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Forty-seven of New York City's finest chefs packed their knives and headed for Pier Sixty to honor Le Cirque 2000 and Osteria Del Circo founders Sirio and Egidiana Maccioni at a benefit for the Careers Through Culinary Arts Program (C-CAP). C-CAP, a nonprofit organization that provides scholarships, training and jobs to inner-city youths in the food service industry, has been connecting world-class chefs with apprentices for more than 10 years. The chefs brought along their C-CAP proteges and prepared a variety of culinary delights to serve to more than 600 foodie guests.
The event's M.C. was Al Roker, who showed that his comedic talents are being stifled by his regular gig at the Today show. C-CAP founder and president Richard Grausman welcomed everyone, and led a toast to the life of the late Tavern on the Green and Russian Tea Room owner Warner LeRoy before continuing the proceedings.
Grausman and Patroon owner Ken Aretsky both spoke about the organization, and brought out Mehdi Chellaoui, a 17-year-old C-CAP graduate who will be entering his first year at the Culinary Institute of America upon his graduation from high school. Chellaoui, who looked as though he would faint from nervousness, spoke about how C-CAP has helped him move toward his goal of becoming a chef. Following a short speech by honoree Sirio Maccioni, Mayor Rudy Giuliani made a special appearance to thank the Maccionis for their contributions to the city's culinary education programs, stayed for some photo ops and then quickly departed.
Each chef adorned their display tables with floral arrangements (by their own florists) that visually complemented the dish they prepared. Guests sauntered around the room, picking up small plates of food from each chef's station. Meanwhile, the wait staff ran around, frantically trying to clear used dishes, sometimes snapping at the guests to get out of the way.
Pier Sixty, with its shimmering river view, is certainly a lovely site for a party, but it was a tad cramped for this tasting event. Guests kept bumping into each other, trying not to spill wine as they sampled dishes from restaurants including Aquavit, the Sea Grill, Avenue, Alain Ducasse at the Essex House, 71 Clinton Fresh Food, Verbena, Nobu, Tabla, Aureole, Cello, Saul's and of course, Le Cirque and Osteria Del Circo. Desserts were provided by Sarabeth's, Le Bernardin, Gotham Bar & Grill, Bruno Bakery and Mesa Grill, among others. (The event raised more than $380,000 for C-CAP.)
Departing guests were offered hot cocoa before venturing into the chilly night. The Pier's new golf-cart shuttle service to the public bus stop and taxi stand made the distance to Pier Sixty more comfortable, although it didn't stop some guests from complaining about the cold and the inconvenience.