Local Chefs Showcase Talent for Charity
Local chefs cooked up everything from mac and cheese to braised pork cheeks Monday evening as part of a popular charity fundraiser.
About 20 chefs took part in the 12th annual Chefs on Stage, preparing prepare their own recipes in front of a big crowd to benefit a charity. While some chefs have been coming to the event since its creation, a couple are just seeing their first action.
Duke Gastiger has been executive chef at Spats Cafe and Speakeasy for quite awhile, but he was one of the rookies at Chefs on Stage.
"I've been threatening to do it for years," Gastiger said. "This year I finally did it. This is an event I would want to come to myself, not just send one of my cooks to."
Gastiger likes to get involved with as many local charitable culinary events as possible, and that people like the opportunity to actually come up and talk to the chefs rather than always have them behind closed kitchen doors. He says he would like to meet his patrons more often, and that this event gives him the opportunity.
Paul Kendeffy of Zola New World Bistro also enjoys the chance to interact with other chefs rather than just being in the kitchen the whole time. Kendeffy, who has been coming to the event for eight years, says there are not to many culinary events like Chefs on Stage in the area.
"There are so little chef events in the area,"Kendeffy says. "There isn't much chance to get together and do these sort of things, so its nice to have this event."
Kendeffy says there isn't much competition in the event since the chefs don't win any prizes and no one judges the food.
"Everyone does their own thing," Kendeffy says. "We all help each other. [Cooking] isn't as egotistical as it was in the '80's."
Zac Lorber, sous chef at Penn State Altoona, admits there is a little sense of healthy competition among the chefs, as they all do the same culinary events together.
"This is probably the premiere showpiece chef event in the region," says Lorber, who has been doing the event for three years now. "And it's always been a good cause."
Each year the event helps a different charity. This year, proceeds from the event are going to the Centre County Women's Resource Center's Child Access Center.
The Child Access Center came into being two years ago and serves as a safe place for custody exchanges. The center was created following the murder of Jodi Barone in 2007 by her estranged husband. She was gunned down during a custody exchange in a Sheetz parking lot in Mill Hall. After the shooting, Barone's estranged husband took his own life.
Centre County Judge Thomas Kistler spearheaded the effort to create a safe place for custody exchanges in the wake of the event.
Last year, Chefs on Stage raised $55,000 for Strawberry Fields.
Harrison Schailey of Harrison's Wine Grill and Catering was one of the people who helped start Chefs on Stage. He says it actually didn't start as a charity at all. At first, the event was called "Meet the Chefs" and was just an opportunity for local chefs to come together and cook with each other.
Schailey says the event changed to a charity when State College Magazine came on as a sponsor.
"It was an event started by chefs where people could come get to know us and get some free food too," Schailey said. "Chefs were getting popular and it was a good chance to get together and hang out."
These days the event always sells out but Schailey says that wasn't always the case.
Craig Hamilton, a chef at The Village at Penn State who has been coming to the event for 10 years, says the event hit a slump for a couple of years.
Hamilton says organizers of Chefs on Stage try to change things up every year to get people coming back, with different demonstrations and different chefs coming in.
"Every year it changes now," Hamilton said. "It's always for a great cause so chefs don't mind throwing their time into it."
Kate Delano, editor of State College Magazine and committee chair of the event, says the charity makes money through sponsorships, a silent auction and a live auction. The silent auction included free rounds of golf and fly fishing lessons, while the live auction featured larger items such as chef packages and a football signed by Bill O'Brien.
Delano says the event prospers from the fact that getting to meet a chef is a rare and personal experience, an experience not a lot of people get.