Food Network Celebs Star in Local Hunger Relief Dinner

Cuisine on the Green at Atlantis Hosts Dec. 11 Benefit
Nov 26, 2014
Nicole Gaffney of “The Next Food Network Star”

Food Network stars are the chefs of a special dinner and wine tasting to benefit holiday time hunger relief. The Southern Ocean County Community Foundation event is scheduled for Dec. 11 at Cuisine on the Green at Atlantis, Little Egg Harbor Township.

The SOCCF is the same organization that holds the hugely successful “Taste of Southern Ocean County” hunger relief dinner/auction (often shortened to the “Taste” dinner) each spring to raise funds for area food banks. This is the first time an event has been added in the holiday season.

A creative menu, themed “Winter Wonderland,” will greet guests at the Cuisine Live Demo Dinner and Wine Tasting.

By making a reservation and buying a $100 ticket, guests will be treated to a stellar, seven-course dinner while helping to raise funds for eight food banks in Southern Ocean County that are in particular need for provisions at holiday time. An auction and raffles will be part of the evening.

“We would appreciate people coming, because it’s the holiday. These food banks struggle all year keeping up with demand, but it’s even worse at the holiday season,” said foundation Vice President Chris Schwab, who works at the Anderson Agency.

“Taste” dinner chairman Ian Smith is also a chef-instructor at the Ocean County Center for Culinary Arts at Cuisine on the Green, hence the choice of venue for the Dec. 11 event. It happens that another of the chef-instructors there, Geoff Johnson, is called to collaborate with colleagues he knows on The Food Network. This time, they’re coming down here to Little Egg Harbor.

Nicole Gaffney of “The Next Food Network Star,” Michael Scipione of “Cutthroat Kitchen” and “Rewrapped,” and Dan Ryan of “Hell’s Kitchen” are all chefs from The Food Network channel who will be participating in the Dec. 11 local hunger relief dinner.

Joining them in the kitchen will be several of the culinary arts center’s own chef-instructors: Smith, Johnson and John Grifo.

With a name like “Winter Wonderland,” the menu theme already evokes a mouthwatering magical anticipation.

Smith and Johnson offered a hint of the menu items: succulent Viking Village sea scallops; braised boneless short ribs with winter vegetable ragout; “snowflake” salad of shaved fennel with peppermint bits, oven-dried apple chips and peppermint schnapps vinaigrette; gnocchi with South Philly crab gravy; eggnog bread pudding with a toasted marshmallow milkshake, and more.

The event begins with a half-hour reception at 6 p.m., followed by chefs’ demos, the dinner, prize raffles and an auction of themed gift baskets.

The Cuisine Live Demo Dinner & Wine Tasting is a pre-paid, reservation-only event with a limit of 70 place settings at $100 per setting. Payment will be accepted at the time the reservation is made.

To reserve, bring credit card or check (payable to SOCC Foundation) and stop in at the Southern Ocean County Chamber of Commerce office, 265 West Ninth St., Ship Bottom; or call the chamber at 609-494-7211 with the credit card number.

Cuisine on the Green at Atlantis is located at 2621 Country Club Blvd., off Radio Road.

The food pantries that will receive donations from the proceeds are: Barnegat Food Pantry, St. Francis Center, Lacey Food Bank, Tuckerton Inter-Church Food Pantry, Ocean Community Food Ministry, St. Stephen’s Episcopal Church Food Pantry, St. Mary’s Ken’s Kitchen, and King of Kings Community Church Food Pantry.

Schwab said the Southern Ocean County Community Foundation, formerly under the umbrella of the chamber of commerce, is now on its own as a nonprofit, 501(c)(3) entity. That enables it to expand its scope of fundraisers for hunger relief, although the original “Taste” dinner will continue. The foundation has raised $500,000 through the years.

“Since the foundation has branched out in its own, that gives it the opportunity to do more events and get the word out about the foundation,” Schwab said.

As a local not-for-profit, “all the money stays here in Southern Ocean County,” Schwab reminded.

Hunger, including childhood hunger, “is in our backyard,” Schwab noted. “Not a lot of people know how high the demand is on the food banks.”

The foundation quotes statistics nationally that say “16 million children in the United States don’t get enough food – and often you’d never be able to tell it by looking at them. These children could be in your town and maybe even in your neighborhood. Hunger can take its toll on everything, from their immune system, oral health and academic and social development.”

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