Next week’s Celeb & Chef Cookoff one of the fun fundraisers

The 11th annual Celebrity & Chef Cookoff, a popular fundraising event for the Orpheum Theatre, is just a week away, and I’m pretty excited for this one.

I get to be a judge this year, which means I’ll help my co-judges, local chef Tanya Tandoc and AIWF’s Beth Bower, choose the best cuisine prepared by teams of Wichita celebrities paired with Wichita chefs. (Above, see a video I co-produced from the 2010 event.)

Over the course of the year, I visit several foodie fundraisers, and this one is among the most fun. It’s full of good drinks, good food and — best of all — the excitement of watching local chefs in action. The celeb/chef teams compete “Iron Chef” style to come up with the best dish on the spot. A secret ingredient is revealed at the beginning of the contest.

This year’s chefs include Nathan Toubia of Bocconcini Italian Eatery, Peter Moretti of the Wichita Marriott, Kevin Derks of Newport Grill, Ben George of Tallgrass Country Club, Jake Lippincott of The Petroleum Club, John Fitzthum of The Candle Club, Marshall Roth of Treat America at Beech Activity Center and defending champ Jason Febres of Taste and See.

Among the celebs who’ve agreed to help cook: U.S. Rep. Mike Pompeo and Jody Horner, president of Cargill Meat Solutions. My bud Bonnie Bing will emcee.

The event, which also will include prize drawings and auctions, is scheduled for 6 p.m. next Tuesday, June 12, at the Wichita Marriott Hotel, 9100 E. Corporate Hills Drive. Tickets are $75 a person and available at the Orpheum’s website or by calling 316-263-0884.

Candle Club adds non-smoking option

There's nothing like an adult beverage under the ceiling star at the Candle Club.

I’m not a member of the Candle Club, the throwback private supper club at 6135 E. 13th St. N., but I have several friends who are and have spent many an enjoyable evening there.

The only thing that could have made those evenings more enjoyable: a little less cigarette smoke in the atmosphere. Now, that’s an option. The Candle Club, which has been able to get around Wichita’s restaurant smoking ban because of its private club status, has just added a non-smoking section to the restaurant.

Perhaps a bid to compete with the new private, non-smoking Lakeside Club, the Candle Club just transformed a room that formerly served as a cigar bar into a non-smoking bar and grill. Customers enter from the new patio, meaning they can avoid cigarette smoke all together. In an e-mail to customers, managers said that customers have been requesting such an option, and the room also can be used for private parties, business lunches and Bingo games.

For more info, call the Candle Club at 316-684-7281.

Next week’s menu: Burgers, bottles and Bloody Marys

A cool shot I grabbed of my girls and me at Saturday's Midwest Winefest. Can you tell which one is me? We're like the Charlie's Angels of wine.

I’ve just now, at 3 p.m. on Monday, recovered from Saturday night’s Winefest enough to tell you a little bit about some more adult beverage-based events coming up next week.

I didn’t get too crazy at the Winefest, mind you. But the trip across the street to hang out at the bar of AVI probably was the opposite of what my group needed. (Amiright, Ben Arnold?) At least we were on foot!

The Winefest is one of my favorite food and beverage events of the year, and I never fail to have a great time. One of the highlights of this year’s events for me: The Dillon’s Marketplace booth, which was set up with a whole array of fabulous cheeses from the fancy Dillon’s cheese case. I sampled Merlot-flavored cheese, espresso-flavored cheese and raspberry-flavored cheese. The table also offered piles and piles of shaved Parmesan, which is only one of my favorite things on earth to nibble with wine.

And only two tables away, one of the vendors was serving up samples of Kim Crawford, one of our favorite Sauvignon Blancs. At some point, the kind pourer at the table wondered if we had sampled it enough to have decided whether we liked it. Woops.

Two more fun food and beverage events are coming up soon.

One is called Blooms, Brews & Bloody Marys and doubles as Botanica’s 25th Anniversary Kick-Off Party. The event will include a beer tasting by River City Brewery and a Bloody Mary competition among local bars and restaurants such as The Anchor, The Candle Club, Heroes, A.V.I., Newport Grill, Scotch & Sirloin and The Vagabond. The event also will feature food by The Flying Stove and music by Spirit of the Stairs. It’s at 6:30 p.m. on May 4, and tickets are $40 a person. Make your reservations here.

Chester’s Chophouse chef Bobby Lane is putting on a VinoBurger Cookbook tasting event at 6:30 p.m. on May 1. The event will be on Chester’s patio and is $40 a person. Lane will prepare two burgers of his own as well as two from the VinoBurger cookbook. The event includes five wine and four burger samples. RSVPs must be e-mailed to whitney@jacobliquor.com.

Buffet out, themed plates in at Crown Uptown

The newly reopened Crown Uptown Dinner Theater now has a new way of serving dinner to its patrons. The buffet concept is kaput, and theater-goers are being served meals that correspond with the show’s theme at their tables.

So far, the change is working well, said Shannon Parsons, the theater’s bar manager. “People are getting their food a lot faster,” she said. “It seems to be much better.”

The buffet concept wasn’t working, she said, because the line to get through it was always so long. Often, lines would stretch all the way around the building, and by the time people made it through and back to their seats, their food was cold. The change was instituted along with the theater’s current production of “Steel Magnolias.”

New chef Brian Mangers, whose resume includes The Candle Club and Uptown Bistro, is serving a “Steel Magnolias”-esque meal that includes blackened catfish, fried chicken, macaroni and cheese, red beans and rice, collard greens, gumbo and salad. Servers still plate the food at the buffet then deliver it hot to the tables.

The theater’s next show is “The Wizard of Oz,” and Mangers is busy dreaming up a No Place Like Home menu right now.