Charity Dinner Brings Together Downtown Chefs. Yum!

October 7, 2014

chefstableDATEby Brad Poole

You could spend a week circulating among Downtown restaurants and bars to get a taste of each one – or you could kill eight birds with one stone at the upcoming Downtown Chef’s Table, which will bring together chefs and mixologists from some of the best dining hotspots in the city center.

“The idea really is to celebrate who we are Downtown. It really has become a dining center for Tucson,” said Chef Janos Wilder, who will host the event at DOWNTOWN Kitchen + Cocktails, 135 S. Sixth Ave.

The charity event – 100 percent of ticket sales will be split between Tu Nidito and the Fox Tucson Theatre – is the first of its kind.

Wilder has done many collaborative dinners with other chefs through his decades in Tucson, but the Downtown event is the first one to focus on one part of town, Wilder said.

The food, where possible, will be local. There was no theme when the plan started, but eventually the chefs independently decided to use locally produced ingredients, so almost every dish is made from local goods.

Chefs and/or mixologists from Penca, Reilly Pizza, and 47 Scott/Saint House will prepare cocktails and appetizers during a reception, then chefs from Agustin Kitchen, Maynard’s Market & Kitchen, Proper, Pizzeria Bianco and DOWNTOWN Kitchen + Cocktails will each offer dinner courses.

A mixologist from 47 Scott (they've won accolades nationally for this) will blend some delicious fruits with mezcal during a reception before the Downtown Chef's Table dinner Oct. 12.

A mixologist from 47 Scott (they’ve won accolades nationally for this) will blend some delicious fruits with mezcal during a reception before the Downtown Chef’s Table dinner Oct. 12.

The event gives the Downtown chefs a chance to connect, said Norma Gentry, who is helping publicize the charity dinner.

“Tucson chefs love working together. Yes, they’re competitors, but they really love working together,” Gentry said.

The dinner would not have been possible a few years ago, because, well, there just weren’t enough Downtown chefs. Downtown was a vacuum of activity and businesses for many years.

“But that’s not really the history of Downtown. The history of Downtown really goes back much further than that,” said Wilder, who opened a restaurant downtown in 1983, moved to The Westin La Paloma Resort & Spa, then came back Downtown in 2010.

Up through at least the 1960s, Downtown was the center of city life. Most of the city’s prominent restaurants and department stores were there. The streets were teeming with shoppers, diners and folks out for an evening stroll.

“People miss that, and they see it now, when they come Downtown,” Wilder said.

The resurgence picked up steam in 2010, after the Fourth Avenue underpass was completed, linking the city’s two entertainment centers. The Sun Link streetcar has also helped considerably.

A charity Downtown Chef's table dinner will heat up DOWNTOWN Kitchen + Cocktails on Oct. 12. Chefs and mixologists will come together to raise money for Tu Nidito and the Fox Tucson Theatre.

A charity Downtown Chef’s table dinner will heat up DOWNTOWN Kitchen + Cocktails on Oct. 12. Chefs and mixologists will come together to raise money for Tu Nidito and the Fox Tucson Theatre.

“We are creating a wonderful community of chefs working alongside each other to create a world class culinary destination. We are all pleased to be a part of something bigger than ourselves,” Wilder said.

The entire cost of the dinner was covered by donations from Dr. and Mrs Gulshan Sethi, Sinfonia Healthcare, Holualoa Companies, Don Martin and the Downtown Tucson Partnership, so 100 percent of the proceeds go to charity.

“I wanted to be certain that we could donate as much as possible to Tu Nidito and the Fox Theatre,” Wlider said.

The Downtown Chef’s Table is Sunday, Oct. 12 at 5:30 p.m. Tickets are $150 per person. The event is limited to 100 guests and is expected to sell out. Tickets are available here, and more information is here.

The menu:

Reception appetizers
Penca owner Patricia Schwabe’s appetizer will be cabra (goat) in pasilla-mulato adobo, candied sliver xoconostle (prickly pear pods) with cana cabra cheese on a blue corn sope served with a specially paired cocktail, elote asado-washed mezcal de Oaxaca, with chiltepin-macerated aguamiel, lime juice, and café/wormwood bitters.

Dinner
Soup – Chef Ryan Clark of Agustin Kitchen will make Jerusalem artichoke soup with puffed pastry, red beet panna cotta, beet and apple salad with blood orange olive oil. Wine: 2013 Raids Viognier, Cochise County

Salad – Chris Bianco of Pizzeria Bianco will create a seasonal salad with fresh local ingredients. Wine: Dos Cabezas Meskeoli

Fish – Chef Jared Scott of Maynards Market & Kitchen will make pan roasted cobia with fennel cooked risotto style, smoked blueberry, shallot marmalade, and Arizona sprout house onion flower. Wine: Pierre Sparr gewurztraminer, Alsace, France, 2011.

Meat – Chef Janos Wilder of DOWNTOWN Kitchen + Cocktails will do a lamb shoulder barbacoa and elements of autumn in Baja Arizona. Wine: Callaghan Vineyards 2009 Padres Estate (Sonoita) proprietary red wine

Dessert
Chef Kris Vrolijk of Proper will offer Arizona olive oil cake with local dates and pecans. Wine: Carlson Creek Sweet Adeline riesling, Willcox, 2012

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