Honoring renowned chef and restaurateur Michael McCarty for “his remarkable achievements and contributions to the culinary industry and his commitment to nurturing the next generation of chefs,” the non-profit Careers through Culinary Arts Program (C-CAP) raised nearly $900,000 in its filled-to-capacity gala on February 16, 2012 at Pier 60, Chelsea Piers. The success was measured not only for the funds raised for its program that helps students advance to work in the food industry but for the spirit of enthusiasm that augured well for future support for the organization, founded more than 20 years ago.

There was the customary generous participation by chefs of leading restaurants to serve samplings of their dishes to the more than 800 guests filing up and down the aisles of tables, diets ignored to have a gourmet experience. That is always the main attraction. This year there was the additional attraction of star Bette Midler. She and her husband Martin von Haselberg served as honorary chairs.

Midler, in introducing McCarty, whose popular Michael’s restaurants in New York and Santa Monica, California, helped set new trends in serving American cuisine, called him “the greatest host in the world.” She referred to Michael’s New York as the place “where the beautiful people gather every day for a Michael’s fix.”

She also had the distinction of being able to squelch the inevitable buzz of chatter in the far reaches of the room when the proceedings are underway on the speakers’ platform. The always unpredictable Midler shouted into the microphone to the amused crowd: “Shut the f--- up!” After the laughter, it was indeed quieter.

The master of ceremonies was CBS2 News co-anchor Kristine Johnson. As an example of what C-CAP accomplishes, Sylva Senat, a C-CAP alumnus told how much the program has meant to him in leading to his food career and his current position as Executive Chef of Tashan, the Indian fusion restaurant in Philadelphia.

Other speakers included McCarty, who enthusiastically praised what C-CAP does, Richard Grausman, its founder and chairman, who presented McCarty with “The Bean” the trophy designed by sculptor Philip Grausman and Susan Robbins, recently named president of C-CAP. There was also the opportunity to meet Wilma Stephenson and Fatoumata Dembele, key figures in the Emmy-nominated documentary “Pressure Cooker,” directed by Jennifer Grausman and Mark Becker and demonstrating how the C-CAP program improved the lives of students in a Philadelphia school. The evening's entertainment consisted of music by the David Grausman Quartet.

The chef chair was restaurateur and chef Marcus Samuelsson, whose most recent New York restaurant is Red Rooster. The vice-chairs for the event were Nina and Tim Zagat and Susan and Richard Grausman.

As for the food binge, I did my best to sample as much as I could, but it would have been too daunting to cover everything. I particularly enjoyed Bar Basque’s txakoll braised pork belly and morcilla stuffed lamb; Asiate’s quinoa crusted sea scallop, onion marmalade with grapefruit butter sauce; Benoit's beef short ribs parmentier; the black truffle croquette of Park Avenue Winter; the salmon tataki witth yuzo soy sauce and garlic of Nobu 57; the spicy Korean tacos-kalbi braised short rib and bay scallops with bacon and watercress of Michael’s; duck steak with warm black and blueberry compote and mixed grain salad of New Leaf Restaurant and Bar; Moroccan lamb meatballs with salsa verde of Almond; braised short ribs of beef with anson mills cheese grits of Porter House New York, tuna tartar cones with avocado mousse and pomegranate from Extra Virgin; mussel soup with chorizo, curry and citrus from Aldea; baby rack of lamb from Beacon; Oceana’s wild Alaskan king salmon a la plancha with meyer lemon jam and radish salad; and among desserts, Sarabeth’s triple-chocolate, chocolate pudding with chocolate cherry butter cookies and The Modern’s assortment of petit fours, lollipops and chocolate.

