March 13, 2014 Updated: March 13, 2014 at 11:14 am
Benefiting the Colorado Springs Chorale, 5 p.m. Sunday, Antlers Hilton, 4 S. Cascade Ave., $95 per person or $855 for 10 people; 634-3737, cschorale.org.
Picture 26 of Colorado Springs' best chefs engaging in a vigorous culinary competition. Picture 30,000 small plates of food and 500 hungry and thirsty guests.
That vision - Colorado Springs Chorale's Chef's Gala - comes to life for the 29th year on Sunday, in the Heritage Ballroom at the Antlers Hilton. The event showcases competing chefs as they prepare lavish dishes that are famously varied in style, taste and aesthetics. Chefs are encouraged to go all out, to take risks and create exotic fusions. In 2013, The Warehouse Restaurant's pomegranate barbecued wild boar was served alongside black cod nori rice tacos prepared by chefs from Taste of the Wild Catering at the Cheyenne Mountain Zoo.
The gala is a celebration of music, as well as culinary art. The evening begins with a silent auction, featuring donations from chorale patrons, and will feature sets played by The Jerry Teske Jazz Quartet. Jim Sena, the executive director of the Colorado Springs Choral Society, expects that ticket sales and auction revenue will yield 25 percent of the funds necessary for the chorale's yearly operations.
Of course, the true stars of the gala are the chefs, who hail from some of the most popular local eateries. This year the chorale will welcome 23 returning chefs - including those from The Blue Star, Spice Island Grill and English Dockside Seafood & Grill - along with first time participants from Colorado Mountain Brewery, Little Nepal and Sacred Grounds.
Chefs will present appetizers, entrees and desserts, which will be judged this year by a team of culinary experts headed by former White House chef John Moeller. Judges will bestow first, second and third place awards, and the Best in Show title will be given as a grand prize.
Attendees are encouraged to try everything, observe the chefs as they work and vote to determine the recipient of the People's Choice Award.
Former winner Nathan Dirnberger, the executive chef at Taste of the Wild Catering, sees winning as representative of a group achievement.
"Any award recognition or honor is often placed upon the chef, but I always see it as a team effort. I didn't win last year, our team won," he said.
For the chorale, the Chef's Gala represents the "intuitive bond" between classical music and culinary achievement. Sena says both epicurean art forms are central to the Colorado Springs community and require "balance, texture, a strong sense of theme and melody, and above all, harmony."
REBECCA CELLI, THE GAZETTE REBECCA.CELLI@GAZETTE.COM