4

Is Charitable Eating Overstretching Local Chefs and Diners?

^
Keep Dallas Observer Free
I Support
  • Local
  • Community
  • Journalism
  • logo

Support the independent voice of Dallas and help keep the future of Dallas Observer free.

Don't bother looking for Dean Fearing at his restaurants next weekend.

Fearing will be at The Joule next Friday for The Big Red, a culinary extravaganza benefiting the North Texas Food Bank. He'll reappear the next night at the Dallas Zoo for its annual fundraiser. And if do-gooders are still hungry for more, they'll find him the following Thursday at The Longest Chef's Table, an event for the Scottish Rite Hospital.

Dallas is awash in edible philanthropy. Local eaters have opportunities almost every week to plunk down $150 or more for hors d'oeuvres from the city's leading chefs, some of whom say their time and budgets are being overstretched by charitable culinary events.

"It's definitely reached a threshold," says John Tesar, a consultant for DRG Concepts who's also on the Longest Table's line-up. "I don't want to prevent anyone from having a party, but there needs to be some thought on how many more of these we can create."

Tesar's supportive of established benefits with built-in audiences, such as the Signature Chefs Auction that the March of Dimes has been hosting since 1989, but is skeptical upstart fundraisers will succeed in making money off the same crop of chefs.

"It's starting to numb people," Tesar says. "I don't know how you get people to spend $300 to get a taste of something that's mediocre at best. I like doing events because we get out there and have fun, but anything over $150 for not a seated dinner is obnoxious."

According to Tesar, the mindset behind the overpriced culinary fundraiser doesn't square with the current recession, which has affected consumers and chefs alike. Few restaurants can afford to foot the staffing and supplies bill associated with participating in every benefit that comes knocking.

"Our marketing directors or our bosses will tell us 'choose wisely'," Tesar says. "And we're really not able to say no because we look like we're cheap."

If a chef's not a member of the Food Network's family of stars, he's unlikely to have his costs covered, Tesar says. Rather than luxuriate in private jets and hotel rooms stocked with fruit baskets and flowers, local celebrity chefs often have to deal with organizers' demands for free gift certificates and promises to barbecue for auction winners on a certain day.

Still, chefs sign on, mostly in the name of self-promotion.

"It keeps your name out front," says Tesar, who annually organizes the Burgers and Burgundy event for DIFFA. The party, priced at $75 a person, raised $30,000 this year. "Being out there, sharing my food, it has value."

But, he adds: "If people don't know who the local chefs are by now, one more event's not going to help. Stephan Pyles needs another event like a fish needs a bicycle."

Keep the Dallas Observer Free... Since we started the Dallas Observer, it has been defined as the free, independent voice of Dallas, and we would like to keep it that way. Offering our readers free access to incisive coverage of local news, food and culture. Producing stories on everything from political scandals to the hottest new bands, with gutsy reporting, stylish writing, and staffers who've won everything from the Society of Professional Journalists' Sigma Delta Chi feature-writing award to the Casey Medal for Meritorious Journalism. But with local journalism's existence under siege and advertising revenue setbacks having a larger impact, it is important now more than ever for us to rally support behind funding our local journalism. You can help by participating in our "I Support" membership program, allowing us to keep covering Dallas with no paywalls.

We use cookies to collect and analyze information on site performance and usage, and to enhance and customize content and advertisements. By clicking 'X' or continuing to use the site, you agree to allow cookies to be placed. To find out more, visit our cookies policy and our privacy policy.

 

Join the Observer community and help support independent local journalism in Dallas.

 

Join the Observer community and help support independent local journalism in Dallas.