(Bob Bryan, Michele Imbasciani, Chef Morimoto, and Mike Bryan)
Tennis fans who want to get up close and personal with some of the top names in the sport along with several celebrity chefs should check out the Citi Taste of Tennis event. Now celebrating its 20th anniversary, this unique gathering of players and chefs is the brainchild of Judi Lerner and her daughter Penny, a dynamic marketing duo from AYS Sports Marketing who have a mutual love for the game and food. This year’s event will be held Aug. 22 at Cipriani 42nd Street in Manhattan and will feature such top players as John Isner, Sloane Stephens, Bob and Mike Bryan, Sam Querrey and Jelena Ostapenko. Featured chefs include Richard Blais, a recurring judge on Bravo’s “Top Chef,” and Lori Shubert, a cake artist and cupcake sushi creator. The attendees will receive the unique opportunity to interact with players while experiencing some of New York’s finest food.
Nearly 25 years ago, the Lerners recognized a trend in the professional tennis market that many of the younger athletes were coming from countries outside of the United States. The Lerners reasoned that these players must travel with little information on where to fuel up and eat when the day is done. As foodies themselves, the Lerners noticed that players were missing out on the fantastic cuisine that each U.S. region had to offer. Enter Citi Taste of Tennis – a meaningful opportunity to introduce these international athletes to wonderful local eats.
(Judi Lerner, Serena Williams, Venus Williams, Penny Lerner)
The Lerners began bringing these restaurants directly to the athletes – presenting regional chefs to share their unique perspectives and creations. “The series also provides the players with a voice to the American media,” Judi explains. “It’s become an outlet for sponsors to be seen outside of the actual tennis tournament.” The Citi Taste of Tennis series includes events in Indian Wells, NYC, Miami and Washington DC — each city offering a number of immersive activations including inspired and diverse cuisine served by the athletes themselves, music and dancing, photo ops and sponsored interactive stations.
Specializing in creating unique experiences, Judi and Penny pride their brand in successful engagement, hospitality, consultation and thinking differently. Citi Taste of Tennis delves into far more than just the game itself – their culinary talent and celebrity attendance aids in elevating the brand and spreading the positive affair. “We want our celebrities to feel like normal people and our normal people to feel like celebrities,” Penny shares “That’s our way of leveling the playing field and providing a truly exceptional experience.”
Their business/personal relationship garners a respect and support in ways that others could not. “Any disagreement always ends with the betterment of the company in mind,” notes Penny. “And if something goes awry or an exciting development comes through, I know that my mother is always there for me, from tissue box to celebratory cocktail.”
In terms of being a women-owned and run business, the two have found both struggles and victories respectively. “Tennis is an old industry,” Penny explains. “If they say no, you say yes and do it without them.” Another piece of advice the two share is to find other powerful and like-minded women to lift you up. This mindset is what brought forth Taste of Tennis’ title partner, Citi. As another female-operated company, Citi also places an emphasis on hard work and resilience in establishing the stepping stones to success.
(Alexander Zverev and DJ Madlinx)
The world’s greatest players, famous for their powerful serves, will be serving up something completely different on Aug. 22 at at Cipriani 42nd Street; namely, great food and a good time.
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