Share Our Strength’s Taste of the Nation® Orlando raised $301,317 to support the feeding programs of Coalition for the Homeless of Central Florida, Second Harvest Food Bank of Central Florida and statewide organization Florida Impact, setting a new fundraising record for the event’s 25-year history.


Thirty-eight of Central Florida’s finest chefs united for this premier gastronomic fundraising event at the Orlando World Center Marriott on Aug. 9 to dazzle more than 2,000 guests with their culinary delights and raise critical funds for childhood hunger relief in the community.

Along with appetizers, entrees, desserts and spirits, guest enjoyed live music by the Mud Rooster Band and an exciting silent auction featuring signed memorabilia, stays at upscale hotels, dining experiences, rounds of golf on area courses, and exotic adventures and getaways. An Instant Wine Cellar game awarded 170 bottles of wine valued at more than $3,500 to the person who purchased the winning key that opened the locked wine door. A Count the Corks drawing awarded the person who came closest to guessing the correct number of wine corks a stay at the Epicurean Hotel, Autograph Collection in Tampa. An all-expense paid trip for two to Oktoberfest in Munich was awarded to one lucky winner as well as 99 bottles of beer to three winners.
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The highlight of the evening was the Creekstone Farms Chef Throwdown, a culinary cookoff that pitted Kevin Fonzo of K Restaurant against Alexia Gawlak of Siro: Urban Italian Kitchen at the Orlando World Center Marriott. Emceed by Food Network celebrity chef Melissa d’Arabian, the Creekstone Farms Chef Throwdown gave each chef 20 minutes to create a dish using Creekstone Farms sirloin flap steak and pantry staples donated by Whole Foods Market.

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Judge Bob Opsahl of WFTV talks with Melissa D’Arabian

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A judging panel that included Scott Joseph from Scott Joseph’s Orlando Restaurant Guide, WFTV’s Bob Opsahl, and Honorary Chair Helen Donegan determined Gawlak’s tostada topped with the grilled meat, cheese crumbles, chimichurri sauce, and a fried egg deserved the chef throwdown title. She was granted the honor of signing a $5,000 check from Creekstone Farms over to Taste of the Nation Orlando.
Chef Kevin Fonzo at K Restaurant working on the competition plate
Chef Kevin Fonzo at K Restaurant working on the competition plate

“We are so grateful to the chefs, sponsors, volunteers and guests who joined us this year to help combat hunger in Central Florida,” said Michele Byington, co-chair for Taste of the Nation Orlando. “We are proud to supports the efforts of Coalition for the Homeless and Second Harvest Food Bank who safeguard our most vulnerable neighbors against hunger.”

Chef Alexis Gawlak of Siro Italian Kitchen wins the day
Chef Alexis Gawlak of Siro Italian Kitchen wins the day

The funds from Taste of the Nation Orlando will help Coalition for the Homeless of Central Florida provide food, shelter and services to more than 150 children and their families each night in the coming year. Second Harvest Food Bank of Central Florida will direct the funds raised from Taste of the Nation Orlando to Benefits Connection, one of their primary feeding programs. Since 2008, Benefits Connection has secured more than $80 million in unused SNAP benefits for thousands of Central Florida families by helping qualified candidates overcome the challenges associated with accessing assistance.

Celebrating its 25th year, Taste of the Nation Orlando was locally presented by Quality One Wireless along with local sponsors AmeriFactors, Darden Restaurants, Regions Bank, Rosen Foundation and many more. For our complete list of sponsors, please visit http://ce.strength.org/orlando. Special thanks to Orlando World Center Marriott who donated the event space, Progressive Communications who donated printing services, Whole Foods Market who donated pantry staples for the Creekstone Farms Chef Throwdown, and Christopher Rank who contributed his talent as event photographer.

Eola Wine Company and The Ancient Olive returned to support Taste of the Nation Orlando’s fund-raising efforts for the second consecutive year. Eola Wine Company hosted a weekly wine series for six weeks leading up to the main event with all proceeds benefitting Taste of the Nation Orlando’s beneficiaries. The Ancient Olive donated $1 for each bottle of olive oil and balsamic vinegar it sold throughout the month of July at its four Florida locations while the Spice & Tea Exchange of Winter Park donated $1 for each gourmet salt grinder sold.

World of Beer – Dr. Phillips toasted Taste of the Nation Orlando with a craft beer tasting night with proceeds from sales benefitting Coalition for the Homeless of Central Florida and Second Harvest Food Bank of Central Florida. These same brews were also served inside Taste of the Nation’s European-style bier garden sponsored by World of Beer.

Taste of the Nation Orlando was organized by a volunteer steering committee representing a variety of local businesses and organizations and is led by committee co-chairs Michele Byington of Regions Bank and Bill Sullivan of I. Wanna Distributors, Inc.
ABOUT SHARE OUR STRENGTH’S TASTE OF THE NATION® ORLANDO

Share Our Strength’s Taste of the Nation Orlando event brings together the area’s top chefs who donate their time, talent and passion to end childhood hunger in Central Florida. Along with culinary delights, guests have the opportunity to sample select wines, cocktails and premium beers and enjoy silent and live auctions and entertainment. Every dollar raised fights hunger and homelessness in the Central Florida. Local beneficiaries include Coalition for the Homeless of Central Florida and Second Harvest Food Bank of Central Florida.

For more information:
Website: tasteofthenation.org/orlando
Facebook: www.facebook.com/OrlandoTaste
Twitter: @OrlandoTaste

Photos from the Event!

Emily Ellyn! The RAD Chef
Emily Ellyn! The RAD Chef

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The Pastry team at Marriott World Center resort
The Pastry team at Marriott World Center resort

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Sushi Pop's team with Chef Chau Trinh
Sushi Pop’s team with Chef Chau Trinh

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With Local Bloggers Bess Auer, Ken Storey, and Jen Vargas
With Local Bloggers Bess Auer, Ken Storey, and Jen Vargas

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ABOUT SHARE OUR STRENGTH
Share Our Strength®, a national nonprofit, is ending childhood hunger in America by connecting children with the nutritious food they need to lead healthy, active lives. Through its No Kid Hungry® campaign—a national effort to end childhood hunger in America—Share Our Strength ensures children in need are enrolled in effective federal nutrition programs; invests in community organizations fighting hunger; teaches families how to cook healthy, affordable meals; and builds public-private partnerships to end childhood hunger, at the state and city level. Working closely with the culinary industry and relying on the strength of its volunteers, Share Our Strength hosts innovative culinary fundraising events and develops pioneering cause marketing campaigns that support No Kid Hungry. For more information, visit http://www.nokidhungry.org/