Longer Chefs Table Caters to Sellout Crowd

For the second annual Chefs Table, seating for 360 people was set up in the middle of Beach Boulevard spanning two city blocks.

Gulfport’s second annual Chefs Table event increased seating capacity by 50 percent and spanned the length of two city blocks down the center of Beach Boulevard on Monday, November 7 from 6 p.m. to 10 p.m.

“It’s really the teamwork of Gulfport Neighbors and all of the 10 [participating] restaurants,” said Pia Goff, the main organizer of the event. She is also one of the chefs and a co-owner of Pia’s Trattoria.

In addition to the trattoria, other participating local restaurants were O’Maddy’s Bar & Grille, Mangia Gourmet, Stella’s Deli, Neptune Grill, Fish Bar and Grill, Smokin’ J’s BBQ, Island Flavors and Tings, Manatees on the Bay and Isabelle’s at the Peninsula Inn.

“We’re here with the love of Gulfport,” said Brian Liggins, 2017 Gecko Queen. “It’s all about love and togetherness. That’s why we live where we live. We keep each other strong.”

The inaugural year had to use the rain date in the middle of October due to the remnants of Hurricane Matthew. A total of 240 seats were sold and 210 people attended the rain date.

In an effort to avoid seasonal storms, Goff chose to schedule the 2017 event in early November. Monday night provided clear skies, a gentle breeze and a temperature of 68 degrees.

The original capacity for this year’s event sold out “within hours,” said Goff. More seats were added by several restaurants and ultimately 360 seats were sold, she said.

“We didn’t do any advertising,” said Goff. “It was on Facebook and people had a good experience from last year.”

Each restaurant used a custom theme to decorate their section of dining tables. Ticket prices ranged from $55 to $85.

“It’s fabulous,” said Kathleen Bartlett of South Pasadena who also attended the event last year. “The weather is perfect.”

First time attendee Pat Harbachuk of Gulfport said, “It’s just so beautiful and romantic. The presentation is amazing. I am touched to be a part of it. In order to do something like this in a community, you’ve got to have a lot of people with a lot of love in their hearts.”

After food expenses are covered, proceeds from this year’s charity event will be donated to the Gulfport Montessori Elementary School so they can purchase new playground equipment, said Margarete Tober, president of Gulfport Neighbors, a local non-profit that provided event organizational assistance to the participating restaurants. The exact amount of the donation will not be known for about a week because people are contributing separately from purchasing seats at the tables, she said. In 2016, the inaugural Chefs Table event raised $8,569.75 for CASA that was then matched by another one of their donors.

“Gulfport is very charity oriented,” said Goff. “It’s a giving community. When the charity is good, then people come.”

Comparing this year’s event to last year, John Riesebeck, owner of Smokin’ J’s BBQ said, “It’s fabulous. I love it. We doubled our seating. I look for next year to be an even larger group than this time. The longer we do it, the more this event is going to grow.”

Left, the centerpiece for the Island Flavors and Tings table featured a palm tree with pineapples as the trunk. “It’s synonymous with Jamaica,” said Helena Josephs, owner of the restaurant. “It’s our signature centerpiece for events.” Also pictured, a birch bark vase with pink roses from the Pia’s Trattoria table and a western horse saddle with rope that served as one of the themed decorations for the Smokin’ J’s BBQ table.

William and Kathleen Barlett, seated, both of South Pasadena, talk with Pia Goff, one of the chefs and a co-owner of Pia’s Trattoria. “It’s fabulous,” said Kathleen Bartlett of South Pasadena who also attended the event last year. “The weather is perfect.”

 

 

“It’s incredibly awesome!” said Donna Neis of Largo. “I have never eaten dinner in the middle of a street before. It’s a unique experience. I want to do it again next year!” She and her friend were dining at the Manatees on the Bay table. “The people are wonderful,” said Flora Figueroa of Largo. “We’re kicking back. Relaxing. Having a few laughs. And getting to know the other diners.” Their entree? Slow grilled Hawaiian chicken with a pineapple and teriyaki glaze over grilled veggies with white rice, said Chris Callery, manager.

 

 

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