Celebrity Chef Invitational has class, good food

Black ties and fine wines was the theme of the 12th annual Celebrity Chef Invitational, a fund-raiser for the culinary arts program at the University of Alaska Anchorage. This year’s celebrity chef was Andrew Wilkinson, former head chef of New York’s Rainbow Room and current chef and co-owner of Boston’s Skipjack’s. Wilkinson attended The Culinary Institute of America with his wife, Regina Wilkinson, who directed the pastry portion of the meal.
On Sept. 15, the seven-course seafood menu hand-crafted by the Wilkinsons had people raving before the end of the appetizers. The dinner was not your average charity spaghetti feed. Each course was matched with wine. From the opening toasts to dessert, the meal was stunning.

Celebrity Chef is more than just a fund-raiser. The black-tie event is a yearly meeting place for Anchorage’s culinary elite and it christens a new school year for the culinary arts program.

The yearly event rakes in a lot of money for the program, Culinary Arts Director Timothy Doebler said. The 32 tables at the event cost about $15 thousand each. Businesses sponsor a table and send whomever they want to attend the dinner.

The invitational is the culinary arts program’s largest fund-raiser but the venue is not large enough to support its interest. Even with 275 diners this year, Doebler said some companies were denied seats at this illustrious event because the Lucy Cuddy Hall, where the event is held, can only accommodate a limited number of tables.

The event also serves to introduce student volunteers to potential future employers. Chancellor Elaine Maimon attended the fund-raiser and said the main goal was to benefit the students.

“The best part of the evening was to see the students working with the celebrity chefs,” Maimon said.

Sponsors, including Sysco Foodservices and the Snow Goose Restaurant, nominated a local chef to work under Chef Wilkinson and sent a volunteer to work in the kitchen. Volunteer Bill Woodland enjoyed working with the celebrity chef.

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“I have attended this event before, but working in the kitchen has given me a sense of the work that goes on behind the scenes,” Woodland said.

With this year’s event in the past, Doebler is already planning the next Celebrity Chef.
“Preparations start when the cleanup ends,” he said.