Raising Fun and Funds

Last year around this time, I was asked to cook at the silent auction fundraiser for my kids’ elementary school. The event, a 1970s-themed soiree at a local venue, the 1909, was a huge success and the food — including pizzas and huge paleolithic ribeye steaks emerging from a wood-fired oven — was the star.

So when it came around time for the 2015 fundraiser — with an 80s theme — I was again asked. Again, I accepted.

Don Schneider as Hef, plating cod and cous cous

Don Schneider as Hef, plating cod and cous cous

The party would take place this year at Froggy’s, a local restaurant that had been shuttered and put up for sale — which I briefly considered buying before regaining my common sense — and then, upon failing to find a buyer, reopened.

I enjoy doing large events. It forces me to alter my approach to cooking and plating, to reimagine my aesthetic — which, as those of you who know me know, tends toward small artfully composed plates of interesting color, taste and textural combinations. In other words, at large events, I can’t be quite so fussy.

Katy keeping it together in the kitchen

Katy holding it all together in the kitchen

Much of the secret of a successful food event, whether it is a dinner party or a 150-person party, is your pre-preparation. In both cases, I like to have almost everything done before I even begin. So in the case of the this year’s auction, I spent the week before the event zeroing in on the final menu, and then slow-smoking brisket, roasting peppers, reducing pork shoulders into piles of sugary Thai shreds, sourcing ahi and cod…

The menu was as follows:

• Spicy tuna sushi crisps with seaweed & pea sprout salad
• Thai pork tacos with spicy slaw
• Southern fried chicken with truffle mashed potato
• Butter-roasted cod with Spanish garlic cous cous
• Texas-style smoked brisket with roast pepper puree & onion rings

Dessert was donut holes with powdered sugar “blow” in a nod to a staple of 1980s decadence. (We tried to serve the sugar on mirrors with rolled up dollar bills, but were denied by the school administrators.)

The Chef, serving spicy tuna

The chef, serving his spicy tuna

A neighbor of mine is Colin Hay, singer and songwriter of the 1980s band, Men At Work. In a nod to him, I closed the menu with a song lyric: “He just smiled, and gave me a vegemite sandwich.”

Although I’m sure to most folks, serving a five-course dinner of plated food to 150 people may seem daunting. But it’s amazing what you can do with a little pre-prep and a few good men (and women). I reassembled most of my crew from last year — friends Peri, Don, Curtis, Ernie, Katy, Amy and Brooks — and my own load, while formidable leading up to the event, was light.

Bob (Run-DMC), Curtis (preppy) and your chef in the background talking sauce with a Hell's Angel

Bob (Run-DMC), Curtis (preppy) and your chef in the background talking sauce with a Hell’s Angel

Food service was done by 8:30, and we were able to join the dancing. Someone handed me a blue cocktail with marshmallows floating on the top, and things went south. I have vague memories of “Boys Don’t Cry,” a red headed woman in a green dress, talking about favorite sauces with a Hell’s Angel, and slumping in the back seat of my friend Heather’s car bound for espressos at the Schneiders house when all I really wanted to do was go home and go to bed.

The morning’s hangover was combated with a 5-mile run in the state park. And then it began all over again, as I started preparation for a wedding the Sunday of Memorial weekend at the 1909. (And in a nice closing of the loop, the bride-to-be contacted me after finding last year’s silent auction post online when she googled “1909”.)

Some fabulously favorite 1980s–ish friends and loved ones the night of the event:




I wonder if next year’s auction will be 1990s-themed — men with long, greasy hair in flannel shirts, women in overalls and brown lipstick? What a decade that was…

10 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. Mom
    May 21, 2015 @ 23:54:23

    Leslie looks more like a 40’s movie star. I wanted to paint her immediately.


  2. andreathompson2
    May 22, 2015 @ 13:36:41

    Awesome, entertaining post. I haven’t been posting or commenting to those I follow as I have been so busy moving and then more freakin surgery! This time on a herniated disk so I haven’t been able to even sit on my desk chair. I miss my blog world and friends so much and can’t wait to get back to it. Loved that post, dude!

    Sent from Andrea’s iPad 480-223-3228



  3. Cheryl "Cheffie Cooks" Wiser
    May 22, 2015 @ 17:27:00

    Fun post Sean, Happy and safe Memorial Day Weekend to you and family!!!


  4. Jessamine in PDX
    May 23, 2015 @ 05:19:13

    Must know more about Thai pork tacos — were they as amazing as I’m imagining? Loving all the outfits, especially that girl rocking the jumpsuit. Well done all around.


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