry’s key ingredients — gossip and food — to create a program that producers hope will ultimately be picked up by cable bigs like HGTV or the Food Network.
Each week, Sahagian will invite a trio of real estate personalities to join her and some top New York City foodies to cook up a three course lunch (that’s served to audience members) while chit-chatting about all things real estate.
At a live taping last week, guests Faith Hope Consolo, chairman of retail sales and leasing at Prudential Douglas Elliman, architect Glen Coben of Glen & Company, and interior designer Gail Green put together a mouthwatering menu with experts Phil Quilter, Nadia S. Day and ‘Chocolate Lady’ Lee Perrotta.
While Consolo whipped up a mushroom paneer appetizer with the help of restaurateur Quilter, the audience discovered that, not only can the Queen of Retail cook (when she has professional help!) she can consult on the go.
Quilter, who owns a quartet of successful city eateries, including the Taj on West 21st Street, revealed that he’s hoping to open a fifth restaurant and sought Consolo’s advice on good locations.
In between spreading a mushroom pate on Indian flatbread, Consolo gave the Irish native credit for getting in ahead of the crowd in the Flatiron District, where Taj opened 11 years ago.
“Fashion always follows food,” said Consolo, “and that neighborhood has transitioned from a commercial area to a very residential area with a great office crowd.”
She told Quilter he couldn’t fail opening a new restaurant in Times Square. Noting that averaging asking rents are $500-$700 psf, Consolo said, “All of the restaurants do well there — you just need a big check book!”
Next up, Coben partnered with spice expert Day to make the main course of a Thai chicken curry. Having created hospitality spaces for everyone from Mario Batali to Joe Bastianich, he’s currently working with the Wyndam Hotel Group’s TRYP Hotels on the interiors and restaurant space at 345 West 35th Street due to open this summer.
And while he wouldn’t name the chef, he did tease the What’s Cooking? audience with some advance news about an exciting new restaurant venture he’s working on with a “famous” Euro-chef. “It’s a very special project,” was all he’d say as he served up the entree to some 50 or so paying guests.
Preparing dessert were Gail Green, principal at Green & Company, and Lee Perrotta, otherwise known as The Chocolate Lady.
As the two bantered back and forth about the similarities between cake construction and interior design, Sahagian thanked the sponsors of the first of what will be five shows that will air once a week on LiveOpenHouse.TV, a real estate video production and hosting site.
While hoping to catch the eye of television executives, Sahagian said the concept of the show itself is what had inspired her. “I had always run restaurants but, when the downturn happened, I had to reinvent myself,” she said.
“Networking events saved my life and this is what “What’s Cooking in Real Estate?” is. It’s a chance to network with like-minded professionals while learning something you perhaps didn’t know and getting some fabulous recipe ideas.
“I always wanted to do something I’m passionate about and, by putting the two things together — cooking and networking — I’ve achieved that.”
For a seat in the audience, guests pay from $95 to $115, which will get them the three-course meal and networking event after the show. Each episode is recorded at the Sub-Zero / Wolf Showroom at 150 East 58th and can later be seen on and downloaded from LiveOpenHouse.TV. Check it out for youself tomorrow (Thursday, May 19) .
If you have an appetite for even more TV, The View-style panel at the ICSC expo in Las Vegas will see Consolo doing her best Barbara Walters impersonation during a Special Interest Group on May 22 at the Las Vegas Hilton.
Consolo will be joined by an all-star panel of retail and real estate leaders for a View-style debate about the state of the real estate industry. The audience will be able to question the panel during the session.
The indefatigable Consolo — who continues to clock up some of New York’s most talked about retail deals while appearing regularly on television and fulfilling a prolific speaking schedule — is upbeat about her budding television career.
“I originally wanted to be an actress, and I suppose I never did lose that part of me that really wanted to be Susan Lucci,” she laughed.
She said she’s able to keep up her busy schedule thanks to a dedicated team. “ I have a team I can trust on both the deal-making side and research side. I’m very hands-on – make no mistake. But I also have built an organization of smart, talented, even funny people who can help me with the preparation. It really does take a village.”