BBQ Benefit Comes in From the Rain

September 7, 2000, 12:00 AM EDT

Citymeals-on-Wheels Tribute to James Beard Rockefeller Center Monday, 06.12.00, 7 PM to 11 PM
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Take 2,000 pounds of charcoal; two tons of beef, chicken, duck, lamb, fish, shrimp and crayfish; 24 barbeque grills; 180 tons of barbeque sauce and 100 magnums of champagne. Add hundreds of hungry New Yorkers, 29 world-renowned chefs and one very rainy summer evening in New York City. Mix it all together and you get an elegant, sloppy and delicious barbeque extravaganza.

With the theme “Black Tie, Blue Jeans and Berets,” the event brought together celebrated chefs from all over the United States and France for a barbeque chef contest and Citymeals-on-Wheels' annual tribute to the late chef James Beard. Hosted by Restaurant Associates, the benefit gala raised $800,000 for Citymeals-on-Wheels, which delivers food to the city's homebound elderly.

Partygoers--who forked over $375 each to attend--were greeted by the event's chairman, former Primedia head William F. Reilly; its chairwoman, Barbara Riley Levin; her husband, Time Warner chief Gerald Levin; and Citymeals-on-Wheels Executive Director Marcia Stein.

As they arrived, the light summer rain that had soaked the city all day turned into a monsoon, and everything was moved inside from the scheduled outdoor location. The halls of Rockefeller Center and its indoor restaurants, The Seagrill and Rock Center Caf?, became the venue. Some of the barbeque grills, which had been cooking food outside for hours, were carried into the restaurants, and the chefs adjusted for the indoor crowd.

But the rain didn't dampen the fun. We spotted New York magazine food critic Gael Greene (who co-founded Citymeals-on-Wheels with James Beard) enjoying the delicacies and Nick Valenti, Restaurant Associates' president and CEO, mingling with guests. The party really got jumping when The Blues Jumpers started playing. Music from the dapper swing band filled the makeshift space--with sound supplied by Audioforce Live Sound--while sticky-fingered guests swarmed the dance floor.

--Joanne Lasky

Photos by Lowell Tindell for BiZBash

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