“For rookies, they’re pretty good,” chef Dondi McNulty commented as he munched on appetizers prepared by Capital Chefs’ Showcase volunteers.

He particularly liked Jan Cox’s Crab Meat Dip, and lamented he didn’t get to try the Crostini of Fresh Figs, Soft Cheese With Honey and Pistachio Oil made by party hostess Susanna McCarthy. That appetizer was a favorite of partygoers and disappeared quickly.

McNulty, executive chef of The Little Village’s downtown location, was among the guests at a party Aug. 15 at the home of Susanna and Terry McCarthy to honor chefs, caterers, restaurateurs and sponsors who will participate in the 29th annual Capital Chefs’ Showcase on Sept. 8.

As he tried Marcia Balcom’s Vichyssoise Shots With Crab, McNulty asked, “Why do they need chefs to come out and cook?”

While the volunteers might welcome McNulty’s praise, they will leave the cooking for the annual gala, which benefits Cancer Services of Greater Baton Rouge, to the professionals. Chefs with 27 restaurants and caterers are donating their time and talents to provide dishes for the event.

The gala this year is celebrating “Catering to Body, Mind & Spirit” with a theme of “Our Vision is Crystal Clear.”

That theme could also describe the festive presentations for many of the pickup foods in the McCarthys’ dining room and kitchen. Guests commented on the shimmering effect of Balcom’s vichyssoise shots nestled in an ice-filled glass punch bowl set on a silvery glass tray.

Cathy Black presented Steak Salad Baskets on three stacked glass cake stands set on a mirrored tray.

The Chilled Cucumber and Shrimp With Ginger and Garlic prepared by chefs’ party committee chairwoman Ann Guercio drew oohs and aahs from guests for both its presentation - the dish was nestled in a large scalloped seashell - and its taste.

“Ann’s dish reminds me of a cucumber salad that my grandmother used to make in Germany,” guest Tanja Foil said. Terry McCarthy found it “very refreshing on a hot summer day.”

Dr. Hal Canning had everyone buzzing about his super-easy-to-make, three-ingredient Stuffed Piquante Peppers. “Those are really good,” guest Martha Rome said. “They are so different.”

Among the other dishes, all garnished by committee member Allison Ashy, were Warm Blue Cheese, Bacon and Garlic Dip; Pink Lemonade Crumb Bars; Hummus With Tomato Pesto; Grilled Pork Tenderloin; and pimento cheese spread.

“A huge thanks goes to our chefs, caterers and sponsors for without them Capital Chefs’ Showcase wouldn’t exist. And without showcase, our programs and services would suffer,” Executive Director Mimi Riché said. “Yes, this event is critical to Cancer Services; while loads of fun, the purpose is mission driven.”

Last year’s Capital Chefs’ Showcase raised $220,000, and Riché said this year’s goal is $230,000.

The showcase began in 1982 as a two-day cooking demonstration. Some 1,100 people are expected to attend what is now a continuous cocktail buffet, open bar, silent auction and raffle.

In addition to party chairwoman Guercio, members of the committee who organized the chefs’ party were Ashy, Barbara Bacot, Balcom, Black, Canning, Cox, Belva Berlin Dewey, Ellen Gilmore, Susanna McCarthy, Debbie S. Heroman, Adele Netterville, Charles Bennett, Frances Bennett, Michelle L. Cambias, Mary Eddy, Edna Ayliffe Latchem and Bret Smith.

Here are recipes for dishes at the chefs’ party: