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Over $76,000 raised during Rumrunners Celebrity Chef Night

By Staff | Aug 18, 2011

The 8th annual Rumrunners Celebrity Chef Night, which was held Wednesday, surpassed this year’s goal of more than $16,000 for the Barbara’s Friends The Children’s Hospital Cancer Fund.

Chef Todd Johnson, managing partner of Rumrunners, The Joint and Run Agrounds, said his goal was to raise $60,000 for Barbara’s Friends this year. The amount raised Wednesday night surpassed his expectations with a total of $76,277 donated from live and silent auctions, the champaign toast, sponsorships and ticket sales.

“It was a great night last night,” Johnson said Thursday. “Every year out beats the other.”

Johnson said the event went off as planned.

“Every time we scratch our heads at the turnouts,” he said, due to rain and hot weather, along with the seasonal residents not being in town. “For us to be able to host an event and have it sell out with 300 people every year is amazing.”

The celebrity chefs that took part in the 8th annual event included Chef Johnson and Ralph Centalonza of Rumrunners and The Joint, Chef Fabrizio Aielli of Sea Salt, Chef Balink of Cru and culinary teams from Yabo and Chef Brooke’s Natural Cafe created culinary delights. Some of those creations included scallops, lobster and caviar martinis, big eye tuna, surf and turf and ricotta stuffed pasta.

Norman Love Confections provided chocolate bread pudding, mini chocolate gelato ice cream cones and all of his chocolates.

The 2011 Child of Hope, 4-year-old Caliah Russell, also attended the event Wednesday night with her parents. She was diagnosed with acute lymphocytic leukemia Aug. 27 of last year and is currently in remission. Caliah still has 15 months of treatment left out of her 2 1/2-year treatment plan.

She just started voluntary pre-kindergarten this year at Cape Christian.

“It was great that she could be there so they can see where the money goes,” Johnson said about those who attended the event. “Although the event is important, we want to make sure that it gets represented and people can see where the money goes.”

The event Wednesday night was inspired by an event Johnson attended with his wife in Aspen. He said the Aspen event included wine vendors and chefs from the area, along with the opportunity to meet the chefs face-to-face.

Johnson said because the event was so laid back, it seemed that people were more generous with their donations.

Eight years ago, he said, Barbara Haskell’s parents came to his restaurant and asked if he would hold a dinner where celebrity waitresses would serve dinners to raise money for the Barbara’s Friends The Children’s Hospital Cancer Fund. Johnson said it was an instant yes because his partner was battling cancer at the time.

The concept of the fund-raiser changed and turned into Rumrunners Celebrity Chef Night, which included 100 percent participation from the friends he called to participate in the evening.

Everything was set with 200 reservations for the first Rumrunners Celebrity Chef Night. Unfortunately Hurricane Charley hit, which caused the restaurant to lose power for seven days. Johnson said he made the decision to postpone the event for two weeks and did not lose any of the 200 reservations.

Every year the Rumrunners Celebrity Chef Night has grown with additions, which included a live auction this year. Last year, Johnson said he wrote a check for $45,000 to give to Barbara’s Friends.