Kate Levenstien, a New Jersey native, is a lifelong foodie with an insatiable appetite for adventure. Passionate about creating big, bold, one-of-a-kind experiences, the Bacon and Beer Classic is her brainchild.
Before the Bacon and Beer
In 2013, after having worked at LivingSocial and for Oprah at Harpo Productions, Levenstien took her background in event management to the world of food and drink. She launched her event management agency Cannonball Productions at the age of 26, which features the sellout Bacon and Beer Classic. The Classic hits cities including New York, Chicago, Seattle, Santa Clara, Denver, and Minneapolis. (You can check it out in NYC in September 2019.)
When she isn’t busy making bacon and beer lovers’ dreams come true, Levenstien loves exploring the Big Apple. You can find her listening to live music in Brooklyn, seeking out the best ramen shops across Manhattan, and cheering on her alma mater team, the Wisconsin Badgers, from her favorite dive bar. In a recent interview, we learned a lot about Levenstien, her Garden State connections, and her fascinating business for food lovers.
Meet Kate Levenstien
JERSEY BITES: Tell us a little about where you were born and raised.
KATE LEVENSTIEN: I was born and raised in Basking Ridge, NJ. It was a really special place to grow up—my friends and I would take the train into NYC when we were old enough but we also had backyards that connected to one another so we could play manhunt! I lived close enough to each school, so I would ride my bike with my neighbors and enjoyed being in the suburbs.
Have you had any mentors?
The older I get I realize how much I admire my parents. My mom founded and was the CEO at a corporate relocation company in Bernardsville and my dad was a lawyer in Morristown. They worked incredibly hard when I was young, but made the time for me. My dad even coached each of my soccer and lacrosse teams until high school. They both loved to cook and we had family dinners every night. We would make everything from Chinese food, pizza, fish on the grill and huge garbage salads. My parents are still some of the best chefs I know. Our favorite spot to go out to dinner was Tsuki, a sweet Japanese spot in Bernardsville. I learned how to use chopsticks there and credit it with my love for Asian food.
You live in Jersey City, which has quite a growing food scene. Do you have any favorite restaurants or eateries there?
Yes! My husband and I just moved there in November, and we are so lucky to live one block away from La Taqueria Downtown (the grab-and-go spot at 354 Grove St.) I still haven’t been to their sit-down restaurant, but I think this place is just my speed. They play ’80s movies on the TV, let me order in my broken Spanish, and have the freshest salsa, made daily. You cannot go wrong when you order—the carnitas and bistec tacos are my favorite, their margaritas are natural—and strong!—and the soups are smoky and unforgettable.
We also eat Vietnamese every week and love New Thanh Hoai. I had a hard time finding good pho in NYC, actually, and we’ve loved its therapeutic effect in the wintertime.
Why do you think that your events have appealed to guests nationwide?
Who doesn’t love bacon and beer? Or taco and tequila? Everyone is a foodie, and we want to bring them innovative dishes created by local chefs. Bacon and tacos can be served in countless ways and people want to taste the sweet, savory, and spicy options. When I started these concepts, I wanted the samples to be just the right size so you could try each and every thing. I wanted everything to be included in the ticket so [people] didn’t have to pay at each booth for a regular-sized portion. People can just taste, discuss, and enjoy!
Why do you think the metro area is such a top destination for foodies?
There is always something new and exciting happening here. People are willing to travel and spend a lot of money on food now, especially if it’s exclusive or Instagrammable. So while the metro area is expensive, it provides people with access to some of the most diverse and high quality foods in the world. Where can you eat the best bagel [and] spread for breakfast, Peruvian arepas for lunch, and omakase for dinner?
Any special plans for the future that you’d like to share?
We have a big contingency in in Jersey City and Hoboken, so maybe we’ll have to bring one of our festivals to this side of the Hudson!
Photos courtesy of Kate Levenstien.