A "dangerous" band, a secret sausage and a Discovery Channel reality show? Ten years ago, David Goldstein would have never put those three things in a sentence. But this year, the head of the Professional Chefs Association of South Jersey is once again preparing for a fundraiser that will bring out hundreds of attendees - and all of the above.
Some of the area's best-known chefs and their finest food will be showcased at the ninth annual Chefs at the Shore, taking place Thursday, June 21, at the Atlantic City Aquarium in Historic Gardner's Basin.
Part of Professional Chefs Week, the fundraiser attracts well-known local chefs from casino and regional restaurants, and features signature dishes from area restaurants, cooking demonstrations, live music and an open bar of premium beers and wines.
Proceeds from Chefs at the Shore are used to fund scholarships for culinary students and for educational programming at the Atlantic City Aquarium.
Chefs at the Shore was born a decade ago, Goldstein says, back when his association held a few, small events to mark Professional Chef's Week. A colleague, he says, mentioned the idea partnering with Atlantic City Aquarium to help raise money for both organizations.
"When we first started with this event ... we had about 10 to 11 chefs the first year," Goldstein says. "We had 175 people come, and we were so excited. Each year, we've added more to it."
Since the first benefit event was held in 2003, Chefs at the Shore has only gotten bigger. Last year's event brought out approximately 500 people, Goldstein says, and more than 600 guests are expected to come and sample the various gourmet offerings this year.
Featured chefs this year include Demetrios Haronis, executive chef at Tropicana Casino and the chef behind Fin Restaurant; Pam Green, the only female executive chef in Atlantic City; and George Galati, corporate chef for The Carriage House and Gourmet Italian in Galloway, best known for co-starring in "Dinner: Impossible" with Robert Irvine on the Food Network.
"This year, we're going to have 34 chefs, plus the casinos and restaurants, plus the bars, plus live music and a singing chef. We'll have some celebrity chefs there, some fantastic food. People are really putting on quite an effort to make this a warm, fun atmosphere."
Special guests at this year's Chefs at the Shore will include Russell Newberry, deck boss on the popular Discovery Channel show "The Deadliest Catch." Newberry will be showcasing Dangerous Red, a wine he helped develop at Valenzano Winery in Shamong to raise money for U.S. troops overseas. Newberry will also be signing autographs and posing for photos.
Also featured will be James "Jimmy the Butcher" Scarpato of Hammonton. The self-proclaimed old-school butcher promises to reveal the secret behind his famous Italian sausage during his featured cooking demonstration. The live demos will be taking place every half hour throughout the evening.
"There will also be a demo on cooking crab cake sliders," Goldstein says. "It's really great, because you're going to get to see chefs in action."
The Dangerous Chef, also known as Chef J.D. Austin, will be singing with his band, The Kitchen, as the evening's featured entertainers - and cooking up a recipe while performing with the group.
Culinary students from Atlantic Cape Community College and the Atlantic County Institute of Technology will be assisting chefs in setting out and serving food at the event.
For Goldstein, the biggest reward comes from seeing who directly benefits from the annual fundraiser.
"We've been in front of 700 students the past two years," Goldstein says. "We talk to students about what is a chef, and how can we eat better, and all of these things that promote our culinary field and promote healthy eating. This is a great event, because we're doing community service and promoting nutrition. You know, our chefs are always learning. Chefs strive to learn. We want to be better all the time."