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Party for the arts happens next weekend

“Giving Tuesday,” is a day set aside to donate to not-for-profits. This upcoming weekend is another opportunity to help organizations in need. You might call it “Party for the Arts”. 

Today, most performing arts organizations find it impossible to survive on box office receipts alone. Donations are critical for survival. Their challenge is to convince the general public to help. All forms of giving make you feel better, however, the ones from which there is a tangible reward somehow have an advantage.

This is the time to put that theory to work. In Albany, the three-day “Albany Chef’s Food and Wine Festival” takes place Thursday to Saturday at Albany’s Capital Center. “Hattie’s Mardi Gras” is on Saturday night at the Saratoga Springs City Center. Both events support worthy non-profit organizations.

The idea of the restaurant industry supporting the arts is as thrilling as it is logical. First of all, it is a display of how many “under-the-radar” ways area restaurants help the community in which they exist. These galas just happen to be one of the more visible events. It’s also a declaration about how critical the arts are as an economic generator for local businesses.

The philosophy is similar for each event. Throw the best party imaginable and donate the funds to organizations that need support. Each offers a phenomenal meal, an open bar, a welcoming cocktail reception and entertainment. There are also silent auctions.

The main event of the Chef’s Festival in Albany is the Grand Gala Reception on Saturday night. It uses ten chefs representing the area’s finest restaurants who donate their time and skills. They prepare a 5-course gourmet meal curated by local Signature Chef Jamie Ortiz of the Sea Smoke Waterfront Grill in Green Island.

At the Saratoga Mardi Gras, Hattie’s own executive chefs, Mark Graham and Phil Fitzpatrick, along with owner-chef Jasper Alexander, are responsible for their feast, which is offered buffet style. The dress of the Albany Gala is formal, while the organizers of the Saratoga Mardi Gras suggest participants dress for the theme.

The Hattie’s event began in 2001 and has raised over a million dollars for area non-profits. Last year alone, it presented a check of over $100,000 to the Regional Food Bank of Northeastern N. Y.

This year, in collaboration with Business for Good whose website defines itself as a “philanthropic organization serving people in underserved communities,” Hattie’s has chosen The SEAT Center Culinary Lab as the recipient of their generosity. The organization helps young talent in the culinary and hospitality industries overcome socioeconomic challenges. It appears a truly symbiotic relationship.

This is the 15th anniversary of the Chef’s Festival, which is a continuation of “Wine and Dine for the Arts”. This year’s major beneficiaries are Black Theatre Troupe of Upstate New York, Capitaland Chorus, the Palace Theatre and Capital Repertory Theatre. Also receiving a portion of the proceeds are the Albany Barn, Playhouse Stage and N.Y. Folklore.

Beside the Saturday evening Gala, there are other excellent events going on at the Chef’s Festival. They too use great area chefs.

The festivities start 5:30-7 p.m. on Thursday with the Mayor’s Reception cocktail party. Friday has the very popular Slider Slam, which has the chefs competing for recognition of preparing the area’s best slider. And what is a great slider without great beer or wine? They are also part of the package. It takes place 8 -11 p.m.

From 4-8 p.m. on both Friday and Saturday there is a Grand Tasting wine event, with many wine and beer resources offering tastes of their products. Gourmet hors d’oeuvres are also available, as are several fascinating wine seminars.

Each charity event is an example of a community pulling together for the common good. It depends on the help of many restaurant, their chefs and staff. They also benefit from the support of food resources and area event managers, as well as government officials. 

However, a special shout out has to go to Jason and Beth Alexander of Hattie’s in Saratoga Springs. Not only have they been doing this for two decades, but, on the weekend of their own gala, they are seriously active in the Albany event. That has to be an example of giving ‘till it hurts.

If you’ve ever realized that having a great time for a great cause is a smart course of action, this weekend is for you.

Bob Goepfert is theater reviewer for the Troy Record.

The views expressed by commentators are solely those of the authors. They do not necessarily reflect the views of this station or its management.

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