NEW ORLEANS - The 39th annual Chefs' Charity for Children was sold out Wednesday as 1,500 people watched some of America's best chefs share cooking tips, and the close friends like Leah Chase and John Folse turned the lessons into a comedy act.
"Look, do you see any other women here?" demanded Chef Leah. "No. I'm not going to let them have the whole show by themselves, no."
"Isn't that something, she's kicking us to the curb," laughed Chef John Folse. "But you know what, we wouldn't do this event without this one woman, so that's all that matters," he said as he gave her a kiss on the forehead.
Chefs' Charity is one of the key fund raising events that supports St. Michael Special School, the Catholic school in the Irish Channel that serves special needs children and adults. It has become so important to the chefs because they get to know the students they're helping.
"To continually see the expression on these children's faces, who need help, and the chefs of New Orleans are here for them," said Chef Emeril Lagasse, a longtime supporter of the event and St. Michael's. "I don't know if this could be pulled off in any other city in America."
Celebrity Chef Martin Yan, host of the popular PBS series "Yan Can Cook" and many other TV projects, was delighted to be guest chef. He appeared alongside his friends, the Wong Brothers of Trey Yuen.
"It's very competitive business, and everybody is competing for the same dollar, but at the same time, when it comes to a a good charity, people always say food and good cooking brings people together," said Chef Yan.
Best of all, everyone enjoyed a 10-course meal prepared by the chefs.
"Mr. Capo, we're blessed, that's all I've got to say, we're blessed, and I'm blessed too, because I get younger every day," said 91-year-old Chef Goffredo Fraccaro, one of the original founding chefs of the 1978 event which was begun by legendary chef Warren Leruth and his good friend Phil Johnson, the former WWL-TV news director/editorialist and assistant general manager. Fraccaro and chef Gunter Preuss, two of the original chefs from that first event, were honored at Wednesday's benefit.
"Sacrifice yourself, come on down and eat," said Chef Joe Cahn. "Let us feed you, let us feed you and raise some money in the process," added Chef John Besh.
Other chefs participating Wednesday were Alon Shaya of Shaya/Domenica and Pizza Domenica; Andrea Apuzzo of Andrea's; Justin Devillier of La Petite Grocery and Balise; Tory McPhail of Commander's Palace and Greg Reggio of Zea and Mizado Cocina.
Plans are already being made for next year's event, which will mark the 40th annual Chefs' Charity for Children.