Forgive me if I had to stop and missed other such appetite-wetting samplings as tortellini en brodo from Union Square Café; SHO-Shaun Hergatt’s hot celery root and truffle and panna cotta; Southgate’s clams, mustard greens, bacon and pasta; Telepan’s smoked trout with potato bellini and sweet onion sour cream; Shun Lee Palace’s famed Peking duck; Felidia’s beet salad with pickled cranberries and local cheeses, Dovetail’s gnocchi and mushrooms; BLT Steak’s New York strip stake-creamed basil and anchovy bone marrow butter; Gotham Bar and Grill’s Maine lobster agnolloti, smoked mushrooms-xerez butter emulsion; Barbuto’s crudi salad—Brussels sprouts, baby carrots, radishes and pecorino cheese; Red Rooster’s hominy risotto with smoked mackerel and lemon confit; snake river kurobuta pork belly with hazelnut butter of Michael’s; Loi’s baklava, kibo’s lobster salad with black quinoa, celery root and preserved lemon; Daniel’s pistachio dacquoise with fresh raspberries and vanilla cream; Dörk Chocolate’s chocolate truffles; Catch’s goat cheesecake, roasted black grapes; Abigail Kirsch’s tiramisu paired with salad; The Strand American Bistro’s seared scallop and braised smoked bork belly—mascarpone polenta; A Voce Columbus’s creamy mozzarella with tomato conserva, fennel and herbs; Blue Hill/ Blue Hill at Stone Barns’ carrot soup with buttermilk panna cotta, carrot crackers and pine nuts; Colicchio & Sons’ potato bavarois, hackleback caviar and vodka cream and SD26’s soft quail egg filled raviolo with truffled butter and parmagiano.

Participating chefs included:

Chef Chair: Marcus Samuelsson, Red Rooster;

Missy Robbins: A Voce Columbus

Philip DeMaiolo, Abigail Kirsch Pier Sixty

George Mendes, Aldea

Jason Weiner, Almond

Toni Robertson, Asiate

Yuhi Fujinaga, Bar Basque

Jonathan Waxman, Barbuto

Waldy Malouf, Beacon

Philippe Bertineau, Benoit

Clifford Crooks, BLT Steak

Dan Barber, Blue Hill/ Blue Hill at Stone Barns

Pastry chef Thiago Silva, Catch

Tom Colicchio, Colicchio & Sons

Daniel Boulud and Sandro Micheli, Daniel

John Fraser, Dovetail

Joey Fortunato, Extra Virgin

Fortunato Nicotra, Felidia

Alfred Portale, Gotham Bar & Grill Ayumu Matsuda, kibo

Maria Loi, Loi Restaurant NYC

Kyung Up Lim, Michael’s

Pastry chef Marc Aumont, The Modern

Scott Campbell, New Leaf Restaurant & Bar

Matt Hoyle, Nobu Fifty Seven

Ben Pollinger, Oceana

Kevin Lasko, Park Avenue Winter

Michael Lomonaco, Porter House New York

Matteo Bergamini, SD26

Pastry chef Sarabeth Levine, Sarabeth's

Shaun Hergatt, SHO – Shaun Hergatt

Michael Tong, Shun Lee Palace

Kerry Heffernan, Southgate

Kelvin Fernandez, The Strand American Bistro

William Telepan, Telepan

Carmen Quagliata, Union Square Cafe

In addition, participating C-CAP graduate chefs included Mehdi Chellaoui, founder and chocolatier at Dörk Chocolate.

Wines were donated by The Charmer Sunbelt Group. More than 60 New York City C-CAP high school culinary students assisted the chefs. The evening’s program also included a silent auction of culinary and travel packages.

Past recipients of the C-CAP Honors Award include Michael Lomonaco, Marcus Samuelsson, Drew Nieporent, Alfred Portale, Lidia Bastianich, Thomas Keller, Charlie Palmer, Danny Meyer and Michael Romano, Daniel Boulud, Jacques Pepin, Egidiana and Sirio Maccioni, Nina and Tim Zagat and Saul Zabar and Stanley Zabar.

C-CAP has given some 34 million in scholarships, donated $2.7 million worth of supplies and equipment to classrooms and provided training and curriculum enrichment programs, including: teacher training, cooking competitions, job training, internships, college and career advising and product donations. C-CAP operates programs in seven locations: New York, Los Angeles, Chicago, Philadelphia, Hampton Roads, VA., Prince George’s County, Maryland and statewide in Arizona.

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