HughE Dillon: Marc Vetri’s Great Chefs Event
Last night’s Great Chefs annual eating party, thrown by superchef Marc Vetri (second from right), was held at Urban Outfitters in the Navy Yard, with all proceeds going to help Alex’s Lemonade Stand eradicate childhood cancer. Liz and Jay Scott’s daughter Alex started Alex’s Lemonade Stand during her fight against the neuroblastoma that eventually took her life when she was eight. Her parents carry on her goal of helping doctors find a cure for the disease. Because of the Scott’s story, Vetri and Jeff Benjamin (center) were inspired not only to host the annual Great Chefs Event, but to start their own foundation to improve the health of kids. Also pictured: executive chef and co-owner of Osteria and Amis, Jeffrey Michaud (right).
Shortly before her first birthday in 1997, Alex Scott was diagnosed with neuroblastoma, a type of childhood cancer. In July 2000, Alex told her parents she wanted to hold a lemonade stand to raise money to help find a cure for all children with cancer. She raised more than $2,000 with her first sale. By 2004, Alex’s Lemonade was going strong, but the disease began to take its toll little Alex. Alex’s goal that year was to raise one million dollars for kids with cancer. Shortly before her death, her parents told her that goal would be reached. Last night, with the help of all these people attending the annual Great Chef’s Event, as well as bidding on the many generous auction items donated, the Vetri Foundation hopes to have raised another million dollars to fight childhood cancer. I bet they did it.
Below: Emcees for the evening were Fox 29’s Mike Jerrick and Marc Summers.
Below: There were many auction items, but none was as exciting as Chef Michael Solomonov of Zahav coming to your house to cook a 21-course dinner for 12, with wine pairings. During bidding, Marc Vetri said he would also show up at your house. Bids really shot up when it was announced that not only would Chef Jeffrey Michaud serve the food, but he’d do so in his underwear.
The winning bid for the Solomonov dinner of $19,000 was from Lisa Dykstra, here with Jennifer Coulter. (Another bidder also got the package for $19,000.) Dykstra told me it was “for the kids.” Nearly $250,000 was raised through the silent and live auctions. A few of the highlights, along with winning bids: batting practice and dinner with Hunter Pence ($2,500); a Sbraga dinner for eight in your home ($3,000); Steve Carlton signed jersey ($900); Ace of Cakes’ Lemonade Cake and decorating lesson ($3,000); dinner for 16 at Cook with chefs Sal Vetri and Brad Spence ($4,500); dinner with Philadelphia food critic Craig LaBan—which is like finding out who Carly Simon really was singing about in the song “Your So Vain”—($2,440); Guapos Tacos for 25 at your house ($4,000); hanging out in a Flyers box with Lauren Hart ($2,000); and dining with Marc Vetri and Mario Batali in NYC (to Derek Pew for a generous $16,000). Andrew Schlesinger bid $35,000 for a gastro-tour of Piemonte, Italy for six with chefs Jeff Michaud and Marc Vetri. (Now that’s a trip for which I’d like to donate my photography services.) Also, many guests donated generously to “Fund a Cure,” which was a direct donation to the organization.
Below: Gary and Larissa Crompton, Fifi Westbrook, Laura and Harry Carpenter, and Clint Westbrook. Others spotted in the crowd: Adam Spivak and Karen Sajda, Bob and Linda Brockway, David Fields, Larry and Mickey Magid, David Schlessinger, and Steve and Carol White.
Below: Marc Vetri’s family: mom and dad Barbara and Sal, with brother Adam Vetri and wife Dina. Last year, Adam and Dina weren’t able to make it as they were about to become parents. I told Adam, who’s the producer of The Biggest Loser, that my friends always tell me to sign up for the show, so could he drop the shirtless pix requirement? He didn’t seem to want to budge on that. His proud mom also told me he’s produced The Amazing Race and is currently producing the Discovery Channel’s The Devil’s Ride. She’s equally proud of all her kids and has a serious fashion sense. She’s my winner for the night in best of dress.
