How many different types of food can you taste in one evening? A pier full of guests supporting the Careers Through Culinary Arts Program (C-CAP) were put to the test on March 1, 2006, at the 8th annual “A Preview of Spring Dining” benefit held on Pier Sixty, Chelsea Piers, West 23rd Street. Patrons crowded row after row of tables with signature dishes prepared by chefs from New York’s top restaurants, tables filled with creative desserts and a bar flowing with champagne and wine. The special evening, as always, was a gourmet’s delight.

Significantly, C-CAP raised some $590,000 at the benefit, an increase over the previous year’s $523,000. The non-profit organization, founded in 1990 by Richard and Susan Grausman, offers cooking courses in schools throughout the country and has given some $15 million in scholarships. Many students instructed in the C-CAP program have gone on to food industry jobs, and they have been an important source of skills for employment in numerous leading restaurants.

Once again, Al Roker of NBC’s The Today Show served as a convivial Master of ceremonies, and this year’s honoree was Thomas Keller, the chef and culinary leader who is the owner of per se in New York City, The French Laundry, Bouchon and Bouchon Bakery in Yountville, California and Bouchon at the Venetian in Las Vegas. Keller was presented with a stainless steel sculpture by artist Philip Grausman. Marcus Samuelsson of Aquavit and Riingo restaurants served as Chef Committee Chair, Kenneth Himmel, President and CEO of Related Urban Development, was Event Chair, with Susan and Richard Grausman and Debi and Rick Smilow as Vice Chairs.

Those who attended the benefit for a tab of $375 to $1000 could sample such mouth-watering specialties as barbecued Kobe beef from Abigail Kirsch’s Pier Sixty; smoked yellow tomato soup, goat cheese and shrimp from Aquavit; rack of lamb with black olives and lemon from Beacon; shrimp, mango, and artichoke terrine with celery root and passion fruit dressing from Bouley; farm raised suckling pig confit with wild mushrooms and pickled ramps from Daniel; Peking duck from Shun Lee Palace, raspberry-lychee parfait with rose macaron from Le Bernardin, spiced crab salad with English pea puree and pea shoots from Patroon, seared foie gras from Union Square Café---you get the idea. The foregoing are but a few examples.

Other participants included Atelier, Aureole, BLT Prime, Blue Fin, Blue Hill, Bouchon Bakery, Compass, Craft, Fauchon, Felidia, Fiamma Osteria, Fifty Seven, Fleur de Sel, Landmarc, The Modern, Nobu 57, Olives, Payard Bistro, per se, Riingo, Sarabeth’s, The Sea Grill, Tabla, Telepan, Tocqueville Restaurant, Town and wd-50. Wines were provided by The Charmer Sunbelt Group, and coffee, espresso and cappuccino were offered by illy caffè. Nestlé Waters North America provided Acqua Panna and San Pellegrino. Guests went home with gift bags, courtesy of Zabar’s. The event also had a host of sponsors too numerous to mention here, an indication of the extent of support C-CAP has built up over the years.

Fund-raising highlights were the live and silent auctions that gave attendees a chance to bid on restaurant meals, hotel accommodations, theater tickets, spas, trips and other opportunities. One special auction was for a private tour of city restaurants with Tim Zagat of the renowned Zagat Survey guides. The most spectacular was free accommodation for up to 50 people and run of the entire Blantyre resort in Lenox, MA, with meals included, for two nights. The winning bid on that was $23,000. For further information on C-CAP, phone 212-974-7111 or click onto the C-CAP website, www.ccapinc.org.

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