The Careers through Culinary Arts Program (C-CAP) knows how to provide its supporters with a good time while carrying out the necessary task of raising funds to provide scholarships and help launch careers for high school students in many cities. Some $650,000 was raised at this year’s 10th annual tasting event (February 27, 2008), and its boosters packed Pier Sixty at Chelsea Piers, descending upon the rows of food stands offering specialties from many of New York’s most illustrious restaurants and prepared by renowned chefs and their staffs. It was one gigantic party, with those who attended pampering their taste buds after lightening their wallets. Judging by the happy faces, the exchange brought much pleasure.

There is, of course, the extra satisfaction of knowing how much good one is doing by supporting C-CAP, as was evident by one of the evening’s speakers, Lasheeda Perry, a personable young woman who explained that thanks to C-CAP, she was the first in her large family to go to collage by virtue of a $60,000 scholarship to Johnson & Wales. She has just graduated summa cum laude with a B.S. in Pastry Arts and Food Management, and she is headed into her first full-time job as a pastry cook at the Four Seasons Hotel in Dallas.

The benefit honored Alfred Portale, Executive Chef at Gotham Bar and Grill, a long-time C-CAP supporter, who spoke about his commitment to the non-profit organization. Al Roker of NBC’s The Today Show was back again as congenial Master of Ceremonies, and chef Marcus Samuelsson of Aquavit, Riingo and Merkato 55 was Chair of the Chef Committee. The event itself was chaired by Carol and N. Richard Kalikow, with Susan and Richard Grausman serving as Vice Chairs. This year’s Platinum Sponsors were the Joseph and Sylvia Slifka Foundation and Zabar’s & Co.

In addressing the gathering and expressing thanks for the support, C-CAP president and founder Richard Grausman noted that his daughter Jennifer Grausman, has produced and directed a feature documentary film, “Pressure Cooker,” edited and co-directed by Mark Becker. Three Philadelphia high school seniors are followed as they study in a culinary arts class, eventually competing in C-CAP competitions. Participant Media (Al Gore’s Oscar-winning documentary, “An inconvenient Truth”) has come on board as executive producer.

Helping to raise funds at the benefit was a silent auction featuring such items as accommodations as The Blantyre Hotel in Massachusetts, packages at Canyon Ranch in Tuscon, and an at-home dinner prepared by Marcus Samuellson, as well as a day in the kitchen at Gotham Bar and Grill topped by dinner for eight prepared by Chef Portale.

Covering the benefit includes the sampling the food, and there was an embarrassment of riches. To name just a few of my favorites: Seared diver scallop from Café des Artistes; lobster cannelloni with American sturgeon caviar from Compass; rabbit terrine with candied kumquats from Dovetail; charred yellowtail hamachi, baby bok choy and seasonal mushrooms from Michael’s; yellowtail pastrami salad from Morimoto; Natucket bay scallops with marney, citrus and charoli nuts from Oceana; classic steak tartare with fresh baby herb salad from Patroon; Peking duck from Shun Lee Palace; braised short rib “parmigiano” with asparagus salad from Union Square Café; hot smoked salmon with crisp salmon skin salad from Aquavit and tuna spring roll with crisp shallots and chili mayonnaise from Buddakan.

Among the dessert favorites: banana tart tatin with malted milk ice cream from Craft; quince cheesecake with pistachio phyllo from Gramercy Tavern; brownies with raspberry ganache from The Modern; rice pudding tart from Sarabeth’s and various others.( One has to quit somewhere.)

In a new addition, this year more than 60 New York City C-CAP high school culinary students could be seen assisting the chefs of the restaurants at the tasting. Since its founding in 1990 C-CAP has awarded $22.2 million in scholarships, including a record-breaking $3.65 million last year. Many students have gone on to jobs in New York and other parts of the country. In addition to its New York program, C-CAP also has programs in Los Angeles, Chicago, Philadelphia, Hampton Roads, VA, Washington, D.C. and Arizona. In the past academic year the organization has served 266 high school teachers in 204 public schools, and 22,603 students involved in their classes. C-CAP donated $278,960 worth of supplies and equipment to participating schools.

Restaurants represented included Abigail Kirsch Pier Sixty, Aquavit, Aureole, Beacon, Blue Hill, Buddakan, Café des Artistes, Compass, Craft, dbBistro Moderne, Del Posto, Dovetail, Felidia, Fiamma, 57 at Four Seasons, Gilt, Gotham Bar and Grill, Gramercy Tavern, Landmarc, Michael’s, The Modern, Morimoto, Nobu 57, Oceana, Patroon, Payard Bistro, Picholine, Porter House New York, Primehouse New York, Riingo, San Domenico, Sarabeth’s, Shun Lee Palace, Tabla, Telepan, Town and Union Square Café.

For more information about C-CAP, phone: 212-974-711 or visit website www.ccapinc.org.

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