by Christi Ashby
Above: Gary Lambert at the bar with Lanette Jarvis and Eva Krzewinksi
Emily Ellyn and Hollis Wilder with Mother Ginger
Putting a little fun in the fundraiser, a recent gathering to benefit the Orlando Ballet had all the ingredients needed for a delightfully successful afternoon soiree… a splashy signature cocktail, a dash of cooking in the kitchen with Food Network stars Hollis Wilder and Emily Ellyn, garnished with a special surprise appearance by Mother Ginger, and a diverse group of fun-loving guests to take it all in.
The home of Gary Lambert and his long-time partner Shawn Hunt was made for entertaining. Several years ago when a remodel was in order, Gary designed the whole space for that purpose and put the kitchen right in the middle of the living area which flows gracefully out to the patio and pool.
A huge supporter of the Orlando Ballet – he has even made some appearances with the company – he is always looking for novel ways to raise funds for the group. His generosity within the community is well known and his parties are legendary. So one day as I sat in his chair at the salon, he asked if I would help out with the fundraising project. As soon as he had explained the concept of showcasing the skills of Hollis and Emily, we were on to the cocktail and invitation concept. And the “Ballet Sipper” was born.
Shelly “Maxine” Broadwell sipping on a Ballet Sipper
Before long we were contacting our friends and calling in favors. The idea was to have 100 percent of the contributions from the day go directly to the ballet. I asked Brian Joyce and Richard Streitler from Flourish Floral Productions to provide some beautiful décor and they in turn asked Arthur’s Creative Events & Catering to add the needed glassware, plates and utensils. Jami Wray from Peterbrooke Chocolatier sent over some wrapped treats.
Matt Anderson of EG Vodka stepped up to provide the ingredients for the official cocktail – the Ballet Sipper – which was a concoction of EG’s Windsor (made with aged, free trade Earl Grey black tea) and Origin vodkas, a splash of champagne, and fresh-squeezed grapefruit juice. Eva Krzewinski and Lanette Jarvis worked the bar collecting tips for the ballet as they poured.
Hollis agreed to prepare all the dishes, even cooking some on site so everyone could see the process. A bountiful, beautiful and colorful Moroccan buffet was set up on a big table and another food station on the bar included her famous savory salmon cupcakes, kale and pasta salads, and fresh-from-the-oven ham and cheese sandwiches. And of course, there was a Sweet! cupcake table filled with sparkly confections.
Emily, who was the darling of her Next Food Network Star season and is currently studying for her PhD. in food service education, volunteered to help in the kitchen. Her retro vibe was a hit.
The weather could not have been more cooperative, allowing guests to move freely from the inside to outside. Gary moved his living room furnishings to the patio for the perfect alfresco lounge and filled the interior space with hi-tops.
Artistic Director Robert Hill with Gary Lambert, Shawn Hunt and Steven Del Rocco
Several members of the ballet board, including chair Ava Doppelt, and management staff mingled with guests and encouraged them to come out to an upcoming performance. Artistic Director Robert Hill took a brief break from a Winter Garden performance to come thank attendees.
But when Mother Ginger – Gary Lambert – took center stage, everyone quieted in amazement. He introduced Hollis and Emily while thanking all the participants and supporters. And then he proceeded to dance for dollars, very successfully.
All in all it was quite an afternoon. And it reminded us that you really can have a side of fun with your fundraising meal.
Hollis Wilder, the first two-time champion of Food Network’s Cupcake Wars, is taking the traditional sweet cupcake in a new direction with fresh flavors and a new savory look. She showed event guests that the trusty cupcake pan works just as well for satisfying mini meals as it does for decadent sweets. Small, uniform portions make it easier to avoid overeating, and the meals are perfect for making ahead of time and freezing for the week in single or family-size portions.
Her new book, Savory Bites: Meals You Can Make in Your Cupcake Pan, launching in April, features 100 recipes for breakfast, lunch and dinner, such as Apple-Sausage Breakfast Cakes, Fig and Blue Cheese Tarts, Pumpkin Risotto, and Curried Chicken with Mango. The book can be ordered at amazon.com.