Chefs Give Back

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Orlando’s Best Events for Culinary Aficionados and Other Ways Our Food Community Gives Back
by Rona Gindin

Attend any fundraiser with a silent auction and you’ll see gift cards for Orlando restaurants. Those $50 good-as-cash certificates and $500 wine-dinner-for-four events are donated, free of charge, by the restaurants.

That’s just the beginning of how our food-service establishments share their profits with neighbors. Small shops might, say, host ABC Elementary night, where 10 percent of every frozen yogurt/pizza/wings sale goes to a particular school. Chefs at high-end restaurants may gather peers to cook for multicourse galas, donating proceeds to a favored foundation. In between are endeavors humble and grand, all aimed at “giving back.”

Here are important ways that Orlando restaurants and chefs act generously, and for every business featured, we’ll bet there are 10 more earnest efforts by neighboring establishments.

MULTICHEF EVENTS

Cattle Barons’ Ball

What it is A Western-themed evening with food stations, wine pourings and country music.
Who it benefits American Cancer Society
When it started 1974
How it’s special Thirty Orlando-area chefs prepare a signature tasting at Rosen Shingle Creek. Musicians entertain, drinks are free and guests bid for items at a silent auction.
Cha-ching $450,000

Chef’s Gala

What it is A festive evening of food tastings and wine pourings in Epcot World Showplace, with Walt Disney World Resort as host and presenting sponsor.
Who it benefits Heart of Florida United Way
When it started 1993
How it’s special About two dozen local and Disney World chefs prepare appetizer-size portions with unlimited wine pours. A vocalist performs. A large silent auction offers merchandise, restaurant meals and hotel stays.
Cha-ching $300,000

Liz Blissett and Chef Patricio Estrella of Paxia Modern Mexican & Tequila Lounge at Appetite for the Arches benefit for Ronald McDonald House Charities of Central Florida.

Liz Blissett and Chef Patricio Estrella of Paxia Modern Mexican & Tequila Lounge at Appetite for the Arches benefit for Ronald McDonald House Charities of Central Florida.

Appetite for the Arches

What it is Top local chefs cook appetizer-size items using McDonald’s ingredients.
Who it benefits Ronald McDonald House Charities of Central Florida
When it started 2014
How it’s special James and Julie Petrakis, chef-owners of The Ravenous Pig and Cask & Larder, ask colleagues to join them in this unusual menu challenge. They all share their food creations at an elegant event with food stations, live pop music and a silent auction. The Pig/Cask chefs create cocktails using McDonald’s ingredients.
Cha-ching $180,000

Orlando’s Taste of the Nation for No Kid Hungry

What it is Annual food and wine event where 30 local chefs each prepare an appetizer-size item.
Who it benefits Share Our Strength, Second Harvest Food Bank of Central Florida and Coalition for the Homeless of Central Florida
When it started 1989
How it’s special At this local take on a national event, chefs dish out their creations, and wine, beer, spirits and specialty cocktails are served to more than 2,000 guests. There is also live entertainment, a chef cook-off, raffle items and a silent auction.
Cha-ching $300,000

Florida Hospital’s Gourmet Soiree

What it is Interactive dinner event where local chefs compete by cooking healthful meals.
Who it benefits Florida Hospital for Children’s Mission: Fit Possible program
When it started 2012
How it’s special Lively event where 70+ local chefs each cook a healthy meal in front of 10 guests seated at their table. Their dishes are judged, and one is awarded the Silver Fork Award, this year presented by Food Network Chef Robert Irvine.
Cha-ching $225,000

Appetite for the Arches

What it is Top local chefs cook appetizer-size items using McDonald’s ingredients.
Who it benefits Ronald McDonald House Charities of Central Florida
When it started 2014
How it’s special James and Julie Petrakis, chef-owners of The Ravenous Pig and Cask & Larder, ask colleagues to join them in this unusual menu challenge. They all share their food creations at an elegant event with food stations, live pop music and a silent auction. The Pig/Cask chefs create cocktails using McDonald’s ingredients.
Cha-ching $180,000

Restaurateur John Rivers at Cows ‘n Cabs, a fund-raiser he started to benefit non-profit charities for families in need in Central Florida.

Restaurateur John Rivers at Cows ‘n Cabs, a fund-raiser he started to benefit non-profit charities for families in need in Central Florida.

Cows ‘N Cabs

What it is Western-themed tented outdoor event in Winter Park’s Central Park West Meadow with food and beverage samples from local chefs.
Who it benefits Community Food & Outreach Center, and Elevate Orlando
When it started 2010
How it’s special Chef-owner John Rivers, of 4 Rivers Smokehouse and The COOP, with ABC Fine Wine & Spirits, invites about 20 chefs to share food tastings with guests. Wine, beer and spirits brands provide pours. A country-western band entertains and silent auction items or dine-around packages raise extra funds.
Cha-ching $100,000

