Local Chefs. Local Causes. Local Love.

  Front row, from left:  Angel Tagudin, Shane Smith, Ed Nasser, Mark Charlton.  Second row, from left:  Rashmi Primlani, Sherri Avara, Brie Rios, Maria Diestro, Kelly Hinkle, Amanda Smiley, Katie Moore, Monique Leroy, Jenna Dunne, Andrea Patenaude, Michael Kennedy, Colleen Herrick, Mimi Goss, Jennifer Pence.   Back row, from left:  Bill Sullivan, Dee Dee King, Michele Byington, Betsy Dye, Paul Bodoia, Judy Odom, Jennifer Landress, Sasha Hausman, Krista Logue, Chandni Sakhuja.

Front row, from left: Angel Tagudin, Shane Smith, Ed Nasser, Mark Charlton. Second row, from left: Rashmi Primlani, Sherri Avara, Brie Rios, Maria Diestro, Kelly Hinkle, Amanda Smiley, Katie Moore, Monique Leroy, Jenna Dunne, Andrea Patenaude, Michael Kennedy, Colleen Herrick, Mimi Goss, Jennifer Pence.  Back row, from left: Bill Sullivan, Dee Dee King, Michele Byington, Betsy Dye, Paul Bodoia, Judy Odom, Jennifer Landress, Sasha Hausman, Krista Logue, Chandni Sakhuja.

With a large, all-volunteer steering committee, more than 300 day-of event volunteers, tremendous in-kind support from a variety of local business partners, and the generous backing of Orlando World Center Marriott who donates the event space each year, Taste! Central Florida does everything it can to direct every dollar raised to its beneficiaries while generating profound awareness and relief for the children of Central Florida who face hunger daily.

The fundraiser, now in it’s 29th year, made the leap of faith last year to operate as an independent event, benefitting local organizations Second Harvest Food Bank of Central Florida and Coalition for the Homeless of Central Florida. It had previously been aligned with national organization Share Our Strength’s No Kid Hungry.

“Last year, with us going 100% local, we were nervous. But we had more restaurants participate, we raised more money than we ever had before, and had more guests attend the event. It was one of those complete confirmations that we were doing the right thing for children in Central Florida,” says Michele Byington, who has been co-chairing the event with Bill Sullivan for nearly a decade. Bill began as a food provider and joined the committee shortly thereafter. Since then, he’s been leveraging his connections to bring more chefs, restaurants, sponsors and partners to one of the largest dine-around events in town. “We’ve really tried to hone it to show off the skills and chefs of our local resorts and our local restaurants that everyone in town may not get a chance to go to. It’s a great opportunity to come and to try all the different restaurants and know where you want to go back,” Michele says. In 2017, more than 40 restaurants donated and served up samplings of their signature dishes, as well as two dozen brewers, distilleries, wine purveyors, and specialty beverage vendors who served sips to more than 3,000 guests.

The event aims to keep costs minimal, so that more money goes directly to the beneficiaries. “We would love to raise more than $400,000 at this year’s Taste,” Michele says. “It’s really easy to get behind the mission of making sure the children in our neighborhoods are fed.”

The funds raised by Taste! Central Florida help Coalition for the Homeless of Central Florida provide shelter and services to more than 140 children and their families each night and serve more than 270,000 nutritious meals in the coming year. Second Harvest Food Bank of Central Florida directs the funds raised to its childhood hunger relief programs to assist the 1 in 4 kids in Orlando who struggle with hunger.

This annual celebration of the community’s culinary excellence will take place Saturday, September 8, at Orlando World Center Marriott. Tickets are $175 and include unlimited tastes and sips with mission messages throughout, but no formal sit-down program. Taste! Central Florida also features an extensive silent auction and a wine door chance drawing.

For more information on Taste! Central Florida or to purchase tickets, visit tastefl.org.
Orange Appeal readers get a 10% discount on tickets with code: READER10.

Angel Tagudin