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Les Dames d’Escoffier Bring Food, Film in Grand Style to Fundraiser

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Meals on Reels table cropped

It was all glitter and pearls, top-notch auction items, perfect wine and food and a party to remember Thursday night as San Antonio’s chapter of Les Dames d’Escoffier International’s fundraiser filled a ballroom at the St. Anthony Hotel.

Meals on Reels, presented by members of the culinary organization for women, was one of this year’s events to bring in cash for scholarships and other support and opportunities for women who are in, or wish to become professionals in culinary pursuits of all kinds.

“It just went really smoothly, it was a great night, a really excellent collection of silent and live auction items – everyone did a great job,” said Les Dames President Kathy Shearer. She and restaurateur Dame Blanca Aldaco co-chaired the event. Debbie Gonzales, also a member of Les Dames and a manager at the St. Anthony, coordinated arrangements.

Planning began months ago, but the real push on site started a day ahead of the event as Dames and helpers set the stage, from auction room to banquet hall.

Grand Dame Rosemary Kowalski, in flapper finery.

Dame Rosemary Kowalski, in flapper finery.

Some 186 guests attended. The theme, Meals on Reels, was a posh take on a night at the Oscars. Tables gleamed with gray and aubergine linens, flowers, crystal candlesticks and swag bags. The entertainment was clips of foodie scenes from famous movies, shown on screens around the room and narrated by Dame Cynthia Guido and Ron Bechtol. The evening’s MCs were dames Tanji Patton and Leslie Komet Ausburn.

And of course, there was popcorn.

In the kitchen, St. Anthony Executive Chef Michael Mata and his staff cleared the way for Dames whose restaurant and cooking backgrounds prepared them to create and execute the ambitious menu Thursday night. The menu items matched those mentioned in the featured movies — ranging from Lobster Bisque and Grilled Quail to Julia Child’s Boeuf Bourguignon.

Much of the prep work was done on Wednesday, under the guidance of Dame Naylene Dillingham, chef and owner of the renowned Mac and Ernie’s Roadside Eatery in Tarpley.

Meals on Reels quail dish cropped

Grilled Quail with Silky Rose Petal Sauce

Dillingham was assisted by restaurateurs and chefs, including dames Nancy Fitch, Cathy Tarasovic, Lisa Wong, Jenny Mattingsly and Denise Mazel, as well as Central Market Cooking School Manager Mary Martini. Dessert was prepared by Dame Anne Ng, of Bakery Lorraine.

A group of five female culinary students from the Culinary Institute of America, enrolled in Dame Julia Rosenfeld’s writing class, also made an appearance. They, along with Rosenfeld, Cathy Tarasovic and I pitched in to help with the cheese course for the event.

Photographs by Susan Jaime and Bonnie Walker

Auction table, featuring photo of Auguste Escoffier, is set up early afternoon.

Auction table, featuring photo of Auguste Escoffier, is set up early afternoon.

Silent auction items were collected by dames Di-Anna Arias and Erica Hanchey.

Live auction items, which provided fun later in the evening, included a one-week stay in a picturesque San Miguel de Allende, Mexico; a three-day culinary trip to New York for two, including dinner at the James Beard House; a chef-prepared dinner for 10 at Osteria Il Sogno in San Antonio; a private party for up to 30 people at the Don Strange Ranch; and a gourmet dinner prepared by members of Les Dames for 10 people at the home of Dame Pat Mozersky.

This fundraiser might be over, but the culinary expertise of this active local chapter of the international Les Dames d’Escoffier is planning another event, The Plate Changer,

for later this year.

About Les Dames d’Escoffier International: This year, Les Dames d’Escoffier, San Antonio Chapter (LDEI-SA), celebrates its Twentieth Anniversary. Our membership consists of dedicated professional women in the culinary arts, hospitality, agriculture, and other related fields. Our emphasis is on education and philanthropy and through our efforts, we are strengthening our community by following in the footsteps of legendary members both past and present from around the country such as Julia Child, Edna Lewis, Marcella Hazan, and Alice Waters. We are especially inspired and encouraged by our own chapter’s premier trail blazer and San Antonio star, Rosemary Kowalski, founder and CEO Emeritus of the RK Group.

Rose petals for the quail course and fruit breads by Jenny Mattingsly

Rose petals for the quail course and fruit breads by Jenny Mattingsly

Chefs Nancy Fitch, Lisa Wong and Cathy Tarasovic

Chefs Nancy Fitch, Lisa Wong and Cathy Tarasovic

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