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Woodbury nonprofit raises $42K during this year’s Chef Fest

Chef Angelo Montes of Sole Mio Ristorante, one of the architects of Chef Fest, gives a live demonstration of how to cook Chicken Marsala on stage Friday evening. (Bulletin photo by Youssef Rddad)1 / 7
The second annual Chef Fest saw about 350 people attend to raise more than $40,000 to benefit the Woodbury Community Foundation, a local nonprofit that helps support community efforts including food shelves, youth leadership and more. (Bulletin photo by Youssef Rddad)2 / 7
Marsha Sipma serves guests a tasty rack of lamb dish that’s prepared with a Two Gingers Whiskey demi-glace and served with Irish-style mash. (Bulletin photo by Youssef Rddad)3 / 7
Chef John Schiltz and his crew work to plate a locally-inspired dish featuring fried sunfish served with wild rice. Schiltz, who owns and heads the kitchen of the Lake Elmo Inn, said the event is “all about community, and there isn't one community that stands alone."4 / 7
Pierre Rabbia gives a live flambé demonstration for a dish featuring caramelized cherries that are served over a fresh crepe. (Bulletin photo by Youssef Rddad)5 / 7
Chefs John Byrne (left), John Schiltz and Angelo Montes (Bulletin photo by Youssef Rddad)6 / 7
Tom Schiller works on an ice carving of the Chef Fest logo outside the Oakdale Envision Center Friday evening. Ice carving is kind of a lost art, he said, because not many chefs know how to do it anymore. After he receives a 300-pound block of ice, he uses various power and hand tools to shape the block into the desired shape.7 / 7

The energy was buzzing Friday evening at the Envision Center in Oakdale, where about 350 guests attended the Woodbury Foundation's Chef Fest.

In its second year, Chef fest featured 10 local chefs who fired up small plate dishes for guests to sample. Proceeds from the event benefit the Woodbury Community Foundation, a local nonprofit whose work helps support a number of local initiatives.

While sampling the chef's creations, attendees also participated in live and silent auctions for a chance to win several prizes, including a private dinner that local chefs will prepare at their home and a signed chef's coat.

The food ranged from various types of cuisines, including sushi, Irish-style lamb chops, ravioli and a locally-inspired dish including fried sunfish and wild rice, as well as several other mouthwatering dishes and desserts.

The event raised roughly $42,000, up from about $10,000 last year.

"We do such wonderful things for the community in a quiet way," said Dixie Ewing, who helped start the foundation 13 years ago. "People don't realize all the things that we make happen."

The money helps support community efforts such as the K-9 program, youth leadership programs, local food shelves, Woodbury Thrives and several other local projects.

"They really jump started the food shelves, and they've been instrumental in getting volunteers together for good causes," said Woodbury Mayor Mary Giuliani Stephens, who brought her family to the event.

Stephens added that youth programs the foundation promotes also complement existing work that the city and other local groups organize.

"It's one of the things that we can really work on," Stephens said.

Marcus Hultgren, a junior at Woodbury High School, said the youth leadership program he attended last year helped him learn networking entrepreneurial skills that he feels will help him in the future.

In prior years, organizers have thrown Halloween- and game show-themed galas. But due to the popularity of last year's Chef Fest, the foundation decided to host the event for a second time.

Chef Angelo Montes of Sole Mio Ristorante came up with the idea last year after his longtime support of the foundation.

"It's all about spirit, passion and love," he said.

When Montes approached John Byrne, a volunteer firefighter and chef at U.S. Foods, he said he immediately agreed to it because of the foundation's work.

"Last year was kind of the orientation year. This year, it's about growing a little more," Byrne said.

Chefs who attended this year's event include:

• Scott Parks, Le Cordon Bleu Target Field;

• Angelo Montes, Sole Mio Ristorante;

• Gary Hjemmling, Crave Restaurants;

• Joe Nagle, Envision Event Center;

• John Byrne, U.S. Foods Gaelic Gourmet;

• Keith Huffman, Working Man Spices;

• Dayton Carroll, Hy-Vee Market Grille;

• Heather VanHorn, Crave Restaurants;

• John Schiltz, Lake Elmo Inn;

• and Patrick Conway, Chandler Place.