Lavish food set to fight hunger in Utah
Imagine being able to have seared Alaskan halibut with watercress and beet salad, chicken fricassee with grilled pineapple and avocado relish and Kahlua pig with butter lettuce cups all-you-can-eat style. Add on bottomless wine glasses and desserts piled on top of desserts — all made by Utah’s top chefs and imagine it all for $60.
It’s the Taste of the Nation happening Sunday at Solitude Mountain Resort from noon to 4 p.m., and every cent of the proceeds go to fight hunger.
Although America is the wealthiest nation on Earth, a recent census claims 33 million individuals in the country do not have access to enough food for an active, healthy life. Roughly half of these are working individuals and nearly 40 percent of those suffering are children.
"That information comes from a current population survey that is done by the U.S. Census Bureau done for the USDA, using three-year averages," said Gina Cornia,
executive director of Utahns Against Hunger. "What’s even more astonishing is that Utah ranks fifth in the nation for food insecurity, meaning we have the fifth highest rate of people who don’t know how they’re going to meet their nutritional needs on a day-to-day basis. That’s why Taste of the Nation is so important."
Taste of the Nation will enlist more than 50 of Utah’s top chefs, 10 of whom are from Park City, in order to raise money to help end childhood hunger across the country and in Utah.
Seventy percent of the proceeds will be divided between Utahns Against Hunger, Ogden-Weber Community Action Partnership and the Utah Food Bank, 10 percent will go to other anti-hunger, anti-poverty advocacy groups within Utah, 17 percent will be pooled with proceeds from other Taste of the Nation events for international development and relief efforts and 3 percent will be pooled with proceeds from other Taste of the Nation events to fund Operation Frontline, a direct service program operated by Share Our Strength to provide nutritional education and skills training on low-income communities nationwide.
Cornia said, last year Taste of the Nation raised $53,000 for Utahns Against Hunger. Their overall budget is around $200,000.
Karen Zabriskie, volunteer public relations chair for the event, said that the cooking spree takes place nationwide, with revenues going toward each event’s local area.
"Taste of the Nation is an event that is coordinated under the umbrella of Share Our Strength," she said. "SOS are committed to ending hunger and dealing a lot with anti-hunger and anti-poverty issues and they are now committed to ending childhood hunger in the U.S. in the next 20 years."
According to Zabriskie, ticket sales for the event last year bested 2004 by 47 percent, and pre-event ticket sales for this year are up another 20 percent over that.
"Once you buy a ticket, which are $60 pre-ordered or $70 at the door, you get a dinner plate with a special clip that holds a wine glass to leave you with a free hand, and then there are booths in a U-shape and everyone just walks around and gets whatever food they want," she said. "Each booth usually has a few types of food and there will be live music playing throughout. There’s a large tent in the middle of the horseshoe for eating."
In addition to ticket sales, there will also be a silent auction with items donated by various Utah companies everything from a cruiser bike to jewelry, from restaurant certificates to a 32-bottle wine cooler.
"In past years we’ve done things like Iron Chef events and demonstrations and competitions and we’ve found that people just want to eat and enjoy the food and the atmosphere," Zabriskie said. "We might bring it back next year but we’ll see."
The restaurants donate all of the food, and the chefs donate all their time, so every penny can go to feed those in need, Zabriskie said.
"For the Park City area, for those planning to go to the Arts Festival, this is a great way to help plan the weekend. This is a great way to enjoy some great food and help out a wonderful cause," she said. "At some fundraisers, you pay $150 for a plate of food worth $15, but at Taste of the Nation a plate costs $60 and you can get a couple hundred dollars worth of food and drinks made by some of the best chefs in the state."
The participating Park City chefs and restaurants include Sinlap Vongsay of Monsoon Thai Bistro and Bangkok Thai on Main, Kyle Robinson of Grand Summit, Dean Hottle III of La Pasch, Ed and Debbie Axtell of Purple Sage and Café Terigo, Zane Holmquist of Stein Eriksen Lodge, Melissa Skarsten of Melissa’s cakes, Stephanie Krizman of Grappa, Chimayo, Wahso and Ghidotti’s, Jaxon Stallard of Park City Cooking School, Raymond Lammers of Stein Eriksen Lodge and Letty Flatt of Deer Valley Resort.
Lammers, who has been involved for the last five years, is making a Dutch lemon cookie, cherry pate de fruits and mocha éclairs.
"I think it’s a great thing that the proceeds to go the needy in Utah and across the nation," he said. "Anything we can do as people as people in the culinary industry to help out is great."
Flatt feels the same and added that it’s not the food, but the cause that makes the event special and worthwhile.
"I really believe in the cause to end childhood hunger, especially when here we are dealing with lavish amounts of food," said Flatt, who has been a participant from the beginning seven years ago. "Because the event is so high end people want to come, and all the money goes directly to hunger programs in Utah. It’s a great thing."
To purchase tickets or find out more information, call (800) 453-3663 or go online at http://www.tasteofnation-utah.org.
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