Tuesday, March 15, 2011

The Single Most Awesome Charity Event

If there is one charity food event to go to in your lifetime, The Great Chefs Event in Philadelphia is it. The joint partnership of Alex's Lemonade Stand and the Vetri Foundation for Children has put together a lineup of chef talent that aspires to match the tour de force that is Alex Scott's legacy (please read this link to hear about this amazing story).

As these charity events typically go, the venues are usually outdoors and at the mercy of the summer weather. Could be warm, could be hot. Could be dry, could be pouring rain. Tents and port-a-potties are standard fare for these large events. When decided to go TGCE last year, we weren't quite sure how this was going to go over in the notorious Philly heat and humidity.

In this case the venue adds to aura of this event, rather than detracting from it. First and foremost, it's indoors and air conditioned! Secondly, the Urban Outfitters headquarters is one of the coolest building interiors you will ever see, old jib cranes have been turned into lights, industrial artwork is scattered throughout, and the the remnants of its past have been incorporated into the decor. The designers from Urban Outfitters and Anthropologie (who's studios are in the adjacent buidings) make for a wonderful experience.

This year's chef lineup is very similar to last year's with some additions and subtractions:

*new chefs for this year are highlighted in orange

  • Robert Aiken - Dandelion, Philadelphia, PA
  • Kiong Bahn - Twenty Manning, Philadelphia, PA
  • Franklin Becker - Abe & Arthur's, New York, NY
  • Jonathan Benno - Lincoln, New York, NY
  • John Besh - Besh Restaurant Group
  • Chris Bianco - Pizzeria Bianco / Pane Bianco / Bar Bianco, Phoenix, AZ
  • Marco Canora - Hearth, New York, NY
  • Andrew Carmellini - Locanda Verde, New York, NY
  • Jennifer Carroll - 10 Arts, Philadelphia, PA
  • Tom Colicchio - Colicchio & Sons / Top Chef, New York, NY
  • Gina DePalma - Babbo, New York, NY
  • Vinny Dotolo & Jon Shook - Animal Restaurant, Los Angeles, CA
  • Andrea Forcella - Ol Fa, Bergamo, Italy
  • Paolo Frosio - Frosio, Italy
  • Jose Garces - Garces Restaurant Group, Philadelphia, PA
  • Suzanne Goin & David Lentz - Lucques / A.O.C. / Tavern / Hungry Cat, Los Angeles, CA
  • Gabrielle Hamilton - Prune Restaurant, New York, NY
  • Paul Kahan - Blackbird / Avec / Publican / Big Star, Chicago, IL
  • Mark Ladner - Del Posto, New York, NY
  • Barbara Lynch - Barbara Lynch Gruppo, Boston, MA
  • Lachlan Mackinnon-Patterson - Frasca Food & Wine / Frasca Caffe / Pizzeria Locale, Boulder, CO
  • Joseph Manzare - Zuppa / Globe /Tres Agaves, San Francisco, CA
  • Matt Molina & Nancy Silverton - Osteria Mozza / Pizzeria Mozza, Los Angeles, CA
  • Ken Oringer - Clio / Uni Sashimi Bar / Coppa, Boston, MA
  • Marco Rossi & Francesco Cereda - Osteria Le Cantine D, Bergamo, Italy
  • Aaron Sanchez - Food Network Star / Centrico
  • Jonathon Sawyer - The Greenhouse Tavern, Cleveland, OH
  • Mindy Segal - Mindy's HotChocolate Restaurant and Dessert Bar, Chicago, IL
  • Michael Solomonov - Zahav / Percy Street, Philadelphia, PA
  • Hiro Sone - Terra Restaurant / Ame, Napa Valley, CA
  • Daniel Stern - Midatlantic / R2L, Philadelphia, PA
  • Michael Schwartz - Michael's Gourmet Food & Drink, Miami, Fl
  • David Swinghamer - Shake Shack, New York, NY
  • Michael Symon - Lola / Lolita / Roast /Bar Symon /BSpot, Cleveland, OH
  • Sue Torres - Suenos, New York, NY
  • Jonathan Waxman - Barbuto, New York, NY
  • Rocco Whalen - Fahrenheit Restaurant / Rocky River Wine Bar, Cleveland, OH
It's great to see the Cleveland representation with Rocco, Syman, and the newly added Sawyer. Also added is one of my faves native Clevelander Andrew Carmellini! While most of the people listed actually attended the event Michael Symon and John Besh couldn't make it last year, and sent guys from their restaurants instead.

The thing that seems to be the big sticking point for out-of-towners is that it's held on a Tuesday rather than a Saturday. It actually seems to work out better because people don't seem to drink as much as they would on a weekend night, which typically leads to some pretty bad scenes.

Speaking of alcohol, the representation from local brewers is nothing to sneeze at either. While guys like Sierra Nevada were prominently featured to the front of the entrance, I found what I think is one of the best craft brewers on the east coast - Captain Lawrence. Armed with a few bottles of Golden Delicious, owner Scott Vaccarro got me hooked on his superbly crafted beers. Joe Bastianich and other vintners were offering up their wines as well.

Top to bottom, this event is first class. What better way to honor the legacy of such an amazing little girl than to put together an impressive event like this? If this is the sort of thing you can get away for (and can afford at $300 a person), you have to go at least once. We combine a trip to NYC the Saturday and Sunday before and attend the epic Big Apple BBQ Block Party in Madison Square.

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