By Lisa Rozner

NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) — On the road to reopening, the New York City Wine and Food Festival returns Thursday for a long weekend of tasty events.

It’s one of the first major culinary festivals to return in-person in the state.

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The famous French onion soup burger from chef Paul Denamiel of Le Rivage along Restaurant Row is going to get a lot of attention Thursday night.

Denamiel is one of more than 20 chefs competing in the New York City Wine and Food Festival’s “Burger Bash” competition being held on Pier 86 outside the Intrepid Museum.

Last year, he was one of only a few chefs who competed virtually, a first for the festival’s 14-year history, and Thursday, he’s hoping to win the Judges’ Choice Award for a third time.

“There are a lot of people that I’m looking forward to seeing that I haven’t seen in almost two years,” Denamiel told CBS2’s Lisa Rozner. “It opens up what we call at the restaurant business ‘the season,’ and this is when we start to get busy, we know that we’re back in action.”

The Burger Bash is one of around 70 events ranging from intimate dinners to oyster tastings being held Thursday through Sunday across the city.

Four hundred chefs are taking part.

Some safety measures include reducing event capacity by about a third, requiring full vaccination for guests and putting chefs behind protective plastic barriers.

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Organizers expect 27,000-30,000 people to attend.

“We really want to focus on the industry here that has been so badly hit,” said Lee Brian Schrager, the festival’s founder and executive director. “Chefs are very giving people and really what it means is we are back.”

All proceeds go to the Food Bank of New York and the nonprofit God’s Love We Deliver, which brings home-cooked nutritious meals to people too sick to cook for themselves.

Denamiel, who worked in the restaurant since he was 12, stayed open throughout the pandemic, even when the Theater District around him shut down. He says defeat was never an option.

“New York is back, New York is hungry, and the Food and Wine Festival is here to feed everyone,” he said.

The chef and his team will be making 1,500 French onion soup burgers at the event, so everyone can have a taste.

Denamiel says his father was a longtime New York restaurateur and told him to never put a burger on the menu — so he did it the next day. Now, even his dad admits it was a good choice.

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For more information on tickets to the festival, visit nycwff.org.