"To address the needs of the hungry and homeless by raising awareness and money through special events and programs." -- Taste of the NFL mission statement
Tonight, on the eve of Super Bowl XLII, thousands of good-hearted and fun- and football-loving folks will gather at the Phoenix Convention Center to nosh on some of the nation's finest food, sip great wines, and rub elbows with NFL players past and present. The charitable event is Taste of the NFL XVII, and could very well raise a half-million dollars to help tackle hunger in Arizona -- where food banks were first conceived some 40-plus years ago -- and in communities throughout the U.S.
Last year at this time, GoodBiz113 introduced its readers to Taste of the NFL [TNFL], a quintessential win-win-win fundraising initiative that kicked off in 1992, when Minnesota's Twin Cities hosted Super Bowl XXVI ["Cuisine Concepts at Heart of Taste of the NFL -- AKA 'Super Bowl Party...With a Purpose' -- to Tackle Hunger in America"]. Via its annual Super Bowl Eve event, plus local team-sponsored food- and wine-tasting events featuring top chefs and libations, TNFL has raised a total of $6.8 million for hunger-related charities in NFL cities from coast to coast.
Since publishing our first GoodBiz113 small-biz profile of Cuisine Concepts, TNFL has raised approximately $1.3 million -- including $200,000 for Daily Bread Food Bank of South Florida, where Super Bowl XLI was held. During the year, nearly $1.1 million was raised at eight local TNFL events hosted by the New York Jets, Dallas Cowboys, Jacksonville Jaguars, Cleveland Browns, Cincinnati Bengals, Minnesota Vikings and the St. Louis Rams.
In fact, TNFL's most recent newcomer -- none other than the New York Giants, this season's NFC champions -- contributed $70,000 raised from its very first gala to the ShopRite Partners in Caring Fund, a nonprofit program that helps feed hungry kids and adults throughout the New York metropolitan area. How's that for great karma?!
Among this year's recipients of TNFL/Super Bowl-related monies raised -- e.g., via ticket sales, auction items, purchases from the online TNFL Store:
* St. Mary's Food Bank Alliance
* United Food Bank
* America's Second Harvest
* Community Kitchen
* The Campus Kitchens Project
* Food Research & Action Center
Kostroski Recruits Top Chefs, Scores Celebrity Coups
Each year, Wayne Kostroski [pictured], co-founder of Cuisine Concepts, and founder and executive director of Taste of the NFL [AKA Hunger Related Events], recruits chefs from the leading restaurants in TNFL host cities to come to the Super Bowl and collaborate for the season's premier fundraising event. TNFL covers each chef's airfare and lodging, and they show up -- ready and rarin' to prepare and serve their signature dishes to some 3,000 guests, each of whom has paid $500 to $600 per ticket. [Corporate tables for 10 are priced at $5,000.]
"Tickets to our annual event have been sold on eBay for as much as $2,000," Kostroski told GoodBiz113. "Besides the Super Bowl, of course, it's always the hottest ticket in town."
Since we interviewed him last year, the effervescent restaurateur/altruist/sought-after speaker has scored some major coups. Besides adding the New York Giants to TNFL's calendar of local events, he also won several months' worth of free publicity from the far-reaching likes of Martha Stewart Living Radio, SIRIUS channel 112.
Starting last November, Martha Stewart Living Radio has broadcast twice-weekly interviews with chefs, each of whom discusses his or her signature TNFL dish, takes calls from listeners, and shares colorful anecdotes about their favorite NFL players and hometown teams. This evening, the program will broadcast live from TNFL.
"Martha Stewart Living Radio also ran a 'Recipe Bowl' contest, in conjunction with Epicurious.com," beamed Kostroski. "The winner was a woman from Henderson, Nev., whose husband happens to be a high-school football coach. They both get free airfare, lodging, meals and tickets to prime Super Bowl seats. Plus, she gets to cook with one of the sous chefs participating in Taste of the NFL."
Tonight's gala event showcases great wine from Gallo, dishes prepared by chefs from 36 restaurants in all 32 NFL cities, and TNFL and Pro Bowl events. Guests will also get to sample dishes from seven hand-selected "Flavor of the Valley" restaurants that represent some of the best cuisine in the Phoenix/Scottsdale region:
* Cowboy Ciao
* Michael's Catering
* Roaring Fork
* Eddie V's Edgewater Grille
* Wildfish Seafood Grille
Following dinner, pop star/actor/sports team owner Nick Lachey will emcee auction-related events -- including the presentation of checks to St. Mary's Food Alliance, and United Food Bank. He'll also introduce the evening's entertainment: 1970s rock band, Cheap Trick.
TNFL Serves Up Camaraderie, Not Competition
The food-service industry is rife with seering competition. Refreshingly, TNFL is a bastion of cooperation -- in the kitchen, at the serving tables and behind the scenes.
"You wouldn't believe the camaraderie among our chefs," said Kostroski. "Before Taste of the NFL, we have a Friday night huddle for NFL players, their spouses/partners and the chefs. We present awards to those who have contributed their talents and time to their communities, and do some other fun and special things, too."
After Hurricane Katrina, several New Orleans restaurants closed their doors forever. Not the French Quarter's Bayona Restaurant, whose star chef and co-founder, Susan Spicer, has been a loyal team player since TNFL's early years. To help see Spicer and her displaced employees through the disastrous post-Katrina days, weeks and months, the TNFL "family" took up a collection and sent her a check for nearly $9,000.
"The bottom line to me, in life, is that most people will step up, when asked, to do what they do best," Kostroski noted. "Taste of the NFL reminds people to check your pulse to see how you're feeling, and then to consider what you can do to help others -- whether you're a chef, plumber, electrician, whatever."
On March 6, Kostroski is a featured speaker in the prestigious "Meet The Culinary Entrepreneurs" lecture series, sponsored by New York's Institute of Culinary Education [ICE®]. What will his message be to the ICE® audience of would-be restaurateurs? "To engage people of all talents and backgrounds in order to serve the greater good," he replied.
"Taste of the NFL is another way to be inclusive," Kostroski added. "If someone wants to help us tackle hunger by driving a truck or delivering stuff on a Schwinn, we'll figure it out... Once they come on board, though, we've got 'em forever."
To become involved in TNFL -- as a restaurateur, chef, volunteer, sponsor, etc. -- contact Wayne Kostroski. Phone: 952.926.7478; E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org.
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