At chef-led events, raising funds through flavor _lowres

Advocate staff photo by JOHN McCUSKER -- Robert LeBlanc (of Cavan), Neal Bodenheimer (of Cure bar).

Does charity start at home? For many in the New Orleans hospitality business, charity starts at the stove, and the bar.

The food and drink they contribute are the lifeblood for countless charitable events and fundraisers. They’re constantly answering the call to support community causes with their time, talents and product.

Recently though, more of them have been organizing their own charitable work, and planning events to bring in the bucks themselves.

A new example debuts this week with Raise, a collaborative endeavor between three next-generation New Orleans hospitality companies, while one of the city’s biggest culinary names, John Besh, is expanding the reach of his own fundraising efforts locally.

Generosity from restaurateurs is nothing new, and plenty of it happens in unheralded fashion, without events or branding and, often purposefully, without recognition. When chefs and restaurants of an earlier day found success, they might quietly send some money to the nuns and leave it at that.

But times have changed. Chefs have celebrity status, and even those known primarily in their own cities have a draw. Now, more are leveraging the attention they generate to tap wider networks of donors for their selected causes. Here’s a look at a few events on the horizon.

Raise: Julian

The latest example is the debut event from a new endeavor called Raise, scheduled for Thursday.

Raise was conceived by three groups: LeBlanc + Smith, the restaurant company behind Sylvain, Meauxbar, the bar Barrel Proof, the forthcoming Cavan and others; CureCo, which has Cure, Cane & Table and Bellocq; and Dinner Lab, the nationwide dinner club based in New Orleans.

For their Raise events, they’ll organize activities that benefit select causes. The first edition benefits the family of Julian Haney, a 2-year-old being treated for leukemia.

“We have young children, and the thought of them going through something like this really struck a chord,” said Neal Bodenheimer, a partner in CureCo. “But as we got together to plan this, we thought, ‘Why just do this once?’ ” Working together, the three local hospitality companies plan to host annual editions of Raise.

The party includes an open bar, with specialty cocktail tastings and food tastings from the partners groups’ chefs and bartenders. Tickets are $50.

“The idea is to create a cool event that’s not too heavy of a lift for any one partner to produce and not too expensive, something that our friends and peers can afford to participate in,” said Robert LeBlanc, a partner in LeBlanc + Smith. “It makes a lot of sense to do this together because we get to hit a lot of people through each of our own networks that one family wouldn’t necessarily reach.”


7:30 p.m. Thursday

One Eyed Jacks, 615 Toulouse St.

Get tickets online at eventbrite

com, under “Raise: Julian.”

Chefs’ Charity for Children

Perhaps the godfather of all local chef-led fundraisers is Chefs’ Charity for Children. It was started back in 1978 by the highly influential New Orleans chef Warren LeRuth and Phil Johnson, of WWL-TV, to benefit St. Michael’s Special School for developmentally disabled children.

Both founders have passed away, but their annual Chefs’ Charity event still gathers a brigade of generous New Orleans chefs for a one-of-a-kind luncheon with an incredibly loyal following. The chefs conduct cooking demonstrations, while guests are served a banquet lunch.

This year, chef Alon Shaya, of Shaya and Domenica and Pizza Domenica, and chef Justin Devillier, of La Petite Grocery and Balise, join many returning Chefs’ Charity alumni, including Andrea Apuzzo, of Andrea’s, John Besh, Leah Chase, John Folse, Goffredo Fraccaro (of the former of La Riviera), Emeril Lagasse, Tory McPhail, of Commander’s Palace, Greg Reggio, of Zea, and Mizado Cocina and Frank and Tommy Wong, of Trey Yuen.


10 a.m. to 2 p.m. March 9

Hilton Riverside Hotel,

2 Poydras St.

Tickets start at $65. Call (504)

524-7285 or go to stmichaelsp

Fêtes Fest and Fêtes des Chefs

As John Besh’s restaurant group has grown, so has the organization’s charitable arm. The John Besh Foundation funds scholarships for minorities in New Orleans to attend culinary school, and it funds microloans for local food producers.

In March, the John Besh Foundation holds its main annual fundraiser, with private dinners held in local homes and led by guests including chefs Aarón Sánchez, Sean Brock and Edward Lee and “Top Chef” star Gail Simmons.

If these intimate dinners sound pricey, well, you’re right. It’s a premium ticket at $1,000. But this year, the Besh foundation is adding a party at the Civic Theatre, with many chefs participating, lots of food, open bar and music, and a more approachable ticket price, at $80, aimed at a wider audience.


Fêtes Fest

7 p.m. to 10 p.m. March 18

Civic Theatre, 510 O’Keefe Ave.

Fêtes des Chefs

March 19

Private homes, locations vary

Tickets and details at johnbes

Follow Ian McNulty on Twitter, @IanMcNultyNOLA.