Fresh from the Field

What it is A multicourse dinner at one long table under the stars.
Who it benefits Cystic Fibrosis Foundation, Central Florida Chapter
When it started 2014
How it’s special Local chefs, most recently from the Walt Disney World Swan and Dolphin Resort, host an alfresco cocktail reception and then serve guests an outdoor dinner with wine. The event takes place in rustic locales such as Winter Garden’s Tucker Ranch and includes a silent auction.
Cha-ching $30,000

Field to Feast Dinner

What it is An outdoor event with tasting stations at Long & Scott Farms in Apopka sponsored by Edible Orlando with top Walt Disney World chefs preparing locally sourced dishes with paired beverages.
Who it benefits Kids Café at the Second Harvest Food Bank of Central Florida
When it started 2014
How it’s special Ticket sales are limited, and it’s the only place you can taste dishes from all of Disney’s award-winning chefs in one evening—and have a chance to talk with the chefs and get a tour of the farm with farmer Hank Scott.
Cha-ching $22,000

5 Chefs, 5 Courses, 5 Charities

What it is A five-course, family-style, farm-to-table dinner with each course created by a different local chef.
Who it benefits Five charities, each chosen by a chef
When it started 2015
How it’s special Four local chefs join Chef Marc Kusche at The Alfond Inn for this casual sit-down dinner, served family-style, with wine and beer pairings plus a guitarist/vocalist entertaining.
Cha-ching $11,250

ACTIONS

Axum Coffee

What it is Pair of Winter Garden coffee shops that donate all profits to charity.
Who it benefits Local and global charities, most supporting orphans, fresh water, education and medical care.
When it started 2010
How it’s special What began as an espresso bar created by husband-and-wife pair Renaut and Brooke van der Riet to help the community of Axum, Ethiopia, has blossomed into two popular hangouts where profits support several endeavors to help the needy.
Cha-ching A few thousand dollars

Downtown Credo

What it is Twin coffee shops where customers donate, rather than pay a set price, and proceeds are shared with Parramore organizations.
Who it benefits Charities such as the downtown and Parramore branches of Central Florida Boys and Girls Clubs, New Image Youth Center, Keeping Orlando Beautiful and Green Up Orlando
When it started 2010
How it’s special The espresso bars are not-for-profit, enriching the community with their earnings. Credo also recognizes three people or organizations every year that give generously to the community, hosts skill-based workshops for artists and awards businesses that integrate giving and mentorship into their structure.

The Father’s Table

What it is A cheesecake, dessert and snack food manufacturer that donates 50 percent of profits to charity.
Who it benefits Various local, national and international groups that help women and children
When it started 1999
How it’s special The Sanford-based baking company was designed to fund the foundation, which is the charity arm, as a Christian mission.
Cha-ching The Father’s Table has donated to 150+ charities.

House Blend Cafe

What it is An Ocoee coffeehouse with light meals that gives all net profits back to the community in the forms of service and funds for specific projects.
Who it benefits Local and global charities such as Matthew’s Hope, Impact and well-building in Ethiopia
When it started 2006
How it’s special The café, with the slogan “Eat Good. Do Good,” acts as a self-sustaining church-like mission. It donates all post-expense monies to charity, and employees can occasionally be found engaged in group prayer in the dining room.
Cha-ching Several thousand dollars

Magical Dining Month

What it is 70+ local restaurants offer fixed-price, three-course dinners throughout September. The 2014 price was $33.
Who it benefits A different charity each year; the 2014 recipient was Foundation for Foster Children. This year it is Elevate Orlando.
When it started 2009
How it’s special This Visit Orlando program encourages locals and visitors to try area restaurants at a reduced price. Restaurants donate $1 from each meal sold to the chosen charity.
Cha-ching $111,600

The Edible Education Experience at Orlando Junior Academy

What it is A program to help 5th-through-8th graders at one school learn to eat healthfully, garden and cook.
Who it benefits Orlando Junior Academy
When it started 2000
How it’s special Spearheaded by K Restaurant Chef-Owner Kevin Fonzo, with funding by the Emeril Lagasse Foundation, this program involves a self-sufficient edible garden center for growing through harvesting produce, and hands-on cooking lessons in a teaching kitchen.

The P.E.A.S. Foundation (Producing Eating Alternatives Simply)

What it is A 501c3 foundation founded and run by Jamie McFadden, chef-owner of the
caterer Cuisiners, and co-founder George Arredondo. P.E.A.S. helps get fresh produce into food-insecure households via grants to organizations that provide groceries and cooked meals.
Who it benefits Schoolchildren and other residents of Central Florida
When it started 2009
How it’s special P.E.A.S. partners with local groups to provide fresh fruits and vegetables for low-income homes, such as via student backpacks and a mobile farmers’ market bus sponsored by Hebni Nutrition Consultants. P.E.A.S. sponsors and participates in varied events, from book signings to mixology classes, to generate funds.
Cha-ching $10,000 over five years

Whole Foods 5% Days

What it is Four times a year, the Orlando and Winter Park grocery stores donate 5 percent of a day’s net sales to a local charity.
Who it benefits Florida Hospital Foundation’s Mission Fit program and others
When it started 1993
How it’s special Five percent of every sale that day goes to help neighbors. Each store chooses a local recipient organization teach time.
Cha-ching $6,500 (one store recently)

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