It’s the dead of winter in New England right now, but the Anna Jaques Hospital Aid Association is thinking springtime in Paris.
Planning is well underway for the 26th Great Chefs’ Night, which this year has a theme of “Ooh-La-La — Great Chefs.”
In addition to food samples from more than 20 local restaurants, the March 21 event at The Governor’s Academy in Byfield will include French wines, artwork displayed in a Left Bank setting, a mime, a caricature artist, a disc jockey and dancing. Silent and live auctions will offer the opportunity to bid on items such as a week in St. Thomas, a kayak, a bicycle, gift cards and tickets to Boston sporting events.
Co-chairwoman Anne Tuthill, who came up with the theme, has even procured a 12-foot-high replica of the Eiffel Tower, complete with lights.
“It’s one of my favorite places,” Tuthill said of France. “It lends itself so well to being easily recognized.”
“We hope to create the ambiance of a Parisian evening,” said Lyn Parker, who is on the public relations committee. “It is truly a community event.”
Coordinating the chefs and restaurants are two “Grand Master Chefs,” Gregg Pugh of Plum Island Beachcoma and Paula Simpson of Carry Out Cafe in Newburyport. Both eatery owners will also prepare food for the event, with Pugh serving mahi-mahi tacos and Simpson embracing the French theme with gougeres, a savory pastry.
“They volunteer a tremendous amount of time and effort to bring the chefs to the event,” Tuthill said. “We couldn’t do this without them.”
Triton High School students also get in on the act, volunteering every year to help bus tables, sell raffle tickets and assist with the auctions.
Pugh, who has served as coordinator “on and off for 12 years,” said he looks forward to the event every year since it gives him a chance to interact with those enjoying his food and to socialize with his fellow chefs.
“I like going to see everybody,” Pugh said.
One of those chefs is Steve Pfingst, the owner of David’s Tavern in Newburyport, who met with Pugh and members of the aid association’s board of directors last week at the Beachcoma to discuss the event.
“Normally, you don’t see the face behind the food,” said Pfingst, who has been participating in Great Chefs’ Night for 17 years.
Prior to purchasing David’s in 2000, he was the chef and cafeteria manager at Anna Jaques.
“I have a warm spot in my heart for the hospital,” he said. “It’s a fantastic resource for the Greater Newburyport area.”
Pfingst plans to offer coriander and brown sugar crusted pork loin, lobster and vegetable wontons, cucumber salad, and Asian coleslaw.
“I pretty much provide the whole meal at one station,” he said.
Both Parker and Mary Zerigian, president of the aid association, said attendees always embrace the opportunity to speak with the chefs in detail about their food.
“People look forward to it,” Zerigian said. “If there were no chefs, there would be no Great Chefs.”
“People love it. They go every year,” said Joyce Enderle, a member of the public relations committee. “It always sells out, so it’s important to get your tickets early.”
Every December, the aid association’s board of directors starts planning the fundraiser, which last year drew more than 350 guests and raised more than $46,000 to benefit the hospital. Those proceeds, combined with hospital gift shop sales and other fundraising efforts, helped the association donate $108,000 to upgrade the birth center patient rooms, purchase software for the Gerrish Breast Care Center and more. The association also awards four scholarships a year to high school students pursuing careers in the medical field.
Presenting sponsors for this year’s Great Chefs’ Night are the Institution for Savings and Newburyport Five Cents Savings Bank. Table and entertainment sponsorships are available, and local chefs and restaurants are still welcome to sign up to participate.
If you go
What: “Ooh-La-La — Great Chefs”
When: Friday, March 21, 6 to 10 p.m.
Where: The Governor’s Academy, 1 Elm St., Byfield
How much: Tickets are $75 per person and $850 for a table of 10. To purchase, visit the Anna Jaques Hospital volunteer office, call 978-463-1150 or go online to http://ajh.thankyou4caring.org/greatchefs.
More information: Table and entertainment sponsors, as well as local chefs to participate, are still being sought. Call 978-463-1150 or email email@example.com. Chefs can also sign up online at www.ajh.kintera.org/greatchefs.
Ale House/Barking Dog
Anna Jaques Hospital Cafe
Carry Out Cafe
David’s Fish Market
Dianne’s Fine Desserts
Mad Martha’s Cafe
Old Town Bread
Plum Island Beachcoma
Plum Island Coffee Roasters
Ten Center Street
* as of yesterday afternoon