by Elyse Wild | Photography by Two Eagles Marcus
This month brings back to Grand Rapids one of the most delicious and heartwarming events of the year: the March of Dimes Signature Chefs Auction.
The evening features 20 of the top chefs in the city’s ever-thriving food scene, offering guests an extensive assortment of gastronomic wonders to enjoy while bidding on exclusive auction packages. Proceeds from the event go toward funding programs, research and services for premature birth in Michigan.
This year’s chef lineup includes Oscar Moreno from MeXo, one of Grand Rapids’ newest restaurants; Chris Gribble from CitySen Lounge; Trimmell Hawkins from Forty Acres Soul Kitchen; and one of the city’s most beloved culinary talents, Jenna Arcidiacono, owner and chef of award-winning Italian eatery Amore Trattoria Italiana. Arcidiacono has participated in the auction for nine years running. Additionally, she is the only woman
chef in the lineup.
“I love being able to help raise awareness and money for babies and children and families in need,” Arcidiacono expressed. “Every night in the NICU is crucial and expensive. These parents have enough to worry about, so this fundraiser is a blessing.”
Premature birth is defined as a birth that occurs before the 37th week of pregnancy, and more babies die from it than from any other health condition; it affects more than 15,000 babies in Michigan each year, or 9.9 percent of all births in the state, higher than the national average of 9.6 percent. Babies who survive premature birth can face numerous short-term and long-term health defects, such as cardiovascular, cognitive, gastrointestinal, blood, immune, metabolism issues and more.
The Signature Chefs Auction is a pivotal fundraising event for March of Dimes, as nearly the entire evening is made possible by the benevolence of those involved. The chefs donate their time, talent, staff and supplies;150 volunteers pool their efforts the day of; and more than a dozen sponsors come together to alleviate the cost of production, ensuring the majority of funds raised go directly to the cause.
“We couldn’t do it without everyone who comes together to help,” Nicole Walters, March of Dimes Senior Development Manager, said. “Especially the chefs.”
This year’s event takes place in the DeVos Place Steelcase Ballroom, with chefs positioned at stations around the room. Guests roam the room, gathering samplings of special culinary delights and bidding on auction packages, of which Walters says are not to be overlooked.
“We have really emphasized offering people experiences as opposed to items,” she commented.
March of Dimes Signature Chef events take place in cities across the nation, and the Grand Rapids event consistently ranks in the top ten. To date, the event has raised more than $2 million dollars for the organization.
Arcidiacono speaks to the role a well-enjoyed meal plays in the spirit of giving, and how the event gives her and others a platform to give in the best way they know how: through food made with love.
“Food feeds the soul and heart,” Arcidiacono reflected. “When you feel nurtured and taken care of, often it involves fond memories of food. I believe that we all have a love language and feeding people is mine. The NICU facility and nurses are working 24 hours a day to make sure your child is having the best care possible. That is their love language. Sometimes bringing someone a meal or a treat can turn a person’s day around. It’s the same with fundraising.”
What: March of Dimes Signature Chefs Auction
Where: DeVos Place Steelcase Ballroom, 303 Monroe Ave. NW
When: November12, 5:30-9 p.m.
Tickets: $250 per person. $2,000 for a table of 10. Purchase at SignatureChefs.com