Below: Rick Nichols, Ashley Govberg, and Elizabeth Wellington, Philadelphia Inquirer fashion writer. Govberg successfully bid on a Vetri dinner for six, with Shake Shake’s Danny Meyer and David Swinghamer, in the live auction for $10,000. Next week, the Rick Nichols Room opens at the Reading Terminal during their “renovation dedication week.”
Below: Erich Lasher, Bryan Delisio, Michael Keyerleber, and Jonathan Sawyer, chef/owner of the Greenhouse Tavern, Noodlecat, and Brick & Mortar Popups. Chef told me that he had just flown in from Italy, but was glad to participate in the Great Chefs Event, and said Marc Vetri was one of the nicest guys he knows and he’d do anything for him. In 2010, Sawyer was named one of Food & Wine magazine’s best new chefs; he was excited to participate in the Iron Chef in January, and although he lost to the reigning champ, Iron Chef Geoffrey Zakarian, it was an experience of a lifetime. I asked him if wearing a beard was a requirement for the folks working at his eatery? He said no, but that he told them it would be fun to grow long, menacing beards to be different from all of Philly’s pretty-boy chefs. He said that way no one will give them any crap, and it will just be all about the food. No need to do that: His duck dish was hands-down my favorite at the event. At the end of the night, he had plenty left. Guests might have been too intimidated by this talented chef, but I had seconds and thirds.
Below: Katie Loeb, the former Oyster House and Tapestry bartender, has a book out called Shake, Stir, Pour—Fresh Homegrown Cocktails: Make Syrups, Mixers, Infused Spirits, and Bitters with Farm-Fresh Ingredients, 50 Original Recipes. The forward was written by Jose Garces. She’s now at Han Dynasty in University City, and she tells me she loves the dynamic of working for the famed Chinese restaurant, while also creating a lively bar scene with delicious drinks.
Below: Kelly Mansfield, event manager at Pennsylvania Horticultural Center, and Kate Wilhelm Chimicles, senior VP of business development and external affairs at PHS. Kate is still glowing from her May wedding to Chris Chimicles. PHS is having another pop-up garden, this time at 19th & Walnut, in the empty plot where there once was a movie theater. It’ll be similar to the one that was at 20th & Market, but this one “Brings Everyone to the Table.” (That’s the theme.) There’s going to be a 64-foot communal table at the location. It’s going to be open more hours than the other site. They’ll have happy hours and demonstrations, and best of all, it will alleviate the overcrowded Rittenhouse Square. It should be open in the next two weeks.
Below: The new kid in town, New York City’s Shake Shack, opened with much fanfare last week. I still haven’t been as the line has been a block long every time I’ve gone. Noah Roseblum, Latasha Foster and GM Allan Ng tell me the most popular burgers sold this week have been the ‘Shroom and the Smokestack. To avoid the longest lines, Allan says to come between 2 and 4 p.m.
After the event, most of the participating chefs (many from around the country), sponsors, and a few guests headed to Amis for a grand afterparty for industry folks. It’s a great place for everyone to wind down, as well as catch up with old friends and make new ones. If you’ve been to Amis, you wouldn’t have recognized it last night. The tables were removed, and there were pop-up dance floors at each end of the dining area. Below: “Visiting chef” Kevin Sbraga was in the kitchen.DJ Danophonic had the place poppin’ till the wee hours.
Outside Amis, the street was closed and a tent was erected. Tony Luke’s was serving up pork Italiano sandwiches; Frankie Olivieri Jr., from Pat’s, served cheesesteaks; and PJ Whelihan’s new food truck was there too. They have the best chicken wings I’ve ever had, seriously. It was the first time I ever had them. The truck will be joining the tailgaters at the home Eagles games, as well as traveling around the area. The Ferko Band was on hand entertaining the crowd with traditional Mummers music like “Golden Slippers,” “When the Saints Go Marching In,” and “When You’re Smiling.” Below: Greg Comishock, Tony Luke and Jennifer Schloder, surrounded by John Jordan, Marty Baldwin, Shawn Slivinski, Ken Schwartz, Lenny Check, Nick Delange, and Warren Wisner. All this good will and collaboration came together because a little girl named Alex wanted to help find a cure for kids with cancer.