Behind the scenes at Premier Chefs Dinner

Behind the scenes at Premier Chefs Dinner

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Chef moving a table
Chef plating food
Chef Robin Leventhal
Chefs work together to prepare meal
Chef Matt Janke
Chefs help prepare Arctic char
Chefs pause for group photo
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Head chefs do the heavy lifting

A team of 15 head chefs worked together to create a four-course meal at the 2015 Premier Chefs Dinner, Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center’s annual celebration of Northwest food and wine. This year’s event drew 300 guests and raised more than $1.2 million to support immunotherapy and other cancer research at Fred Hutch. We take a peek at the chefs – and their hard work – behind the scenes of the event.

Premier Chefs advisory board members help put tables full of empty plates on risers to prepare for first-course plating.

Chef Scott Staples (standing on right), owner of Restaurant Zoë, Quinn’s Pub and Uneeda Burger, said this is one of the few charity food events where head chefs truly help each other out in the kitchen. Every year, the six advisory board members select a cadre of Seattle-area chefs and winemakers to craft the four-course menu and wine pairings.

Photo by Bo Jungmayer / Fred Hutch News Service

Working together, assembly-line style

Chef Derek Ronspies (far left), owner of the recently opened Le Petit Cochon in Fremont, leads the plating of his first course, a duck mortadella and foie gras starter. Seven other head chefs follow behind him, each with one component of the dish in hand — including marinated chicory, almond butter, sumac mustard, apricot jam, vadouvan vinaigrette and a brioche crouton — to complete the assembly.

Photo by Bo Jungmayer / Fred Hutch News Service

Survivor gives back

For chef Robin Leventhal, owner of Crave Catering, her eight years serving on the event advisory board have been deeply personal — she was diagnosed with lymphoma more than a decade ago. Leventhal said she feels fortunate that she could receive treatment at Seattle Cancer Care Alliance, Fred Hutch’s treatment arm, and that she can give back year after year. “This is how I can help,” Leventhal said. “I’ll never have a million dollars in my pocket, but if I can help raise a million dollars for the Hutch, that’s incredible." The fundraising dinner has raised more than $6.7 million over the past 24 years, including the more than $1.2 million raised Sunday night.

Photo by Bo Jungmayer / Fred Hutch News Service

Chefs learning from chefs

From left, chefs Roy Breiman (Cedarbrook Lodge), Craig Hetherington (Taste) and Scott Staples watch chef David Varley (RN47, right) assemble his second course: smoked king salmon accompanied by creamed green garlic, morel mushrooms and lentils.

“It’s fun to see how other chefs work,” Staples said. “I find out a lot about these guys that I didn’t know before.”

Photo by Bo Jungmayer / Fred Hutch News Service

'It became more personal'

When Chef Matt Janke, founder of Seattle restaurants Matt’s in the Market and Lecosho, agreed to join the Chefs advisory board three years ago, he thought the event sounded fun and the cause worthwhile, although he had no close personal connection to the Hutch. And then a month later, the chef was diagnosed with testicular cancer. He showed up to his first Chefs dinner just weeks out from his surgery, which he said was “no big deal, but the event meant more because of that."

"It became a little more personal that time," he said.

Photo by Bo Jungmayer / Fred Hutch News Service

Covering for each other

Chef Josh Henderson (left) sears a tray of fish for his course, seared Arctic char with potato, black garlic, lemon broth and wood sorrel. Later, Henderson was called away and Chef Mike Easton (second from left) took over blowtorch duty. “So I just torch the watercress, right?” he joked.

Photo by Bo Jungmayer / Fred Hutch News Service

Putting aside competition

The evening’s featured chefs and advisory board members huddle together for a group picture during a pause in dinner preparation. Easton’s chilled garlic and almond soup waits on tables for the first course to be served.

Chefs is unique, Janke said, because normally the chefs involved are all competitors, “but we come here and all work together for this event.”

Photo by Bo Jungmayer / Fred Hutch News Service