Prime dining for a cause

// The best in local food, wine and dessert come out a Star Chefs on Broadway

Star Chefs on Broadway returns for the fourth year in a row May 24, and it will be offering up the best in local dining, wine, dessert, auction and entertainment options, all for an excellent cause.

Each year a different theme encompasses the event and frames the remainder of the evening with food and entertainment reflecting it. This year's Star Chefs theme, Venice, will be sure to wow attendants of all ages.

Benjii Bittle, deputy executive director of Broadway Center, affirms that the event is not only one of the most entertaining of the year for Tacoma, but it is also one that gives back generously. "Proceeds from Star Chefs on Broadway go toward helping fund performing art education programs, benefiting 35,000 students and teachers throughout Western Washington," he said.

Bittle noted that the event is also two in one, ensuring that attendants truly get the most out of their evening. The first half, which takes place from 5-7 p.m. in the various levels of the Pantages Theater lobby, has visitors roaming around an Italian marketplace, cafe and shops set up in the expanse of the building. Rather than traditional setups, it features "vendors," or seven local restaurants, engaging and interacting with attendants to get them to take part in their wares.

An installation of the Pantages' own Harry's Bar, (a Venice staple famous for inventing the Bellini drink), will please thirsty visitors, and they can also sample small bites from Pacific Grill, C.I. Shenanigans and more. Local wineries are always highlighted during Star Chefs on Broadway and this year is no different. Corvus Cellars, L' Ecole no. 41, Red Sky Wineries and McCray Cellars will all be featured, in addition to a first-ever addition this year: beer, from Stella Artois, on tap.

Desserts will be up for auction in the bakery portion of the marketplace. Everything from decadent cakes, to individual desserts to tableside desserts will be up for purchase. El Gaucho will be offering up perennial favorites such as cherries jubilee, baked Alaska and bananas foster, and the Melting Pot will add to the mix by providing tableside fondue at three lucky tables. Depending upon the elaborate nature of the dessert, the auction prices will vary, but there will be something to sate every attendant's sweet tooth and price range.

The silent auction items are always a sight to behold for visitors. Many getaway trips are crowd favorites, with options such as Disneyland, Orcas Island, the Oregon coast, Seattle shows combined with stay-the-night packages and more to entice avid travelers. Those home improvement buffs will enjoy taking a peek at the home and garden section, rife with outdoor arts and planter boxes and more. The spa and beauty area will include clothing, jewelry sets and spa visits. The new "man cave" table, inspired by the addition of beer to the event this year, entices gentleman with scotch and cigars, golf packages and other covetable gifts. Star Chefs' silent auctions also include a celebrity section, which is always a hit. "People who have been to the Broadway Center this year have signed wine bottles for us to auction off, such as Lyle Lovett, the Indigo Girls and Garrison Keillor signed a book, as well as more one-of-a-kind items," Bittle stated.

All the while, entertainment in the form of Commedia dell'arte (comedy of the profession) clowns and strolling violinists will dazzle visitors to Venice. Bittle himself will also be doing his part, holding individualized tarot card readings for interested individuals.

During the second portion of the evening, attendants will move from the lobby via gondola through a canal to the Grand Opera House, (inspired by "Phantom of the Opera"). Guests will sit down to a lavish dinner created by El Gaucho, which inspires the nickname dubbed to the event, "the best dinner party in town." Diners will enjoy finely prepared steak and lobster with polenta and other extraordinary accompaniments. The live auction will begin and offer some covetable items such as primo Lady Gaga seats coupled with a suite at the Courtyard Marriott and dinner at Pacific Grill, trips to Tuscany, Whistler, wine country, and more amazing art and entertainment packages.

Kevin Joyce, a founder of Teatro Zinzanni in Seattle, will be the ringmaster for the evening of live music, dynamic auctions and breathtakingly close cabaret performances. A literal over-the-top of attendant's heads show via trapeze artists will dazzle while attendants dine on their meals. Opera singers, strolling musicians and a multitude of entertaining diversions will keep participants of this year's Star Chefs on Broadway talking for years to come.

For those who want to help with Star Chefs but are not able to get tickets, the Broadway Center is always seeking volunteers, especially for events of this scope. "We've already begun planning for next year's Star Chefs on Broadway, and have already sold tickets to it," Bittle said. About 100 or so volunteers help make everything run smoothly, as they man silent auctions, set up tables and settings and greet visitors.

This event has sold out every year since its inception, so those looking to attend this infamous Tacoma production and excellent fundraiser for the arts should get their tickets soon, lest they miss the gondola to their Venetian adventure.

Star Chefs on Broadway 2010, the best dinner party in town, takes place on May 23 at 5 p.m. at the Pantages Theater, located at 901 Broadway. Tickets are $175 each and can be purchased online. For more information, call (253) 591-5890 or visit


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