I had the honor of serving as the emcee at Sunday’s 5 Chefs, 5 Courses, 5 Charities event at the Alfond Inn at Rollins College. My role allowed me accessed to the kitchen where the five chefs — Kathleen Blake, Kevin Fonzo, Jason Klingensmith, Greg Richie and Henry Salgado — were preparing the dinner, each taking one course.
But here’s what I love about the Central Florida culinary community. Even though each chef was tasked with one of the five courses to be served to the guests, they all helped each other. They have competing restaurants but don’t see each other as competitors, at least not when they’re working together. They’ve come to realize that when one chef looks good, they all look good.
And they all cooked really good Sunday.
Here’s a Facebook Live video that I shot at the beginning of the evening.
The event was moved into the hotel’s conservatory because there was a chance of rain. The Alfond’s staff did a great job of making the place look elegant, and also of making the dinner run so smoothly.
The courses were served family style, which does not mean that I sat at the head of the table and told other diners to sit up straight and don’t play with your food. Instead, the food was brought out on platters for the attendees to serve themselves.
We started with a salad from Salgado that featured crispy maitake mushrooms with watercress, English peas and chorizo spiced smoked duck lardons. I could have just shoved handfuls of the lardons in my mouth all night and have been satisfied.
Klingensmith offered cobia with garden beets and carrot pureé.
Fonzo’s Umbrian porchetta was a huge hit. I liked the crispy crackling and the cheesy ploenta. It also came with cauliflower agrodolce.
Richie, who features Southern contemporary cuisine at his Soco restaurant, followed that theme with chicken-fried short ribs, served with blue cheese gratin potatoes. Could I please have these potatoes with some lardons for dinner every night?
Blake took on the dessert course with Brown Butter Cake topped with organic mushrooms and served with a kumquat curd.
The chefs all donated their time and efforts to highlight and support a favorite charity. The charities included Growing Orlando (Blake); The Kevin Fonzo Foundation (Fonzo); National Pancreatic Cancer Foundation (Klingensmith); United Against Poverty (Richie); and PACE Center for Girls (Salgado).