Celebrity chefs flex spatulas for benefit gala

By: Loryll Nicolaisen Journal Staff Writer
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Don’t eat a big lunch Thursday. Having a full belly could greatly hinder the sampling possibilities at the 23rd annual Celebrity Chefs Gala Smorgasbord, hosted by the Auburn 49er Lions Club in the Placer Building of Auburn’s Gold Country Fairgrounds. “It’s a fun event,” said Debra Oldziewski, 49er Lions first vice president and event chairwoman. “One of the things I like about it is that it’s fun for the whole family, and it’s a good cause.” The Lions give Celebrity Chef proceeds to different groups each year, and benefits from Thursday’s food fest are slated for the Salvation Army and the Auburn Area Christmas Basket Program. Last year’s event brought in some $5,000, Oldziewski said. With more than 50 celebrity chefs already committed, and more expected to sign on before Thursday’s event, there will be enough dining options to ensure no two plates look the same. “They get a plate with salad and bread and their ticket has five food coupons,” Oldziewski said. From there, it’s up to participants to pick and choose what they want on their plates. In other words, diners can round out their meal with their choice of appetizers, meats and sides, but if an all-dessert dinner sounds good, who’s to stop them? A $15 ticket gives participants five taste coupons. If they’re still hungry, additional taste coupons will be available for $1 each. Celebrity chefs reflect a good cross-section of the community and its officials, business owners and restaurateurs, with sign-ups including everyone from Auburn Police Chief Valerie Harris to Auburn Mayor Mike Holmes. What’s he serving up Thursday? “The usual,” Holmes said. “I usually do shrimp cocktail. I like shrimp, and shrimp cocktail is relatively easy to prepare. In past years, it seems to go pretty fast.” Ben Asgharzadeh, owner of Golden Swann Jewelers, is another returning celebrity chef. His plan is to create a handful of dishes reflecting his Turkish heritage. “People like different flavors. That’s why I do four or five dishes — they’re going to like something,” he said. “I really enjoy this event. As soon as I finish mine, I go around and see what other exotic foods there are.” Live music by Dr. Bach and the Jazz Practitioners and raffles and drawings hosted by the Sugar Plump Fairies sweeten the deal. Buy advance tickets at: Sun River Clothing Company, 1585 Lincoln Way; MaryBelle’s Restaurant, 1590 Lincoln Way; the Auburn Chamber of Commerce, 601 Lincoln Way; and Golden Swann Jewelers, 881 Lincoln Way. Tickets will also be available at the door. The Journal’s Loryll Nicolaisen can be reached at, or comment online at 23rd annual Celebrity Chefs Gala Smorgasbord Hosted by: Auburn 49er Lions Club Benefiting: Auburn’s Salvation Army and Christmas Basket programs When: Doors open at 5:30 p.m. Thursday Where: Placer Building, Gold Country Fairgrounds, 1273 High St., Auburn Cost: $15 Information: (530) 885-4690