As the sun set over the water, crowds gathered at on Wednesday night to celebrate the sixth annual Chefs’ Dinner to Fight Hunger, a dinner and silent auction to support the . Originally called the Connoisseurs’ Dinner, the evening brings together top chefs from around Fairfield County to support the work of the Food Bank.
“The chefs take time away from their restaurants to do this, to help us,” Kate Lombardo, executive director of The Food Bank of Lower Fairfield County Inc., told Patch. “The fact that people want to come out and help people who can’t feed their kids, it blows my mind.”
The Food Bank of Lower Fairfield County provided 1.8 million pounds of food last year and expects to see significantly higher numbers this year.
“We used to serve people in poverty, the chronically poor. Now we’re seeing those who are unemployed and have been unemployed for too long — they’ve never needed help before,” Lombardo said.
This year’s dinner also honored David Cingari of for his ongoing support of the Food Bank of Lower Fairfield County and his dedication to making the Chefs’ Dinner a success year after year.
“The Cingaris are members of this club, they’re the backbone of this whole event, and they’re just really nice people on top of it,” P. Quint Smith, executive chef at the Stamford Yacht Club, said.
The kitchen is a bit of a reunion for the chefs who rarely find themselves cooking in the same location — a chance for them to show off some special dishes and give back to their community at the same time.
“We do it once a year and everybody has fun, it’s only a little bit of time for us out of our work compared to what it does,” Smith said. “It’s our job to feed people.”
“We do this for the kids who are hungry,” Pietro Scotti of Da Pietro’s Restaurant in Westport added.
As they buzzed around the stoves and towers of plates and prepared to announce their dishes to a full dining room, the chefs remained acutely aware of the reason they were there.
“The fact that we live in Fairfield County doesn’t change hunger, there are people out there who need our help,” Jean-Louis Gerin of Restaurant JEAN-LOUIS in Greenwich said.
Other chefs partnering with the Food Bank of Lower Fairfield County include Bryan Malcarney of Blue Lemon in Westport and Rory’s in Darien, Stephen Maronian of Sweet Lisa’s Exquisite Cakes in Cos Cob, Tom Isidori of the Country Club of Fairfield, and Dusmane Tandia of
Emmy-winning meteorologist Bill Evans served as the evening’s Master of Ceremonies, joking with the crowd as he gave the current weather conditions and talked up his book, “Dry Ice,” that was up in the silent auction.
“Everyone knows what it’s like to be hungry,” Lombardo said. “When I talk to kids about hunger, I tell them to think about a time they were hungry and then to try to imagine going to sleep with that feeling. One in five kids in Connecticut does go to sleep hungry.”
For Lombardo, leading the effort and seeing the community rally around the Food Bank brings things full circle — while growing up, her family had hard times and turned to community resources for help.
“It’s only later when you realize that behind those centers were people, individuals donating their time,” Lombardo said. “We don’t get out of poverty without the help of the community. I know what it’s like to enter poverty and I know what it’s like to exit it.”