The 2020 Celebrity Chef Dinner was equal parts educational, entertaining and effective, which made for a Saturday night dinner show unlike any other around the Plant City area.
Chef Amy Freeze, nationally renowned for her championship-caliber key lime pie, came to Plant City over the weekend to lead this year’s show and teach attendees how to make her signature dish — even when they don’t have a lot of time on their hands. It was probably the first time all or most in the audience ever heard of making key lime pie using a blender, but the proof Freeze’s unconventional approach really works was right there in the finished product. Freeze also showed a quick and easy recipe for a cocktail one could make using some of the leftover ingredients from the pie-making process.
What really kicked the show’s entertainment factor up a notch was that Freeze worked with some of the most unconventional sous chefs around. Carl and DeeDee Grooms of Fancy Farms joined Freeze onstage in matching flannel aprons and hammed it up for the audience, following all of the celebrity chef’s instructions with perfect comedic timing.
On the menu for the diners that evening was a hearty meal of steak, chicken and potatoes with asparagus and a strawberry-tomato salsa, a strawberry walnut salad and a slice of Freeze’s “Sittin’ on a Sandbar” key lime pie drizzled with strawberry sauce on top. The food was prepared by 911 Catering and the tables’ centerpieces were made by Creative Flower Designs by Glenn.
As usual, the event also featured a raffle, a silent auction and a live auction in which people could bid to have Freeze at their home to cook for a party of up to eight people. Freeze sweetened that deal by throwing in a five-gallon keg of any style beer or cider brewed by her husband. The winning bid for that was $4,000 and, according to auctioneer and Plant City Mayor Rick Lott, an “anonymous donor” matched that with a $4,000 donation of their own. One of the pies Freeze and the Groomses prepared onstage, along with its Emile Henry dish, was also auctioned off for $400.
According to UFB director Mary Heysek, the 12th annual event raised a whopping $98,000 to benefit the food bank.
This year’s event was sponsored by Unity in the Community, the Florida Strawberry Festival, Gordon Food Services, Publix Supermarkets Charities, Mosaic and Star Distribution Systems.