As a home cook and baker, I am always in awe of the stunning presentation and creative ideas that professional chefs bring to the table. The only thing better than beautiful, delicious food is when that food is served and enjoyed for a good cause. And that’s what the Careers through Culinary Arts (C-CAP) annual benefit is all about.
C-CAP is dedicated to helping under-served youth develop careers in the culinary and restaurant industries. The program was started by culinary educator Richard Grausman over 20 years ago, and has raised over $30 million in scholarships for students across the country.
The 2012 benefit honored Michael McCarty of Michael’s NY and Michael’s Santa Monica. Chef McCarty was instrumental in pioneering local, seasonal farm-to-table cuisine in California, and his contributions to the culinary world are impressive and far-reaching.
Bette Midler and Martin von Haselberg were in attendance as honorary chairs of this event. As a personal friend of the honoree, Ms. Midler brought a warm personal touch to her address but wasn’t afraid to take the guests at the Shun Lee table to task for clamoring for Peking Duck during the speeches.
Over 800 guests made the trip to Chelsea Piers to enjoy the signature dishes of 38 of New York’s top chefs. (View the full list over on the C-CAP blog.)
Sampling the offerings of nearly 40 chefs is an ambitious task. As I don’t eat meat other than fish, some of the decisions were made for me. However, every omnivore around me had no hesitation about going back for seconds and even thirds of the meatier options.
To name just a few of the dishes I tried:
Asiate‘s quinoa crusted sea scallop, onion marmalade and grapefruit butter sauce; decadent without being heavy
Park Avenue Winter‘s black truffle croquettes, which looked like chocolate doughnut holes but tasted like pure, earthy truffle
Barbuto‘s crudi salad with shaved Brussels sprouts, baby carrots, radishes and pecorino cheese was a light dish with a lot of crunch– great in between a couple of the richer offerings. Chef Jonathan Waxman trained under Michael McCarty at the start of his career.
Extra Virgin‘s tuna tartar cones with avocado mousse and pomegranate was both tasty and portable, making it the perfect cocktail party food.
On the sweeter side, Daniel’s pistachio dacquoise with fresh raspberries and vanilla cream was almost too pretty to eat. Almost.
The team from The Modern offered a variety of petit fours, lollipops, and chocolates, but they won me over with their irresistable chocolate-passion fruit macarons. A complete stranger and I glanced at each other and nodded in silent, mouth-full-of-macaron ecstasy.
A couple of dishes went beyond delicious with their commitment to delivering sustainable and ocean/earth-friendly treats.
Oceana had prepared wild Alaskan king salmon a la plancha with Meyer lemon jam and a radish salad. The Ocean Institute notes that wild king salmon from Alaska is ranked by the Marine Stewardship Council as a best environmental choice; the species is relatively abundant, and catching methods cause minimal habitat damage. The salmon was a bright orange hue, and the tangy lemon jam contrasted nicely with the rich fish.
C-CAP alum Mehdi Chellaoui, founder of Dörk Chocolate, was serving an assortment of chocolate truffles– my favorite was infused with cardamom. Dörk Chocolate makes hand-crafted chocolates in small batches, using “native heirloom cacao exclusively from sustainable family owned farms throughout South America.”
The benefit raised over $900,000, the highest in C-CAP history. All proceeds will go to support the program’s many services and training opportunities, from career counseling to culinary school scholarships.
To learn more about C-CAP and make a donation, you can visit their website.
All photos by Kerry Alexander.