Taste of the Nation events occur around the country, but Atlanta’s has been the most successful, raising over $712,000 this year and more than $10 million since its inception.
Share Our Strength was founded in 1984 by Billy Shore, current CEO. As the world focused on hunger issues in Ethiopia, Americans like Shore began to recognize that hunger problems weren’t found only abroad. He said, “We refocused our efforts right here in our own backyard.”
At the heart of Atlanta’s first Taste of the Nation event was Pano Karatassos, founder of the Buckhead Life Restaurant Group. After starting the event, he has chaired it each year since and was later joined by co-chair George McKerrow, President and CEO of Ted’s Montana Grill.
Fifty chefs joined the cause this year, bringing their A-game with samples and creative displays for the 1250 guests. Allison Palestrini, Share Our Strength’s Southeast Director for Culinary Events, commended the chefs, “Not only do the executive chefs themselves attend, they go all out. No one is phoning it in.”
Bacchanalia’s display was among the most striking of the evening with 800 baby Hakurei turnips, rainbow-colored carrots, baby spring onions, cherry belle radishes and the like. Dipped in a mixture of butter, cocoa butter and lemon juice, the produce was immersed in an edible dirt made from dehydrated pumpernickel rye, dried black olives, vegetable ash, dehydrated chocolate meringue and cocoa. Guests plucked their vegetables right from the tabletop garden.
Palestrini said, “The cause is so compelling, the culinary community gives generously in both time and talent.” Many chefs also donated auction items, like the dinner donated by a group of six chefs including Kevin Rathbun and Gerry Klaskala. Their in-home dinner for 12 guests sold for $15,000 –twice.
Shore commented, “It means something to the guests to see how committed chefs like Rathbun and Klaskala are to the cause.”
The funds raised will support hunger-relief programs such as those at the Atlanta Community Food Bank, Genesis Shelter and Cooking Matters, a program to teach cooking and nutrition skills to children and families.
According to Shore, Share Our Strength also works with school nutrition departments to get the 21 million children eligible for free and reduced lunches connected to breakfast and summer relief programs.
Reflecting on this year’s success of Taste of the Nation, Palestrini said, “This money is going to connect a lot of kids with a lot of food.”
–by Jenny Turknett, Food and More blog