HughE Dillon: Chefs’ Dinner for PAWS

Philly chefs create adventurous dishes for a good cause.

The Sixth Annual Chefs’ Dinner for PAWS was an incredible, sold-out success, raising $300,000 to save Philadelphia’s homeless animals. More than 50 of the region’s best chefs created an extraordinary gastronomic experience at the Union League of Philadelphia. Guests enjoyed three courses of food and wine pairings prepared tableside by the chefs. Dana Spain is the founder of PAWS (Philadelphia Animal Welfare Society); she’s here with Eric Cahill.

Below: The evening began with a cocktail hour, featuring hors d’oeuvres from six area restaurants: XIX, Sansom Street Oyster House, Delilah’s, Reserve, Water Works, and Smokin’ Betty’s. Jessy Kyle provided live jazz music. Jesse tells me she has a new single out called “Un Cri d’Amour,” which can be downloaded from her soundcloud for free.

Below: Wendy Trow-Fox and Remy L. Fox tell me they just got back from a fabulous trip out west where they visited Yellowstone National Park and stayed in beautiful Jackson Hole, Wyoming. I’ve done that trip, and I highly recommend it. Just beautiful.

During the cocktail hour I had the best crab cake from Devil’s Alley. I’m not kidding. Below: Executive Chef Brian Fidiam and owner Susan Schlisman (she also owns Smokin’ Betty’s).

Below: Helping out Shola Olunloyo (center) of Studio Kitchen was chef Jennifer Carroll (left) and pastry chef Monica Glass (right). They were preparing a spring garlic soup with pickles and strawberries. Congratulations to Monica as she was picked to participate in the Third Annual International Pastry Competition being held in NYC at the end of September. Only 20 pastry chefs in the whole country are chosen to compete in this competition.

Below: Marissa Rubinetti and Lisa DiBello have been friends for nearly a decade, and the two are experiencing the wonderful milestones that come with life. Marissa is marrying the love of her life in September, Mike Sanders, whom she met on (I always tell my friends that in their busy lives it’s not a bad place to look for love.) Linda and her husband Dave are expecting their first child in August. Congrats to all of you.

Below: Executive Chef at the Union League’s 1862, Martin Hamann, and sous chef Denny Santiago prepare their first course, a smokey vichyssoise. The soup was poured into the bowl, a machine added smoke, and a lid was placed on top. The guests used a straw to eat the soup. It was very cool-looking.

Below: Davin Schulson (center) helps out his dad, executive chef and Sampan owner Michael Schulson, and Sampan’s GM Michael Wirzberger.

Below: Lynn Rinaldi, and husband Corey Baver, chef/owner of Paradiso and Izumi, with niece Dana Rinaldi (center) served up delicious spaghetti alla chitarra with sea urchin during one course.

Below: Raymond Farnesi and Carol Bisconti are big supporters of PAWS and have three rescues that they adopted from the organization. They love this event as they are able to try out different restaurants and help a good cause. They plan to make Paradiso a favorite spot after tonight’s dinner.

Below: Chef Andrew Brown, Opa Restaurant, prepares his main entry for the PAWS dinner: Duck. I chatted with David Schultz and Susan Davidson from DAS Architects, who were enjoying Opa for the first time. Both enjoyed the rabbit course, and were impressed by the Greek wine pairings. Also spotted at the table was my childhood friend Robin van Laer.

Below: Hickory Lane’s Jack Henderson and executive chef Matt Zagorski. Currently, the Fairmount Avenue American bistro is a BYOB, but that will all change in about four weeks when their liquor license should be approved. Enjoying dinner at his table last night were Amber and Kirby Mallon, Lynsie and Evan Solomon, Bob Hamilton, and Dana and Ron Donatucci Jr.

Below: Zavino Wine Bar’s Danielle Kessler is serving Karen Sajda and Adam Spivak a prosecco with their eggplant parmesan. (I had some too; it was delicious.) Sitting across from them was Marilyn Kellmer and Sonya Bright. In the background, you can see chef Chris Scarduzio, who had two restaurants participating: Table 31 and Scarduzio’s, which is at Showboat Casino in Atlantic City.

Below: The foie gras king of Philadelphia, and chef and owner of Ela, Jason Cichonski with Lynne Nelson and Mary Greybush. As usual, Cichonski had all the ladies’ attention at the table, and the ladies told me everything was “hot, hot, hot,” including the chef … while their husbands enjoyed the meal that included a first course of “tête de cochon,” cured, brined, caramelized and served with foie gras. (No doubt I missed a lot of steps, but I hear it was delicious.)

Below: The Davio’s crew—Tania Dakko, Ettore Ceraso, GM, and Mark Aquilon—with former Eagle Vince Papale (second from right). After dinner, everyone headed upstairs to enjoy desserts by several sweet places including Max Brenner, Classic Cake, Season 52, and my favorite, Fruit Flowers. Then there was the after-party held in the Union League’s Cigar Bar; it’s like Las Vegas—anything that happens there, stays there. Trust me: The chefs and volunteers know how to party, and it was well deserved after this record-breaking night to help those who have no voice, no matter how loud their bark is.

See more photos from the event at