The menu sounded kid-friendly but the dishes were decidedly grown up at a recent fundraiser for the South Whidbey Children’s Center in Langley.
Approximately 125 folks gathered at Fireseed Catering in Clinton for the gala Chefs’ Dinner, which shined the spotlight on seven South Whidbey chefs, who chose the children’s center as this year’s dinner beneficiary. It was up to them to put an adult spin on classic dishes like Jello salad, macaroni and cheese, fish sticks and more.
“This is the first time in two years we’ve done the chefs’ dinner,” said Jenn Jurriaans, chairman of the SWCC board of directors and co-owner of Prima Bistro in Langley. “Really, it’s a lot of just eating and fun.”
As the champagne flowed and soft jazz from Whidbey’s own Trio Nouveau filled the hall with music, an appetizing spin on tomato soup and grilled cheese, courtesy of Dave Noble from Fireseed, was served. Then came a “Jello salad” cooked up by Des Rock at Langley’s Useless Bay Coffee Company, but this dish featured pears poached in Syrah wine and spices, then suspended in a soft gelée and topped with a bleu cheese mousse and an endive leaf.
Next up was “Happy goat macaroni and cheese.”
“I used a Chevre goat cheese and some smoked Gouda, along with bacon and a balsamic reduction,” explained Chef Gordon Stewart of Gordon’s on Blueberry Hill in Freeland. “It’s topped with a pea vine and, because I’m a very pretty guy, a very pretty flower.”
Applause greeted the following courses, the next being a mixture of asparagus and sugar snap peas with a fava bean and tarragon dressing, served with a yellow pea hummus, courtesy of Chef Jess Dowdell.
“These kids are going to lead the world someday, so here’s to our future,” she said.
Chef Patrick Boin of The Braeburn in Langley had a surprising interpretation of fish sticks, serving a slice of grilled Copper River salmon atop a bed of thin carrot chips and barley with a Crème fraiche tarter sauce.
A hot dog and potato salad was the next childhood favorite to get a culinary makeover by Chef Sieb Jurriaans of Prima Bistro.
“It’s a venison hot dog with truffle potato salad on a handmade bun, served with spicy ketchup and Dijon mayonnaise,” he told the crowd.
Fireseed’s Dawn Noble finished off the night with ice cream sandwiches featuring a variety of homemade cookies and Whidbey Island Ice Cream.
The food may have taken center stage at the June 11 event, but the real star of the evening was the South Whidbey Children’s Center, which has provided early childhood learning in Langley for more than 30 years.
“More than 4,000 families have come through our door over the past 30 years,” said SWCC Executive Director Kris Barker. “We’re proud to be part of the Whidbey Island community.
“For every dollar spent on early learning, $16 is saved down the line in future expenses,” she continued. “So every dollar spent tonight is a dollar well spent.”
Denise Perkins, whose two children attended SWCC, said it wasn’t just a childcare center, it was her children’s second home.
“It was such a wonderful support for me,” she said. “The support I got can never be repaid, so this is kind of like a pay-it-forward thing.”
“I couldn’t have gone to work if it hadn’t been for the center,” said Sharon Boyle, who went on to give her opinion of the event. “I thought the evening was really fun and very different. The food was really interesting.”
“I thought the take on kids’ food was really good,” agreed Ron Kasprisin, who busied himself throughout the evening building a structure from the wooden toys on the table.
Organizers were pleased with the event.
“It was great,” said Jurriaans. “I’m really happy with how it turned out.”