Herb Karlitz, the CEO and founder of Karlitz & Company, and his team utilize their access into the culinary world through celebrity chefs, wine makers, and entertainment and for create seminal programs that resonate with their clients’ audiences and deliver ROI. Karlitz & Company’s services include creating and marketing world-class culinary events and festivals, managing star chefs and crafting corporate entertainment experiences. For nearly a quarter of a century, Karlitz & Company has produced globally recognized events, including Flavor! Napa Valley, The Chocolate Show, the Breeders’ Cup, the New York City Wine & Food Festival, The Atlantic City Food & Wine Festival, Vegas Uncork’d and is now working on the 2015 Harlem EatUp! festival with Marcus Samuelsson.. Corporate clients include Merrill Lynch, American Express, Ernest & Young, Chase, and The Food Network. Karlitz has personally supported many non-profits, including City Harvest, the New York Food Bank, Share Our Strength, and The Humane Society of New York among others. For further information on Herb Karlitz and his team go to: http://www.karlitz.com
How did you get into the events marketing industry?
I created the entertainment and event marketing practice at Burson-Marsteller, at the time the largest public relations agency in the world.
What past events are you most proud of and how did they become successes?
The one I just launched (with pal/celebrity chef Marcus Samuelsson) – Harlem eatup! With President Bill Clinton, Mayor de Blasio and others. Other food & wine festivals we successfully launched, such as the New York Festival and Flavor! Napa Valley – both started from a simple idea and mushroomed into great multi-day events. Other big events in my past I am proud of include: a free Stevie Wonder concert in the middle of Times Square for a corporate client; Hands Across America (remember “we are the world” and USA for Africa?); the reunion of the rat pack concert tour with Frank Sinatra, Sammy Davis Jr. and Dean Martin for another corporate client; and a host of others.
Why did you choose the culinary field over all the rest for your events and what advice would you give a start-up planning a festival?
Three of my passions are food, wine and cooking. My parents were in the restaurant business when they were alive. My other interest is entertainment – mostly movies and music. I’m lucky in that I found a way to marry my interests and passions with my job. Celebrity chefs’ cooking has become major entertainment. Advice? Think big; be creative; then find someone who can filter all of that down into something that is still exciting, yet manageable. And, of course, it’s all in the details and organization.
How important are partnerships/co-branding for hosting a large event?
Relationships are critical. Corporate partnerships are critical for providing effective platforms for cross promotions between sponsors and events/tickets. Branding is becoming less important, unless it’s a relatively unknown brand that needs the exposure. Today, it’s more about the exclusive access and one-of-a-kind experiences we can create for our sponsors to offer their best customers and prospects. Customers care about what you can do for them, not whether your logo is plastered on a wall.
Favorite travel destination?
Tuscany, Paris and Barcelona as well as the Outer Boroughs of New York since there are so many finds and little hole-in-the-wall places that no one knows about – wherever there is amazing food, wine and friendly people!
I always try to see the glass half full, not half empty. And, be kind, respectful and straight up when dealing with people: over the long haul, it will provide you a solid reputation as a straight shooter, who people want to deal with because they know they can trust and rely on you.
What literature is on your bed stand?
Don’t know if I would call it literature – about three dozen magazines I’m behind in reading; a few wine books; Hank Haney’s the big miss (golf book); and, Lincoln by Doris Kearns (I love history and philosophy)
What’s next for Karlitz?
Not sure – which is just fine: we have a lot of projects we’re incubating. When the timing is right, they just seem to happen organically and unfold. The corporate consulting side of our business continues to grow: clients move to new companies and take us with them – the highest compliment they can pay an agency! And we retain working for the existing client as well because we’ve done a good job.
Tell us about Harlem eatup!
Harlem is such a fascinating, iconic place. I grew up in Brooklyn, another place with tons of character, history and personality. Harlem is right there -- rich in music, the arts and, food from all over the world; and the people are so nice and hospitable. Celebrity chef Marcus Samuelsson, who has a great restaurant in Harlem, the Red Rooster, and I decided it was time to celebrate what makes Harlem so great and shine a spot light on the people and places that has made Harlem a go-to destination in its own right. It’s continuing to evolve very rapidly. The festival will be a 3-4-day celebration with amazing culinary events, celebrity chefs and entertainers, who have relevance on the Harlem scene. That’s all I’m going to say for now, but my gut tells me this will be even bigger than i think it will be.