Champion Chefs Compete in Benefit for Napa Food Programs

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Chef Chris Kollar of Kollar Chocolates will compete in a virtual cook-off to support families who are experiencing food insecurity. - PHOTO COURTESY KOLLARCHOCOLATES.COM
  • photo courtesy kollarchocolates.com
  • Chef Chris Kollar of Kollar Chocolates will compete in a virtual cook-off to support families who are experiencing food insecurity.

Five months into the Covid-19 pandemic, and the North Bay is still largely under sheltering orders that have forced many popular events to cancel their plans for the summer.

One of the most impactful financial fallouts of the canceled summer is the loss in fundraising revenue that these events generate for many local nonprofit organizations.

Case in point: Each year Oxbow Public Market's Fork It Over benefit and the Hands Across The Valley fundraiser in St. Helena each raise money for the Napa Valley Food Bank and other local safety-net food programs such as Meals on Wheels.

These two benefit events are cancelled due to the Covid-19 pandemic this summer, meaning that the Napa Valley Food Bank and Meals on Wheels stand to lose approximately $250,000 in funding at a time when the number of families using these programs has nearly tripled due to the pandemic and the subsequent economic downturn.

In place of these canceled live events, the organizers behind both Fork It Over and Hands Across the Valley are working together to create a new virtual event to help close the financial gap in funding.

“Participating in Fork It Over is a way of supporting local people who need help at one time or another in their lives,” Steve Carlin, founder and managing partner of Oxbow Public Market, says in a statement. “This year is different in that there are more of us confronting food insecurity challenges. At Oxbow, we are doing everything we can to be part of the solution, and we’re proud to partner with Hands Across the Valley on this creative new fundraising effort.”

On Sunday, August 23, Fork It Over and Hands Across the Valley host the first-ever virtual Napa Valley Champions Cook-Off, pitting two acclaimed Napa Valley chefs against each other in a friendly challenge. Both of the participating chefs have won national televised cooking contests, and now North Bay viewers are invited to watch the live streaming event that will determine the ultimate champion chef.

“We were very disappointed when we had to cancel our annual benefit event due to the pandemic,” Hands across the Valley founder and board president George Altamura says in a statement. “This is a great way to engage some of our talented culinary stars, have some fun and raise money for these very important programs.”

Chef Elizabeth Binder and Chef Chris Kollar are slated to appear in the showdown, and both have plenty of experience cooking in front of a crowd.

Chef Binder, owner of Hand-Crafted Catering in Napa, helped her team “Beat Bobby Flay” on the popular cooking competition show’s seventh episode of Season 23, which aired on January 26, 2020.

Chef Kollar, recently named Yountville’s 2020 Business Leader of the Year, is best known as the owner of Kollar Chocolates. Chef Kollar was named a 'Chopped Champion,' winning a sweet and salty challenge on an episode of Food Network’s “Chopped” that also aired in January of this year.

The upcoming Napa Valley Champions Cook-Off will be held at the Culinary Institute of America at Copia’s large teaching kitchens, ensuring the chefs and crew can maintain social distancing.

Radio personality Liam Mayclem, known as the Foodie Chap on KCBS Radio, will host the streaming competition. Chef Ken Frank (La Toque in Napa), Chef Anita Cartagena (Protéa in Yountville), and Chef Tanya Holland (Brown Sugar Kitchen in Oakland) will all be on hand to judge the event.

The Napa Valley Champions Cook-Off will be free to watch via Facebook Live, and viewers will be encouraged to donate money throughout the approximately hour-long program to support The Napa Valley Food Bank and Meals on Wheels. Donations received during the event will be eligible to win $500 in OxBucks, redeemable at any Oxbow Public Market merchant.

The Napa Valley Champions Cook-Off streams online Sunday, Aug 23, at 2pm. Free. Facebook.com/OxbowPublicMarket.

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