Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Event Recap: 2014 Chef Gala

On Saturday night, "R" and I had the chance to get all dressed up and attend the 2014 Chef Gala at the Cleveland Museum of Art to benefit Autism Speaks.
The evening kicked off with a Cocktail Reception and Cleveland Chef Tasting in the main atrium of the museum. Guests wandered through the chef stations, sampling dishes like Icarian Salad with raw vegan Greek dressing, served with a raw vegan gluten free kalamata cracker from Chef Anna Harouvis from Anna in the Raw/Good to Go Cafe.
Her food was as gorgeous as she was that night, and a refreshing and light summery bite.

Other favorites of ours included the Goat Cheese Tart from Chef Chris Hodgson of Driftwood Catering.
Bison Tartare with duck egg gribiche, shiso puree, and spiced salt from Chef Jeff Jarrett of AMP 150.
Scallop Crudo from Chef Fabio Salerno of Lago.
A pleasant surprise was from Chef Dion Tsevdos from The Cheese Shop (one of my favorite stands at the West Side Market), who gave us a Goat Cheese Sunday, and one of my favorite bites of the evening. We took seconds, and "R" stole a third later on!
I could go on, and on, and on...

We enjoyed almost everything that we sampled at the event, with the exception of the The Doughgirl's Tomato Cucumber Jam. The shockingly sweet bite was too much for me.

Once the Reception ended, the Interactive Dinner Preparation by Cleveland-native Michael Symon and Mario Batali (co-hosts of The Chew on ABC) began on the main stage.
The two celebrity chefs have great chemistry together, bantering and laughing through cooking four courses on stage, and the smells were intoxicating (even in our second-level seating). My only real complaint of the evening? The cooking demo was not projected, so if you weren't in the sponsor seating, it was hard to stay focused on the chefs. The demo lasted for two hours, which was way too long to just "listen" to them cook, and not truly see what they were doing. This element was new to the reformatted event, so I hope that they correct this for the next event (it will be held every other year). It would only help to further engage the rest of the attendees. One thing that I did love about the celebrity chef demo was that all of the "Tasting Ticket" (a.k.a. General Admission) guests were able to sample small plates of each course. We were able to snag the first one by tipping a server to bring plates upstairs for us. Then she disappeared, and we had to nab the third and fourth courses downstairs from the tasting stations as we wrapped up the evening. It appears that we missed a tasty second course of pasta.

About 700 guests attended the event, and it raised $250,000 for the organization. $26,000 of that was from the silent auction, which included some great dining packages from the participating chefs, experience packages, jewelry, tickets to Cleveland attractions and events, and much more. They also live auctioned off the 16 seats on-stage during the cooking demonstration, raising $18,800 from that. Just, wow.

Overall, it was a special evening with fantastic food and atmosphere. The museum made for such a breathtaking backdrop, and the Cleveland and celebrity chefs outdid themselves. If you'd like to learn more about Autism Speaks, please visit their website. If you missed the Chef Gala, there are other ways that you can give to this organization.

Disclosure: I was provided with four Tasting Tickets to the Chef Gala, in exchange for hosting a ticket giveaway. I was not asked to post an event recap, and chose to do so on my own. All opinions stated are 100% my own.