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 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.
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.”