Guests gathered on the lawn at Corbett’s: An American Place, for the 2011 Bourbon & Bowties. Photo courtesy of Jerry Zegart

When Bourbon & Bowties started four years ago, the annual fundraiser for Kosair Children’s Hospital’s had eight volunteer chefs prepare the food for 300 people.

This year there will be 19 working to feed what organizers say is a goal of 600 guests whose $125 ticket proceeds will be donated to the hospital.

The event, scheduled 6:30 to 9:30 p.m. for Thursday, June 13, at Corbett’s: An American Place, is an indoor/outdoor event featuring food prepared by the city’s top chefs and bartenders. It features a silent auction as well, and the combined effort is expected to raise more than $250,000 to be used to help children battling cancer at Kosair.

It is both classy and cool, an unparalleled graze-fest for a good cause sure to wreak havoc on your diet plan. There’s also a live auction, so get your pocket books and bidding cards handy.

“We’re also doing a special chef’s tasting for 50 people inside the restaurant, a knock-out menu that includes foie gras and lobster and a lot more,” said Dean Corbett, owner and chef at Corbett’s, who organizes the chefs volunteering for the evening. Those special tickets cost $300 per person. “We used to do just 30 people, but the demand was there to bump it up.”

According to Bourbon & Bowties board member Jerry Zegart, it was Corbett who, when asked to help with the fundraiser before the first event, volunteered his restaurant “to really make it an event. He said, ‘I’ll close my restaurant and talk to chefs around town and make this something big,’” Zegart recalled. “That year we sold 300 tickets in 45 minutes through Facebook, with no advertising.”

Beth McMasters, a medical malpractice attorney and B&B board member, said she’s humbled by the dedication of the organization’s board, people who she said pay for their own tickets to the event. Her son, Owen McMasters, 14, who battles leukemia, is this year’s honoree.

“It is amazing that all of those people spend their own time and money to do this,” said McMasters. Owen, she added, will speak to the crowd that evening. (Following some three years of treatment, he is in remission and his prognosis is very good.) “As a parent of a child with cancer, it’s so meaningful … that chefs who work every holiday, every weekend night—people who never have time to relax and spend time with their families at the same time we do—would give this time because they care like they do.”

This year’s lineup of chefs includes:

Chefs Agostino Gabrielle (Vincenzo’s Italian Restaurant) and Anoosh Shariat (consultant) at the 2011 Bourbon & Bowties. Photo courtesy of Jerry Zegart.

Jason Brumm; Kathy Cary (Lilly’s): Dean Corbett (Corbett’s, Equus and Jack’s Lounge); Agostino Gabriele (Vincenzo’s Italian Restaurant); Jim Gerhardt (Limestone Restaurant); Geoffrey Heyde (The Village Anchor Pub & Roost); Josh Hillyard; Jeff Jarfi (Jarfi’s Catering); Edward Lee (610 Magnolia and MilkWood); Peng Looi (Asiatique and August Moon); Dallas McGarity; (Marketplace Restaurant); Josh Moore (Volare); John Plymale (Porcini); Patrick Roney (The Oakroom); Anoosh Shariat (consultant); Daniel Stage (Louisville Country Club); Levon Wallace (Proof on Main); and Shawn Ward (Jack Fry’s).

Their menu — which is always a surprise until that evening — will run the gamut of favorites from each restaurant to fun creations just for that evening, Corbett said.

In case you’re thinking $125 for a dinner-donation is high, consider this: Bourbon & Bowties board members, who volunteer countless hours to put on the event, buy their own tickets. No freebies.

Zegart, a vice president at UBS Financial Services, said charitable event boards he’s served on in the past had always focused on ensuring the majority of the funds raised at such events go back to their causes. When he got involved with Bourbon & Bowties, he was excited to find that everyone shared that same purpose.

“These days, you might be surprised to see in some cases how little money from charitable (fundraisers) actually goes to the charity,” Zegart said. “We’ve refused to let that happen. This event is about the kids and seeing that the largest amount possible goes to the foundation, not the event.”

Zegart said that means Corbett closes his restaurant to the public and loses night of revenue. (Corbett said he’s reimbursed for his food, but not his staff labor or lost sales.)

“The word would be passion,” Zegart said, describing the board’s work on the event. “Everyone on the committee works their tails off to get the job done. I’ve never worked with a finer group of people who believe this is all about the charity.”

As of Monday, the event was a bit shy of its 600 guest goal so tickets are still available. Click here to order yours.

2013 Bourbon & Bowties honoree, Owen McMasters, will speak at the event.

Should you want to attend and are curious about what to wear, the word “bowties” in the name does not mean it’s a formal. “Derby wear” is the dress for the evening, and I can assure you, not all the males come sporting bowties (though, why not? Hand-tied bowties are “nerd cool”!)

But think about it: $125 for a blowout dinner is one thing, but $125 donated to a fund to help kids battling cancer?

That’s chump change with a sweet and savory reward.

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Steve Coomes
Steve Coomes is a restaurant veteran turned award-winning food, spirits and travel writer. In his 24-year career, he has edited and written for multiple national trade and consumer publications including Nation's Restaurant News and Southern Living. He is a feature writer for Louisville magazine, Edible Louisville & The Bluegrass and Food & Dining Magazine. The author of two books, "Country Ham: A Southern Tradition of Hogs, Salt & Smoke," and the "Home Distiller's Guide to Spirits," he also serves as a ghostwriter for multiple clients.

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