It’s the perfect formula. Binge on tasting gourmet dishes provided by chefs from some of New York’s elite restaurants and at the same time provide funds to advance the non-profit Careers through Culinary Arts Program (C-CAP), which provides high school students in various cities with cooking school scholarships and the opportunity to advance into food industry jobs. Celebrating its 20th anniversary, the organization held its annual benefit on Wednesday, February 24th, 2010 at Pier Sixty, Chelsea Piers, New York City, and raised more than $500,000. In the 20 years of its existence C-CAP has awarded $28 million in scholarships and donated 2.3 million worth of supplies and equipment to classrooms.

Honoree of the occasion was restaurateur and television celebrity chef Marcus Samuelsson, who in his acceptance speech stressed the important contribution that C-CAP was making in providing opportunities to young people in many cities. The personable master of ceremonies was CBS2 News co-anchor Maurice DuBois. The award presented to Samuelsson was a sculpture designed for C-CAP by noted artist Philip Grausman. An elaborate silent auction was supplied by donors whose bid-on contributions helped augment the total raised.

But let’s get to the gorging for goodness. Pier Sixty was lined with table after table of treats for those who bought tickets to the benefit. In addition to the restaurant personnel taking care of the crowd were past and present C-CAP students. Checking out the scene, I also wended my way sampling various signature dishes.

A favorite was the wild fowl potpie of Abigail Kirsch. I was impressed by Almond’s house cured pastrami with spicy bread and butter. Aretsky’s Patroon served dark beer braised beef brisket on a parmesan buttermilk biscuit with horseradish sauce. A lover of suckling pig, I adored Asiate’s suckling pig, smoked parsnip puree with apple yuzu kosho.

Aureole delivered delicious diver sea scallops with passion fruit sugar snap peas and chives. Barbutto’s white bean bruschetta with white anchovies and chilies was popular, and for good reason. I indulged twice with Beacon’s herb marinated lamb chops with garlic parsley crumbs. BLT Prime’s smoked strip loin with porcini puree hit the spot. Wait, I was just getting started.

Among the other dishes I sampled and enjoyed were tuna tartar spring rolls from Buddakan; smoked main lobster with crystallized ginger, ruby grapefruit and tamarind from Compass; smoked sturgeon with fingerling potatoes, leeks, oyster and American caviar from craft; seared tuna “buns” from eighty-one; seared filet mignon, haricots verts, piquillo peppers, arugula and pink peppercorn vinaigrette from Primehouse, New York, and the very rich uovo in ravioli truffle butter-- soft egg yoke filled ravioli with truffle butter and parmigiano reggiano from SD 26. I gave up on trying Shun Lee Palace’s popular Peking duck, as the lines were too long and I often enjoy it dining there in my West Side neighborhood.

Understand that these were tasting portions. Still there was a point at which I had to give up. Well, not exactly. There were still the desert tables. So on I went to enjoy Daniel’s chocolate and peanut butter ganache praline feuilletine; Gramercy Tavern’s banana cream tarts; Sarabeth’s Black Beauty—individual chocolate cake with ganache, and Oceana’s tropical fruit pudding cake.

There was also ample champagne and red and white wine to augment the feast, courtesy of The Charmer Sunbelt Group—to be specific, Piper Heidsieck champagne, Des Bressades Cabernet/Syrah 2005 and Chateau Du Tariquet Classic Blanc 2008.

Obviously it takes plenty of collaborative work to put on a lavish benefit like this. The Event Chair was Christina Grdovic, Vice-President and Publisher of Food & Wine Magazine. Vice-chairs were Judith and Stanley Zabar and Susan and Richard Grausman. Mr. Grausman is the ever-dedicated Founder and President of C-CAP and the author of "At Home With the French Classics," and for over 15 years was the U.S, representative of the renowned Le Cordon Bleu cooking school in Paris. (The Grausmans's daughter Jennifer, is producer and director of “Pressure Cooker” in collaboration either editor/director Mark Becker, a film documenting a C-CAP cooking program in a Philadelphia high school. Having had a theatrical release, it is now due out on DVD.)

A list of the restaurants represented at the benefit, their chefs and what was served follows:

Abigail Kirsch, Philip DeMaiolo, wild fowl potpie—duck, pheasant and squab slow roasted in a rich chicken jus with cippolini onions, carrots and wild mushrooms topped with a savory buttermilk biscuit

Almond, Jason Weine, house cured pastrami with spicy bread and butter

Aquavit, Marcus Jernmark, smoked goat cheese and yellow beet roulade, red beet chutney, caramelized pistachios

Aretsky's Patroon, Bill Peet, dark beer braised beef brisket on a parmesan buttermilk biscuit, horseradish sauce

Asiate, Brandon Kida, suckling pig, smoked parsnip puree, apple yuzu kosho

Aureole, Christopher Lee, diver sea scallops with passion fruit sugar snap peas, and chives

Barbuto, Jonathan Waxman, white bean bruschetta with white anchovies and chilies

Beacon, Waldy Malouf, herb marinated lamb chops with garlic parsley crumbs

BLT Prime, Laurent Tourondel and Angel Hildago, Smoked Strip Loin / Porcini Puree

Blue Hill New York and Blue Hill at Stone Barns, Dan Barber, forono beets, buttermilk and horseradish

Buddakan, Lon Symensm, tuna tartare spring rolls

Compass, Milton Enriquez,smoked maine lobster, crystallized ginger, ruby grapefruit, and tamarind

Craft , Tom Colicchio and James Tracey, smoked sturgeon with fingerling potatoes, leeks, oyster, and American caviar

Daniel, Daniel Boulud and Dominique Ansel, chocolate and peanut butter ganache praliné feuilletine

Dovetail, John Frazer, rabbit terrine, candied kumquats and beets

eighty-one, Ed Brown, seared tuna "buns"

Felidia, Fortunato Nicotra, asparagus and house cured duck prosciutto

Gilt, Justin Bogle, sunchoke veloute, cream cheese, pumpernickel, and dill

Gotham Bar and Grill Alfred Portale, cauliflower custard with santa barbara uni, trout roe and soy vinaigrette

Gramercy Tavern, Nancy Olson, banana cream tarts

Landmarc, Marc Murphy, orecchiette alla norcina - orecchiette with sausage, parmesan, rosemary and heavy cream

Michael’s, Kyung Up Lim, Braised Veal Cheek, Daikon, Fresh Horseradish, Scallion, Thyme

Nobu Fifty Seven, Matt Hoyle, lamb rosemary miso

Oceana, Jansen Chan, tropical fruit pudding cake

Olives, Alfred Stephens, faux carrot cake

Park Avenue Winter, Craig Koketsu and Kevin Lasko, crispy cones of peekytoe crab with avocado, citron and ginger

Primehouse New York, Brian O’Donohoe, seared filet mignon, haricots verts, piquillo peppers, arugula, and pink peppercorn vinaigrette

Riingo, Jimmy Lappalainen, chicken liver mousse on a toasted brioche served with Asian pear chutney

Sarabeth's, Sarabeth Levine, black beauty - individual chocolate cake with ganache

SD 26, Odette Fada, uovo in raviolo, truffle butter - soft egg yolk filled ravioli with truffle butter and parmigiano reggiano

SHO The Setai, Shaun Hergatt, three day short rib with creamy polenta

Shun Lee Palace, Michael Tong, Peking duck

Telepan, William Telepan, fallen polenta souffle with hominy and mushrooms

Union Square Café, Carmen Quagliata, ricotta gnocchi with meyer lemon and soft herbs

For information about C-CAP phone: 212-974-7111 or go to www.ccapinc.org.

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