Last year my husband and I were lucky enough to “win” a live auction item at a fundraiser as I like to say it (husband translation: we totally outbid the others). The fundraiser was held at our local Jasper’s Restaurant. Jasper’s closed the restaurant that evening to the public to hold the event.
FIRST – A LITTLE BACKGROUND
We frequently dine at Jasper’s, so I knew Chef Kent Rathbun was the owner of 3 Jasper’s and 2 other restaurants. Since I’m also a Food Network Channel ‘junkie’, I already was quite familiar with Chef Kent Rathbun’s reputation. In case you are not, let me share a little of his background with you.
Kent Rathbun entered the food business at the age of 14 as a dishwasher. By the age of 17, he was working as an apprentice in a 5-star restaurant where his mother worked. It was there Rathbun gained experience working with high-end ingredients and learned the art of perfect preparation.
In 1999, Rathbun opened his first restaurant, Abacus. Over the years, Abacus has earned numerous accolades and awards including AAA Four Diamonds, Forbes Travel Guide Four Stars, and Wine Spectator Award of Excellence. Rathbun has also been nominated as the James Beard Foundation’s Best Chef: Southwest in 1999, 2002, 2003, and 2004.
He has appeared on several TV shows including the CBS Early Show and NBC’s Today Show. In 2008, Chef Kent Rathbun competed on Food Network’s “Iron Chef America” and defeated Chef Bobby Flay! (Source: Kent Rathbun Concepts
Typical of fundraisers, we were able to peruse the auction items during the cocktail hour. So I was thrilled when I saw one of the live auction items was “Dinner for 8 Prepared by Chef Kent Rathbun in Your Home”! I immediately told my husband I planned on “winning” this item – which, as I previously mentioned, I did.
Over several months, I worked with Jasper’s Sales Manager, Meredith Osani, to find a mutually agreed upon date (we were also in the midst of planning a wedding). We found a date late in the fall of last year that worked for all of us. I continued to work with Meredith regarding the specifics of the evening. She asked me if we had any food items we wanted, did not want to eat, allergies, etc. I told her we would be fine with whatever menu they came up with.
The “Chef Dinner” at our home was an extraordinary experience! I’m sure my husband would now even admit it was well worth our donation to a good cause.
Here’s a look back at our fantastic evening.
Several days before our dinner, Meredith emailed me a copy of the menu that was planned for our dinner. I had forgotten to mention my husband doesn’t care for coconut, but told Meredith my husband and I thought the menu looked great, and he would be okay with the dessert. She insisted they would change the dessert to something else.
We were quite elated to see how many courses we would be having. I also asked Meredith if she could check with Chef for some wine recommendations (pairings) to go with each of the courses.
I set a simple table – in the kitchen – wanting to be able to observe the cooking and preparation of the entire meal (staying interactive). I used my Woodlands Spode dishes since it was late fall.
I put a copy of the menu in a frame on the table for our guests
Our guests were due to arrive at 6:45 p.m. I had asked Meredith approximately what time to expect Chef Kent. She replied that Chef Kent and Chef Brian (who I did not know at that time, but knew he had helped Chef Kent create our menu for the evening) would arrive about 5:00. I assumed Chef Brian would help Chef Kent get set up and then depart. Boy, was I wrong!
They did arrive around 5:00 – in a car and in a truck!! Five of them: Chef Kent, Chef Brian, Meredith, and 2 others. I should have gotten a clue as to what the evening was going to be like when one of them commented on what a pretty table I had set, and did I want to use my own dishes for the meal?!!
To put it simply, the evening was like eating in a 5-star restaurant in your own home!
They brought all kinds of dishes and pots and pans in addition to the food. All five of them stayed the entire evening. Chef Brian O’Neill McNamara I learned was the Executive Chef at Jasper’s (for five years). The “other 2” were a sous chef and one of Jasper’s best wait staff. ..and excellent wait staff he was. Not only did he serve each course to each of us, refill our wine glasses, but also if one of us got up from our chairs (which I did a lot to take photos), he folded up our napkin and reset it on the table (just like at a 5-star restaurant).
