Chez Panisse birthday fundraising declared a success

The children say it all at the Berkeley Art Museum party for Chez Panisse. Photo: Christina Diaz

Now that the hoopla is over, it’s time to take stock of how the Chez Panisse 40th anniversary celebrations fared as a fundraising effort.

Answer: pretty well. The Chez Panisse Foundation had a goal to raise $500,000 for all its 40th birthday activities combined, which it exceeded by a lot, said event producer Carolyn Federman, who didn’t specify exactly how much the private dinners, restaurant parties, and other activities raised.

The money will go to support the recently launched Edible Schoolyard Project (ESYP) website, which has an estimated annual operating cost of about $1.5 million, according to Federman. This new, national nonprofit, building on the work of the Edible Schoolyard locally, intends to serve as a “best practices” resource for kitchen and garden classes in schools across the country looking for ideas, tools, resources, curriculum and community to support their work. Interviews for candidates for the ESYP director position are currently under way.

Chez Panisse remained mum on exactly who ponied up the big bucks to the school food cause. Most donors prefer to remain anonymous, explained Federman, who added that some are restaurant regulars and long-time foundation supporters who have been loyal fans of Alice Waters since the early days.

Some folks shelled out $1,000 for the privilege of enjoying the pleasures of a pig roast at food writer Michael Pollan‘s North Berkeley abode. Others, including filmmaker Wayne Wang and food writer Ruth Reichl, attended a Chinese banquet at restaurant legend Cecilia Chang’s Pacific Heights home. Still others parted with a wad of cash to dine with the likes of former Chez Panisse chef Jeremiah Towers, actor Jake Gyllenhaal, and urban farmer Novella Carpenter at soirées at Chez Panisse HQ.

Much of the money raised will go to fund the Edible Schoolyard Project website which will provide best practice for schools across the country

Not all contributions were of the monetary kind. Chez Panisse alum Steve Sullivan at Acme donated bread to all the dinners, as well as to the Berkeley Art Museum party, which ushered in a weekend’s worth of noshing. Sullivan also recently developed a whole-wheat ”Edible Schoolyard” loaf, proceeds from the sales of which go to ESYP.

Oakland-based Blue Bottle Coffee also donated money from several days of special sales related to the Eating for Education campaign. The Cheese Board Collective hosted a party on the Saturday night of the birthday festivities — which included free pizza for all — and made cheesecake to sell to customers in honor of the restaurant’s birthday, with all profits earmarked for ESYP.

Many other vendors, farmers, and local merchants contributed their artisan food products to the cause over the course of the celebratory weekend.

Surgeon General Vice Admiral Regina Benjamin surrounded by students in the Edible Schoolyard kitchen at King Middle School. Photo: Tracey Taylor.

The Edible Schoolyard Project is not the only website dedicated to improving how children eat at school and beyond, of course. Former Berkeley school lunch lady Ann Cooper is behind the Lunch Box, and British celebrity chef Jamie Oliver is the front person for Food Revolution. Oliver’s focus is real food movement advocacy and community building. Cooper concentrates on dispensing the technical tools to support change in school lunch cafeterias around the country that want to provide fresh, wholesome food from scratch, Federman explained.

ESYP, meanwhile, is designed to educate children about food through hands-on garden and kitchen classes, and provides tools and resources for similar programs to get up and running across the country. The three school food improvement efforts collaborate whenever possible.

Federman will continue to consult with ESYP on the university-based Edible Education curriculum, currently in session at UC Berkeley.

No official word, yet, on what Waters has in store for 50 years of Chez Panisse, though it has been reported elsewhere that she has no intention of holding another big gala. Those who know her well aren’t so sure she won’t do something festive for the 50th. Let the party planning begin.

Sarah Henry is the voice behind Lettuce Eat Kale. You can follow her on Twitter and Facebook.

Related:
Cheese Board Chez Panisse celebration closed down early [08.29.11]
Photo Essay: Edible learning at the Berkeley Art Museum [08.29.11]
Chez Panisse’s birthday kicks off with party to remember [08.27.11]
Local restaurants raise money for edible education [08.26.11]
The frenzy around Chez Panisse’s 40th anniversary [08.26.11]
Nikki Henderson: On the frontlines of edible education [08,19.11]
Fundraising underpins Chez Panisse’s birthday festivities [08.01.11]
Tickets expected to go fast for Michael Pollan’s food class [07.28.11]
Berkeley’s school lunch program is flawed, say insiders [02.14.11]
After Berkeley, school lunches will never be the same [02.02.11]
Jake Gyllenhaal to spread the Alice Waters gospel [12.10.10]
Berkeley Bites: Alice Waters [10.22.10]

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