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Wined and dined at Chefs Evening

By Allison Crady
On March 6, 2013

The Hammond community gathered together to enjoy live music, fine wine and gourmet food in support of the prestigious university fundraiser, Chefs Evening.
Hosted by the Southeastern Foundation, the annual event was held Sunday evening in the Pennington Student Activity Center. The evening featured two silent auctions, one live auction, a raffle, a variety of live music, including performances from the Southeastern Jazz Ensemble and Todd O'Neil, and an abundance of fine food and drinks.
"It's my favorite time of the year. Chefs Evening just shows how the community all comes together at an event that raises great funds, much needed funds, for the university," said Jacki Bellairs, director of Annual Giving. "I do think each year it gets bigger. In the past we've raised around $100,000 for the university, and that goes to the five academic colleges. We're hoping that with the live auction again this year, we'll raise more funds than we did last year."
Founded in 1984, the event has been hosted for 29 consecutive years. For the 2013 Chefs Evening, the "Taster's Choice" awards were divided into three categories: "Best Main Dish," "Best Accompanying Dish" and "Best Dessert." The Yum Yum Bakery was voted "Best Dessert."
"We've been a part of Chefs Evening for two years. We're serving nine different flavors of cupcakes," said Jacob Fendlason, assistant manager of Yum Yum Bakery. "It's a wonderful thing, and you got to help the students. Honestly, I think it's a huge success."
Buddies Bar & Grill was awarded "Best Main Dish" for their bacon-wrapped shrimp, grilled oysters and steak. Tope' La was voted "Best Accompanying Dish" for their choices of roasted jalapeno corn polenta cake, jumbo lump crab, beef asparagus roll and blue cheese flatbread. Over 80 restaurants and sponsors gathered together in support of the university. Student organizations such as Phi Mu, Delta Tau Delta and Gamma Beta Phi also helped host the evening.
"Gamma Beta Phi is associated with Chefs Evening in the fact that we've been ushering it for the past 12 years or so," said Tim Reling, president of Gamma Beta Phi. "It's a way to give back to the Hammond community and gather support for Southeastern. The event has progressed really well."
One of the evening's main dishes was prepared by the university's own Cayman Café chefs.
"This year we're doing smoked pork with an andouille shrimp cream sauce. It's a feature we're trying to push new in the catering area," said Joe Bruno, executive chef of Cayman Café, representing ARAMARK's Classic Fare Catering. "I want my chefs to get credit. They do the majority of the work, and it gives them an opportunity to showcase what they're capable of in front of our clients and guests."
Proceeding Chefs Evening, VIP guests attended the President's Toast with President John L. Crain for which two chefs from Covey Rise Lodge of Husser, La., prepared appetizers.
"It's really a phenomenal experience," said Andrew Hickman, coordinator of Annual Giving. "It's a lot of work, but we're very thankful of our volunteers, our support staff and the students involved."

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