Portland Bon Appétit Teams Come Together for James Beard Public Market Dinner

The Bon Appétit team transformed a cavernous space into an elegant dinner venue

The Bon Appétit team transformed a cavernous space into an elegant dinner venue. Photo by Alan Weiner

Cooking and serving a multicourse dinner for a couple hundred people in a space without a kitchen is quite a challenge.

How about if those hundreds of people include the CEO of your company and most of the fooderati of Portland, OR, who’ve paid top dollar as part of a fundraiser for the James Beard Public Market (named for “the father of American cooking”), as well as keynote speaker Mark Bittman, a multiple James Beard Award-winning cookbook author and New York Times columnist? High stakes indeed — but a feat that Bon Appétiters from all around Portland magically pulled off without anyone ever guessing how hard it was!

Bon Appétit CEO Fedele Bauccio, New York Times columnist Mark Bittman, and the James Beard Public Market Executive Director Ron Paul

Bon Appétit CEO Fedele Bauccio, New York Times columnist Mark Bittman, and James Beard Public Market Executive Director Ron Paul. Photo by Alan Weiner

Bon Appétit’s ties to the event, called Gather & Taste, extend much deeper than just donating the dinner. The company has partnered with the James Beard Public Market, a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization working to develop a year-round public market on the waterfront of Beard’s birthplace, to develop and create programming for a state-of-the-art teaching and demonstration kitchen and event space. Bon Appétit CEO Fedele Bauccio is very excited about this opportunity “to further extend our outreach and education efforts on behalf of healthy, local, real food in the greater Portland community,” and was pleased to be able to introduce Mark — also a longtime supporter of the market — and offer copies of his latest book, How to Cook Everything Fast, to all the guests.

The family-style menu for the event was created by Greg Higgins, chef-owner of Higgins Restaurant & Bar, from adaptations of Mark’s recipes — all incorporating seasonal Oregon bounty and paired with a regional wine. District Managers Joanne Diehl and Marc Marelich marshaled dozens of Bon Appétiters from Lewis & Clark College, Reed College, Oregon Museum of Science and Industry (OMSI),University of Portland, and other area accounts to deliver beautifully plated food from tents set up behind the kitchenless Left Bank Annex. OMSI General Manager and Catering Director Julia Raymond collaborated with Dominique Estlund and Amber Reed from the James Beard team to transform the cavernous interior into an inviting, warm dinner environment and attractive stage. The event included a live auction of both one-of-a-kind goods and packages, including local food experiences, an all-expenses paid trip to San Francisco to see the San Francisco Giants play, special cooking classes, and several packages of wine dinners for eight at Portland’s top restaurants.

The Bon Appétit team preparing the soup, which was served in an innovative way: bowls with parsley pesto awaited guests at the table when they sat down, and then servers poured hot parsnip soup from pitchers into each bowl

The Bon Appétit team preparing the soup. Photo: Alan Weiner

Mark closed the event with a powerful address, speaking both of his friend “Jim Beard” — who had not only taught legions of Americans to cook simple, fresh good food, but who had also broken ground by finding acceptance as an openly gay man — and of where the American food system stands now, and what it needs. While voting with one’s fork is important, he said, to be successful, the food movement needs to mobilize both political and economic forces. Without food justice — as long as nutritious fresh food is out of reach for minimum wage workers — the food movement cannot grow. “Animals are important, too, but I suppose I’m a humans-first person,” he said.

Gather & Taste Menu

Creamy Parsnip Soup | with parsley pesto 2013

Warm Kale Salad | with Freddy Guys hazelnuts, Ancient Heritage Dairy Hannah cheese, and balsamic cranberries

Fennel Spice-Rubbed Chinook | with charred cauliflower salad 2012

Moroccan-Braised Reister Farms Lamb | with couscous and Prairie Creek Farm carrot salad

Quinoa Cakes | with braised red cabbage and cranberries

Molasses Whoopie Pie | with winter squash mousse, roasted pear, white chocolate honeycomb, and pomegranate molasses