2016-02-01 / Chefs on Stage

Cooking for a Cause

Thirteen years, eight charities, two owners, three editors, dozens of chefs, thousands of bites — the numbers for the annual Chefs on Stage dinner and auction add up to more than $612,000 raised since the event’s inception. Now in its 14th year, the event was dreamed up by then-publisher and owner of State College Magazine Jana King and then-editor Erika Isler. “We are small. We could not donate thousands of dollars in the community. But what we could do was help raise money,” says King.

After a chef event in partnership with Harrison’s WIne Grill & Catering, King and Isler saw the potential in a food-based event. King came up with the “Chefs on Stage” name, playing up a national trend of competitive cooking shows. “Harrison and Theresa Wong came in with boxing gloves,” King says. “We had mystery baskets.”

That first year, which benefited the March of Dimes, there were no advance ticket sales, but the response was overwhelming, raising more than $17,000. “The lines were out of this world,” says King. “People had to walk away. And we thought we really had a winner.”

Chefs on Stage is something that everyone who has been involved with is proud of. “If there’s anything that I think Jana and I are probably most proud of,” says co-founder Isler.  “It’s that we created something that goes way beyond the magazine to help so many people.”

Current owner Marlene Sample certainly sees the benefit and impact of Chefs on Stage. “I just love being able to spread the generosity from our participants out to different groups,” she says. “There’s so many different people that we’ve reached to help. I’m really proud of that.”

Of course, putting out a monthly magazine and planning a huge benefit — especially one where everything, from the food to the table linens, is donated — is a lot of work for the magazine staff. “There were years when we were still running that event, we were like, What in God’s name were we thinking doing this?” says Isler.

But deadlines come and go, and the tens of thousands of dollars raised every year stay in the community to help those who really need it. “One of the best things about Chefs on Stage is, of course, how much money it’s raised over the years and how much money it raises every year for a different charity,” says current editor Kate Delano. “And also, personally, it’s also fun to get to know all of these amazing chefs who donate their time and energy and food in order to help their community.”

This year, the money raised at Chefs on Stage on Oct. 5 at Mountain View County Club will benefit the State College Food Bank. Plus, says King, it’s not only great for the community, but it’s heaven for a foodie. “I love to go there. I eat like a pig!”

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