ORLANDO — The menu sounds extravagant, and tough to beat: roasted Venison Lion with celery root puree. Porcini-crusted Filet Mignon. Braised Short Ribs with Truffled Grits. Seared Day Boat Scallop and Lobster Croquette.
The list goes on and on, and includes an item by Primo, the Mediterranean restaurant at the Grand Lakes Resort, which is bringing along Peekeytoe Crab Gougere with a Florida avocado crema and heirloom tomato soup.
If that doesn’t get most people to feel their mouth watering, it might help that Primo’s top Chef de Cuisine, Gilberto Ramirez, was quick to note that “The key to cooking is to respect the food and take care of the ingredients — and make it with love.”
This afternoon, Primo hosted a group of people eager to sample foods that will be on an upcoming menu, prompting Michele Plant to say to the guests, “Feel free to continue eating — and indulging.” Virtually everyone did.
But if it sounds like an event reserved only for those with the heftiest bank accounts and thickest wallets, it’s actually a cause that helps the exact opposite: those most desperately in need of assistance.
“The money raised from this event goes to critical programs that fund shelters for children who have suffered abuse and people who are losing their homes,” said Carolyn Gosselin, president of Gosselin Inc.
Along with John Tomlinson, senior vice president and Florida manager of Wells Fargo Bank, Gosselin is co-chairing the 2011 Chef’s Gala, billed as “A tasteful way to make a difference.”
The event will be held on Saturday, May 21 from 6:45-10 p.m. at Epcot World Showcase, and the money raised from it benefits health and human service programs supported by Heart of Florida United Way that provide food, shelter and other services to Central Floridians in dire need.
Recognized as the region’s premier food and wine pairing charitable event, Chef’s Gala will feature meals from more than 20 of Central Florida’s top chefs and dining establishments, along with live music and a silent auction. Individual tickets start at $225 each, couple’s packages go for $400 each, and there are corporate packages with 10 tickets for $2,000.
Today the United Way held a media preview of the event, inviting in members of the press to sample some of the meals that will be served at Chef Gala, and — the organizers hope — help promote it.
“We really couldn’t do this event without the support of the media,” said Jill Hamilton, vice president of marketing and communications for Heart of Florida United Way.
“I want to say how critical the Chef’s Gala is to the United Way’s mission,” she added. “People are saying things are starting to get better. Well, we are not seeing that at United Way.”
The agency is averaging 18,000 calls a month from people in need of food and shelter, who fear losing their homes, or who have already lost everything and have nowhere else to turn, she said.
“Last month, the number one request was for housing assistance, so it still really is tough,” Hamilton said.
Gosselin said the organizers decided to reach out to the media because an agency like United Way puts its money into helping others, not public relations.
“It is so critically important to have media coverage of this event,” she said. “United Way does not spend a dime on advertising.”
It’s also a winning combination of a great event and an ideal way to help people, Gosselin added.
“I love the United Way,” she said. “I was really excited to be able to do it.”
The media preview was held at Primo, which brought together some of the chefs who will be cooking for those attending Chef’s Gala.
“This is a cool event. This is fun,” Tomlinson said. “It’s just a wonderful event, and you meet some great people. There are 24 chefs who go to this event. Most of them bring wine. There’s live music. There’s champagne.”
And for business owners, he added, “There’s also a great opportunity to give your clients something to do.”
Tomlinson noted that in 2010, the Chef’s Gala brought in $170,000 for United Way. This year, the co-chairs hope to top that amount.
“Ninety-five to 99 percent of this money goes directly to the community,” he said.
Plant, director of marketing and communications for United Way, said she hopes members of the press let the public know what they can expect if they buy tickets for the 2011 Chef’s Gala.
“I hope you enjoy,” she said. “This is a little taste of what to expect on the night of the gala.”
To buy tickets for the Chef’s Gala, call 407-429-2129, log on to www.chefsgala or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
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