Las Vegas’ top culinary talent joined forces January 19 to raise $275,800 at a benefit dinner for hospitalized Vegas Seven food critic Max Jacobson. The Chefs to the Max fundraiser at Rx Boiler Room in Mandalay Bay, the first in a series, sold out with 100 tickets purchased at $1,000 apiece. Guests including Palms owner George Maloof, Caesars Palace president Gary Selesner and Southern Wine and Spirits senior managing director Larry Ruvo enjoyed cocktails and hors d’oeuvres, followed by a seven-course seated dinner. Also in attendance was Kerry Simon, Las Vegas’ acclaimed ‘Rock ‘n’ Roll Chef,’ who himself was recently diagnosed with MSA and will host his own event to raise awareness of the disease Feb. 27.
More than 20 world-renowned chefs cooked for the event, including host Rick Moonen, Bobby Flay, Thomas Keller, Hubert Keller, Susan Feniger, Mary Sue Milliken, Bradley Ogden, Shirley Chung and Grant MacPherson. Two chefs split each course during the dinner, with each serving a dish to half the room. And for the third course, Flay and Moonen battled it out in a Kampachi Throwdown, allowing guests to vote on the winner. (Moonen emerged victorious.)
The kitchen was packed throughout the night as chefs crammed in to lend each other a hand, or simply watch their colleagues work. When they weren’t in the kitchen, they gathered at the entrance to the dining room to listen in on the heartfelt stories being shared by Jacboson’s friends and family members, or talk about what he means to the local food scene and how happy they were to be able to support him. And while some tears were shed over the course of the evening, the overall mood was one of celebration and pride in the way the local food community rallied to Jacobson’s support so quickly.
The event also included both a silent auction and a live one hosted by Robin Leach, featuring dinner packages, large-format bottles of wine, exclusive chef-prepared meals and a two-night stay at the Palms’ Hardwood Suite. But the highlight of the auction was a trip on a private jet to Napa Valley that includes a wine excursion and dinner at The French Laundry personally prepared by Thomas Keller, which sold for $100,000.
One hundred percent of the evening’s proceeds will go to Jacobson, whose medical bills have been mounting since he was struck by a car while walking to the gym on December 23.