Chef Wars fundraiser celebrates third year anniversary
Three years ago, Riverhorse on Main joined forces with Nuzzles & Co., a Summit County-based nonprofit that has rescued more than 13,000 dogs and cats and placed many of those animals into loving homes.
The result was a fundraiser called Chef Wars, where a group of local, world-renowned chefs compete against each other while working with amateur sous chefs.
These sous chefs were selected from the audience, said Seth Adams, Riverhorse executive chef, who, along with Nuzzles & Co. board president Kathleen Toth and Chef Wars Chairwoman Claire Desilets, took time for a group interview with The Park Record.
"We auction off the helpers and get people involved, and we make sure these are not professional sous chefs from the other restaurants," Adams said with a laugh.
The money raised during the event helps Nuzzles & Co. rescue, rehabilitate and adopt out the animals that it rescues and houses in its ranch in Brown’s Canyon, Toth said.
"The auctioning is worth highlighting because you can auction to become a sous chef and work with these world-renowned chefs," she said. "And that helps raise more money for the animals."
The third annual Chef Wars fundraiser will be held at Riverhorse on Main, 540 Main St., on Sunday, April 24. The competition will run from 5 p.m. until 8 p.m.
The competition will feature Adams, Handle’s Brair Handly — who won last year — Tupelo’s Matt Harris and Zoom’s Jordan Harvey.
This year’s celebrity judges will be actress and producer Katherine Heigl, her mother Nancy Heigl (who is also a film producer) and Cody Derrick, the founder of City Home Collective, a living-quarter locating community organization.
"The evening will be emceed by Hope Woodside from FOX 13 and we have a special guest, Vanessa Conabee, editor of Park City Life in Salt Lake Magazine," Desilets said.
Inviting other restaurant chefs to participate in the event adds excitement, but also creates stronger bonds in the Park City community, Adams said.
"We’re inviting our friends, our neighbors, who all work up and down the street," he said. "And it’s nice to have this happen right after the resorts close for the season. We’re all in the restaurant business and we all have to deal with the same stuff. So it’s nice to have that camaraderie.
"We’re all friends in some way, whether we know each other well and hang out with each other and our families, or what not," he said. "We also borrow from each other. It’s a tight community on Main Street, so it’s nice to invite the people we can."
Toth said the idea for Chef Wars came from the desire to host a different kind of fundraiser.
"Every nonprofit has to raise money and we’re one of those who rely solely on donations to save lives and do the work that we do," she said. "We also know about fundraising fatigue. People get tired of doing the same old thing. So we teamed up three years ago with Seth and his wife Casey at the Riverhorse to come up with something unique to Park City and something that would be fun to go to and enjoy."
The main criterion was to make an enjoyable event for everyone.
"We didn’t want to host another obligatory event," Toth said. "With Chef Wars, you can come with friends, a date, your spouse and turn this into a fun evening where you can observe some of the finest chefs in Park City in this amazingly gorgeous restaurant on Main Street."
On a side note, Toth has a soft spot for Riverhorse on Main.
"I got engaged in the Chef’s Room 22 years ago," she said. " It was an awesome night, and we also had our rehearsal dinner here."
Adams said he is looking forward to the event, if only to see what the other chefs will create.
"Like last year, the different chefs will bring food representations from their restaurants and we also provide food, too," he said. "But the competition will feature special dishes the judges will sample that will be made on the spot and will all have a secret ingredient."
The event, Toth said, reflects Nuzzles & Co.’s mission.
"Our message is ‘where love wins,’ because this community, over the past 26 years, has built up and supported this organization where love truly wins," she said. "We wanted to change the message about animal rescue because there has been a stigma attached to these animals for too many years in that people think there is something wrong with the animals, or adopting an animal is sad, or scary, and things like that.
"Nuzzles & Co. has made animal adoption a fun experience, so our fundraiser needs to reflect that," Toth said.
The fundraising brings in money at the right time of the year, just before "kitten and puppy season," she said.
"When the weather starts to warm up, these animals that are not spayed and neutered reproduce," Toth said. "This fundraiser helps us prepare for the animals that we know are coming."
Many times those animals have been abandoned or something has happened to their mothers and they are still nursing.
"We have to bottle feed them and that’s expensive because we need to have staff who can feed every two hours," Toth said. "We also need highly nutritious specialized milk for the kittens and puppies. Sometimes these animals need extra medical care."
Last year, Chef Wars raised roughly $20,000, but Desilets said the event isn’t only about money.
"It’s about getting people together and telling our story," she said. "It’s about reaching new supporters who have a common love of pets."
The third annual Chef Wars fundraiser for Nuzzles & Co. will be held at Riverhorse on Main, 540 Main St., on Sunday, April 24. Tickets $95, and admission includes a drink ticket. Tickets can be purchased by visiting nuzzlesandCo.org or the Nuzzles & Co. Facebook page. Attendees must be 21 or older.
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