Wednesday night, 35 of the area’s top chefs will again be putting out their best at the annual Taste of the Nation Palm Beach event, all to benefit hungry kids in our area.
Co-chairs of the event are Zach Bell of the Addison Reserve Country Club in Delray Beach; Lindsay Autry, TV’s Top Chef contestant; Clay Conley of buccan and Imoto in Palm Beach; and Allen Susser of Chef Allen’s in Miami.
Among the chefs who are participating are Roy Villacrusis, of Aah Loh Thai and Sushi in Jupiter, and Bruce Feingold of Dada in Delray. Both have a special connection to the No Kid Hungry Campaign that will target hunger relief for kids in Palm Beach County.
Unlike most of the chefs involved, Villacrusis knows what it’s like to go hungry at times. Growing up in the Philippines with a working mom as a head of household meant lean plates on some nights.
“In the Philippines there are only two ways of growing up. Either you have relatives elsewhere sending you money, or you already have money.
“There were moments when we had a lot of money, and times when we had none, and my mom had to figure out where the next meal was coming from.”
He credits her creativity in making meals with sparse pantry items for his artistic flair with his Asiatic cuisine. “She was amazing at making something out of nothing.”
Today, he is puzzled by this rich country that has so many hungry people, and a government that hands out checks for food without supporting it with education on how to best use the money for nutrition.
“I’m involved with Share Our Strength here – I got the desire to make food better and more interesting than what it was watching my mother. So I know there is a way to do it if you show the people,” he said.
More education is needed – and he points to his friend and former partner Feingold, and a program he’s created, Healthy Bellies, that is working toward that goal in Delray Beach.
“We need more programs like his. It’s a personal approach,” Villacrusis said. “Don’t get me wrong – the charity events raise money to help, but we need to reach the people who are getting the money and teach them the best way to use it.”
Healthy Bellies a chef’s approach
Feingold explained the Healthy Bellies program that he created with wife Amanda Garnett. “We were sitting around talking about cooking for charities that send money overseas – we give money to tsnuami and earthquake victims and send money to Africa, while there are kids three blocks from where I live that are going to bed without dinner.”
He and Garnett decided to get involved with the Achievement Center for Families and Children. The organization provides a place for needy kids with working parents or those going back to school to study and play, and family programs help with parenting and life skills that promote achievement.
“We toured the Achievement Center nearby, and honestly, there was a pit in my throat,” Feingold said. “These are kids that get breakfast and lunch and a snack at the center – and that’s all the food available to them.”
He and Garnett sat down with the Achievement Center and worked out a way to get involved under their 501c3 charity certificate. “We started raising money for them by collecting tips at our restaurant and donating the money. We’ve raised $8000 since January,” he said.
Then, in an effort to do more and hands-on work, “It grew into me teaching cooking classes for the parents. We got a really decent response – so this Thursday I’m cooking for 100 families and feeding 575 people a take-home meal.”
Recipe cards are given and along with the demo, that emphasizes slow cooking that can be prepared ahead of time and ready after work during the family rush hour, he gives nutrition and budgeting tips.
“I ask them how much they spend on fast food per person – they say $9. I tell them I just fed them a chuck roll roast with fresh vegetables for $2.50 a person. And it’s healthier.”
He’s now teaching shopping at corner markets for fresh vegetables and ways to further stretch the food dollars. “They ask questions and are really involved. It’s making an impact.”
Chefs for the cause
All 35 chefs and restaurateurs are committed to the cause of childhood hunger relief and have donated their foods to the event. The dishes, sampler portions with wines, showcase the multitude of talents in the area.
Restaurants participating are:
- 3800 Ocean
- Aah Loi Thai & Sushi
- Addison Reserve Country Club
- Bistro 1001
- Bocce Wine Bar & Tapas
- Brio Tuscan Grille
- Café Boulud
- Casa D’Angelo
- Chops Lobster Bar
- Citrus Grillhouse
- City Fish Market
- Coolinary Café
- Cordon Bleu Catering
- Dada Restaurant
- Del Frisco’s Grille
- Earth & Sugar
- Hollywood Cupcake
- Ian’s Tropical Grill
- Jové Kitchen and Bar
- The Little House
- Patrick Lézé
- PB CATCH Seafood & Raw Bar
- Pistache French Bistro
- The Sugar Monkey
- Talay Thai
- Table 26
- Whole Foods Market
Other Vendors: Nespresso, Nestlé Waters, Oceana Coffee, Onli Beverages, SweetWater Brewing Company, Tito’s Handmade Vodka, Wine Watch, Mozzarita, Charles Steadman of Jack’s Grumpy Grouper & United States Bartenders Guild Palm Beach.
Money raised stays in the county to help programs and food banks with relief programs.
Tickets to the event are still available.
Taste of the Nation Palm Beach
- 6:30-10 p.m.,Wednesday, April 23, 2014
- Cohen Pavilion at the Kravis Center, 701 Okeechobee Blvd., West Palm Beach
- Tickets: $150, VIP (includes early admission); $100 general admisson
- Information and tickets: ce.strength.org/palmbeach