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UW Hospital Executive Chef Contributes to Porchlight Fundraiser

Madison, Wisconsin –  Last week's Porchlight Original Chef's Auction summoned the talents of a number of Madison-area culinary artists, including UW Hospital and Clinics executive chef John Williams, and raised $40,000 for Porchlight Products, a program that provides valuable work experience for people who have been out of the work force for an extended period.


UW Hospital and Clinics executive chef John Williams"We get eight to 12 chefs to come in for the evening and show what they can do," said Williams, who was involved in the planning of the original Chef's Auction two and one-half years ago.


Those chefs, which represented Madison favorites including Cooper's Tavern, Pig in a Fur Coat, Sardine, L'Etoile, Bunky's Cafe, Daisy Cafe and Cupcakery, and more, prepared small plates and appetizers for the 270 guests at the Wisconsin Institutes of Discovery. Attendees donated $50 in support of Porchlight, Inc., a Madison-based non-profit agency that provides support and services for Dane County's homeless population, and Porchlight Products.


Porchlight Products currently employs 15 people, who produce 25 food products, including pancakes, jellies, jams, sauerkraut and curtido, a relish made with cabbage, at Porchlight's Brooks Street facility. Many haven't held regular work for long stretches, due to extended illness, prison or problems stemming from drug and alcohol dependence. The program purchases 75 percent of its ingredients from local, small farms and sells to Madison restaurants as well as grocery stores such as the Willy St. Coop, the Regent St. Coop and the Hilldale Mall Metcalfe's.


A sample of the Original Chef's Auction delicacies"Porchlight Products helps people with the transition to something bigger in their lives," says Porchlight, Inc. director of development Beatrice Hadidian. "It's the first time in their lives they feel they're making something of value for the community."


For the Original Chef's Auction, which was sponsored by UW Health and Unity Health Insurance, Porchlight asked the participating chefs to incorporate one or more of the program's products into their creations.


"We invite guests to sample from all of the chefs," says Hadidian. "It gives us another chance to spotlight how delicious our products are, and remind people of them the next time they're in the stores."


The small plate showcase preceded a live auction during which guests bid on packages such as a catered party for 30 on the Pontoon Porch house boat, a private tour of Ale Asylum, a limosine ride, and dinner at Cooper's Tavern. UW Hospital and Clinics' Williams also donated a dinner for 10, which he prepares in the bidder's home.


"I think it's an awesome addition to someone's evening to be able to stay in their home," says Williams, whose auction item was actually sold twice and contributed $4,800 to the Porchlight cause.


Hadidian hopes to expand Porchlight Products, with self-sustainability the ultimate goal, and she says events like the Original Chef's Auction play a crucial role in the program's viability.


"We rely on grants to make everything work," she says, "(Donation-oriented events) are extremely helpful. It's going to be critical to helping our expansion and keeping the program growing."


Date Published: 03/03/2014

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