On Sunday I was very lucky to be invited to the annual Rotary Chef’s Night Out held at Kingsgate Hotel.  This fabulous event, now in its 6th year, is organised by Yvonne and Fred Phillips.

7 local chefs and their teams cook 7 courses all matched with local wines.  Everything is donated, from the chef’s time to the food, the wine, linen and venue and it’s pulled together with volunteers from Hospice and Rotary who wait tables and wash the dishes.

This is a massive event and Yvonne and Fred need to be congratulated for pulling it of without a hick up not to mention the $20 000 plus they raise.  They got the idea, Yvonne tells me, from Herbert Hickels degustation evenings at Embargo.  Their Rotary group had until this point run 2 fundraisers each year, a golf tournament and a charity bike ride to Waihi.  Liability issues with the bike race meant they were in search for another fundraising idea.

The first year which was held at Wintec there were 80 guests, last year 180 and this year over 200.  As the dinner grew each year a new venue had to be found that was big enough not only to seat the guests but that had a kitchen big enough to accommodate all the chefs.  Kingsgate came to the party and have been on board ever since.  So too have some of the chefs who have been part of this event from the beginning like David Kerr from Pumice and Herbert Hickel from Embargo as well as the Vilagrad family who also donate wine for a couple of the courses. “The chefs have just been brilliant” says Yvonne.

When you start listing all the little things that have to be thought through and organised from the cutlery and napkins to co-ordinating what the chef’s will be cooking and matching the wines, the special dietary requests, the printing of the menu….you can begin to understand the hundreds, if not thousands of hours that go into organising this wonderful night.  When I asked Fred and Yvonne how many hours they just laughed.  “A few” said Fred “quite a few” said Yvonne.  But before the night is done I can hear them already talking about next year!

The tickets are predominantly sold by word of mouth with people coming year after year and each time bringing a few more friends along.  Rotary groups from other regions get a van and come over for the night.


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