Walker Hosts Special Cooking Fundraiser
Cody Ward of Minneapolis’ Walker Art Center believes CuisineArt is a one-of-a-kind type fundraising evening.
The May 2007 event featured a Wolfgang Puck cooking challenge and a six-course meal prepared by the renowned chef and his associates.
“I think the key element of CuisineArt that makes it so unique is that it is truly more than a benefit,” Ward, a Walker Development Associate, says. “Many guests are tenured gala attendees in our community and they really appreciate the hands-on, playful, participatory nature of the event as well as the intimacy involved in spending the night with Wolfgang. (This) versus having dinner with upwards of a thousand of the institution’s closest friends as is the tendency at many other gala fundraising events.”
This year’s event attracted 90 participants that were divided into eight teams for the cooking contest. Celebrity judges including Minneapolis chef Andrew Zimmern determined the best fare. Three teams garnered prizes and all the contestants were provided with personalized chef jackets with their name on the front and the CuisineArt2007 logo on the back.
The Target Corporation served as sponsor. It handled various costs such as building design transformation, dinner ingredients, chef jackets and items for attendee’s gift bags. Minneapolis-St. Paul Magazine and The Travel Channel also donated gift bag items. Puck’s corporation provided the chefs and additional gift bag goodies.
CuisineArt2007 was marketed in various ways. Approximately 800 upper-level contributors received ‘save the date’ cards in early March. They were followed with formal invitations in April. The Walker website also promoted the event. Zimmern mentioned it on his radio show and blogs. Twin Cities food expert Sue Zelickson also plugged the event on her radio show. Ward says that the blog was especially useful in informing the local foodies.
The 12-member host committee was an important force in ticket sales. They consist of board members, donors and long -time friends of the center.
Besides Ward, one other Walker development staff person organized the event which took about seven months. They worked with the Target events marketing staff, Puck representatives, the host staff and Walker design and tech staff.
Puck, of course, was the major attraction of the evening. He and the Walker Art Center have developed a solid relationship since the organization’s reopening in 2005.
The art center contains two of Puck’s restaurants right inside the building. His catering staff serves food and beverages for the establishment. Puck’s contract requires him to visit the Walker a couple times each year and he also takes part in the fundraising event.
Ward says CuisineArt will return in 2008. That will mark the third annual event. The goal is to limit participation to 100 or less to maintain the personal touch. The first year (2006) 60 attended.
CUISINEART2007 FAST FACTS
Cost--$1250 per person
Gross Revenue-- $112,500
Number of Cooking Stations: 8
Cooking Prizes—First Place: a bottle of wine and dinner at Puck’s Spago Beverly Hills Restaurant, Second Place: dinner at Puck’s 20.21 Restaurant and Bar, Third Place: brunch at 20.21.