I am truly blessed to have the opportunity to join in events like the Chefs Gala. I have many Chef friends that have a connection to Autism. I have friends with children with Autism. I do whatever I can to raise awareness and funding of Autism research and advancements. The Chef Gala is one of those absolutely amazing events that do just that. The Autism Speaks folks in Cleveland sure know how to throw a party. The event was attended by over 700 guests and through donations, and auctions the were able to raise almost $250,000 at this one night spectacle.
I had the pleasure of growing up with one of the Co-Chairs Jim Sammon and I was absolutely elated to run into him in the early minutes before the gala started. He introduced me to Michael Symon, who I have met many times before but each time it is like a kid meeting Babe Ruth for me, and Mario Batali which I guess could be like meeting Hank Aaron. Jim even was kind enough to snap a couple pictures of me and the wife with the pair of cooking juggernauts.
When I talked to Jim after the Gala, and we really had a great talk he said. “The most important thing is how quickly and easily the culinary greats of the city come together for a worthy cause. It is remarkable to me how much time these chefs put in to helping others. The fact it was in such a great space makes me giddy. Not only is this a worthy cause that we want to raise awareness around but we also want to showcase the talent that the city of Cleveland has to offer.”
He is so right on all those points. Many people don’t get to check out all of these amazing Chefs. For a local food blogger like myself I get out and try as many as I can, but you can only do so much. I might fall in love with a dish and be heartbroken at the end of the meal knowing chances are I won’t be back any time soon because Cleveland has so much talent in the culinary world. So here is a situation where you can taste more than 20 dishes from some of the best this city has to offer. How do you even make the cut off on something like this?
When I talked to the Chefs the number one thing I heard is what a great cause Autism Speaks is. It is amazing to me their willingness to drop it all on a Saturday night to say I’ve got to do this. I need to be a part of the Gala. In talking to Chef Eric Williams (Momocho, El Carnicero, Happy Dog, Jack Flaps) he said “This is an amazing cause and that is the reason we are all here but it also gives me a chance to see my friends.” He rarely sees any of these folks working long hours, every weekend, with rare time off. It’s like a Chef bonding event. I thought that was pretty damn cool. Then I thought oh my goodness, there is so much talent in this place right now I am overwhelmed.
Overall the event was elegant, amazing, and inspirational. It was able to almost double in size and looks to be the best ticket in town every year. I was completely honored to be in attendance, and humbled to be recognized by these rock star caliber chefs that I look up to and do my best to support. Cleveland continues to amaze me. Here’s some photos because sometimes I just like to be a fan.