Some people who dined out Saturday night at Fountain Head Country Club were treated to more than just a meal.
Those who attended the Washington County Arts Council’s Art of Cooking had a side serving of cooking lessons and a heaping helping of entertainment as well.
The council’s fourth annual cooking event featured local couples Sam and Debbie Cool, Mike and Beth Johnston, Ira and Carrol Lourie, and Joe and Chris Tischer as guest celebrity chefs.
More than a mile’s length of cable delivered the chefs in action in the prep kitchen to the two big screens in the club’s ballroom for live viewing by attendees. Lou Scally of WHAG-TV and Mary King, a former anchor for the station, emceed the event. King no longer lives in the area, but said she returned to support the arts council.
Mary Anne Burke, executive director of the council, said the idea for the Art of Cooking was inspired several years ago when brothers Michael and Bryan Voltaggio of Frederick County, Md., competed on the popular TV show “Top Chef.”
“This is very unique, very different than most fundraisers,” Burke said.
Council organizers began meeting with chefs last fall, she said, reviewing favorite recipes of the celebrity chefs and planning a menu. Each couple prepared a different course, which was accompanied by a wine pairing. Though the chefs demonstrated for preparation live, quantities needed to feed the 111 people in attendance were prepared by club staff.
Jim Miller of After Five Productions manages the technical aspects of the event. Miller said he believes the event is so successful because it is unusual.
“It’s almost a reality-type TV production as well as a highlight of the art of cooking,” he said. “People from our own community come in with these wonderful recipes and share with 125 of their closest friends and neighbors. It’s a great fundraiser.”
Chip and Nicole Alsip of Hagerstown, who have been to the event several times, said it is “a lot of fun” to watch the food being prepared live.
“It makes the meal more interesting,” Nicole Alsip said.
The couple’s best friends, Mike and Beth Johnston, prepared Moroccan chicken, adapting the recipe for Nicole Alsip, who is a vegan. They used a meat substitute flavored with the same Vidalia onion, raisins, pine nuts, honey, paprika, salt and ground cloves as the original recipe.
The crowd seemed playfully unnerved by guest chef and child psychiatrist Ira Lourie’s whimsical handling of a large kitchen knife as he cut up a butternut squash.
“I love to chop,” he said while happily wielding the utensil. Mary King ducked back and the audience broke into laughter and applause.
Art of Cooking tickets cost $125 per person. Burke said the arts council has raised around $15,000 through the event in the past and she hoped it would bring in at least that much again. Proceeds will go toward the general operating fund.
In addition to dinner and entertainment, the council presented pieces by 10 area artists for silent auction. Ed Rogerson and Sue Shaffer of Hagerstown perused the art during cocktail hour. The couple said it was their first time attending the event.
“It is a fun concept and we certainly want to be able to support the arts council,” Shaffer said. “They do such a good job highlighting local artists.”
Burke said the arts council recently moved to a new space on South Potomac Street.
“It’s right at the center of foot traffic and that’s what we need so people will come in and buy the work on consignment,” she said.