Meredith, Chef Kent Rathbun, and Chef Brian McNamara discuss a few things before our guests arrive. Note: I apologize for the quality of the photos – I wasn’t sure how the chefs would feel about me constantly taking photos throughout the evening, so I quickly snapped photos from a phone. I learned afterwards that they had absolutely no problem with me taking pictures (next time…)
One of our Starters: Masala Spiced Lamb Kebob with Pomegranate Molasses
The Other Starter: Lump Blue Crab Cannellini Hummus on a Sweet Potato Chip with a Pomegranate Seed
Both Starters were a delicious ‘start’ to begin our Chef’s Dinner…
The three chefs begin the preparation of our First Course.
You can see all the delectable details in the plastic containers that will be added to our plates during the dinner…and you have to love the creativity of using a squeeze bottle for a pretty distribution of sauces or dressings…
The base of our First Course: a shell filled with Kumquat Vinaigrette and Pureed Edamame….I loved the idea of serving the course in a shell
Adding pickled ginger to the plate…Pickled ginger enhances the flavor of certain (seafood/sushi) dishes and can also cleanse your palate
Plating the scallop….
Adding finishing touches…
Our First Course: BBQ Sea Scallop in a Kumquat Vinaigrette with Edamame, Pickled Ginger, and Toasted Hazelnuts
Chef Kent tells us about the scallop course we are about to eat
This was one of my favorite courses of the night – I loved the taste of the scallop and all the additional flavors and textures that accompanied it …
A very attractive Second Course – notice the change in the shape of the plate (previously a round to now a square one)
Chef Brian describes our Second Course: A Roasted Baby Root Vegetable-Duck Confit Salad with a Plum Vinaigrette and Spicy Marcona Almond served with Homemade Ricotta
Another beautiful course – love the color and the additional element the pomegranate seeds bring to the plate…
Chef Kent tells us about our Third Course: Slow Braised Niman Ranch Pork Cheek with Rosemary Smoked Apples, Parsnip Puree, and Espelette Pepper Butter
None of us had eaten pork cheek prior to this evening. Chef Kent told us most likely if we were to order pork cheek in a restaurant as a main entrée, we would be served two of them, but due to the numbers of courses we were being served it was only one which was plenty.
This course was definitely a favorite of all of us – it was divine!!
How delightful is this for a late fall dessert, and garnished with sweet edible violas?!! I don’t think any of us indulged in eating the violas, but from my understanding they are one of the few edible flowers that actually taste good…
Chef Brian describes our Fourth Course: A Spiced Coffee Cake with Butterscotch Praline and a Dark Chocolate-Orange Gelato
Perfect for a fall dessert – yummy too!
Chef Kent chats with us after the meal…
BRIEF SUMMARY OF OUR CHEF’S DINNER
The whole evening far exceeded my expectations.
I appreciated all the attention to details they provided and the time it took for doing all the extra steps – like garnishes, pretty sauces, edible flowers, the additional ingredients that added one more flavor, taste, or texture to the courses.
They didn’t rush us at all throughout the evening.
And finally, the impeccable service and the warmth and friendliness of each of them.
COMMENTS ON A CHEF’S DINNER AS AN AUCTION ITEM IN A FUNDRAISER
My husband and I attended the same fundraiser this year. Once again, Jasper’s donated a “Chef’s Dinner with Kent Rathbun”. Word must have gotten out how much we enjoyed our dinner last year because I was utterly outbid this year. Meredith who was at the fundraiser and seeing how much the dinner went for promptly got on the phone with Chef Kent. Jasper’s (& Kent Rathbun!) were extremely generous and donated a second “Chef Kent Dinner”. I am very happy to report that we “won” the second Chef’s Dinner. It is planned for early fall this year, and I am hoping to take much better photos of the evening this time around.
Certainly we won’t be forgetting our memorable dinner for a while and are looking forward the next one. Even if your fundraiser cannot get a Celebrity Chef like Kent Rathbun to donate a dinner for 8, any dinner prepared by a chef in a home is a “priceless” auction item and well received at a fundraiser. Consider asking the venue where your fundraiser is held at to have their chef donate a night to cook in someone’s house, or possibly have a cooking/baking lesson with the chef at the venue itself.