Last updated: July 21. 2014 4:52PM - 708 Views
By - cberendt@civitasmedia.com

Nancy Carr/United WayChefs Debbie Valenti, Patty Tarr and Trey Cummings work hard and have fun while helping plate chef Joanie Babcock's main course, rosemary roasted pork loin, during last year's 'Outstanding in Our Fields' fundraising dinner.
Nancy Carr/United WayChefs Debbie Valenti, Patty Tarr and Trey Cummings work hard and have fun while helping plate chef Joanie Babcock's main course, rosemary roasted pork loin, during last year's 'Outstanding in Our Fields' fundraising dinner.
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A purely Sampson showcase, a five-course dining experience featuring foods farmed in Sampson and prepared by a select group of its own chefs — all proceeds from which then go back into the community — is returning for seconds.

“Outstanding in Our Fields,” the aptly-titled United Way of Sampson County fundraiser, is back this year after a wildly successful inaugural outing in April 2013. The dinner, deemed “Outstanding in Our Fields: The Bounty,” is set for 6 p.m. Saturday, Sept. 20, at the Prestage Hunting Lodge located in the South River Hunting Preserve near Harrells on the outskirts of Sampson County.

“The premise is the same. It’s going to be a farm to table concept featuring five of our chefs from the county,” Nancy Carr, director of Sampson County’s United Way, said Monday in announcing the event. “We are in the process of procuring the food this year and the chefs are working diligently behind the scenes to determine their creations. We always keep the menu under wraps because that’s part of the mystery of the event, but it’s definitely going to showcase the fall foods and it will be very much the same as far as the five-course dining experience.”

Carr said much about the dinner will be firmed up by the end of next week, including the lineup of chefs and the menu.

“We have not unveiled this or advertised this as of yet,” Carr said. “The tickets will go on sale to the general public on Aug. 11. We’re fortunate enough to have many of the same chefs who helped us with our inaugural event help us with this one as well. In addition, we’re adding a new chef.”

Preparing courses for the inaugural event were Patty Tarr of the Ashford Inn; Alfredo DiPinto of Alfredo’s Ristorante Italiano; Trey Cummings of Ribeye’s Steakhouse; Joanie Babcock of Southern Exposure; and Debbie Valenti, who operates “Debbilicious,” a private chef business.

The new chef, or chefs, are Theresa Ellis and Laura Goodrich of Simply Southern, replacing Tarr, who left Clinton at the beginning of this year.

“We will feature some of the chefs from last year’s event and welcome new ones,” said Carr, noting that the lineup is not firm as of yet, but would become so in the near future.

While the premise behind the dinner remains intact, the bounty served in September will differ from last year’s as the season is different and what is being harvested will provide a varying smorgasbord.

“We’re going to be featuring fall type cuisine, as opposed to spring,” Carr said. “The first one was in the spring, so it really featured foods that were available in our county during that time. This year, the menu will be quite different because it is going to feature fall agricultural products.”

Last year, some of the many donations included five pounds of asparagus from Lane’s Asparagus, 100 three-pound bags of sweet potatoes from Southern Produce Distributors Inc. of Faison, 28 pints of strawberries from Jackson Farming Company of Autryville and 60 pounds of blueberries from Hannah Forrest Blueberry Farms of Delway.

This year, Carr promised the dining event would again exemplify its moniker, showcasing quality ingredients donated from local farms and businesses, a hallmark of the dinner.

“The chefs are ironing out the details now,” Carr said. “I think their plan is to brainstorm and determine the main course and then they’re going to use that to play off of with the other courses.”

By the end of July, the chefs will have determined the menu for the event and August will be spent contacting local farmers and others interested in providing the local ingredients the chefs will need to concoct their delicacies.

“Of course we’re always looking for sponsors for the event as well,” Carr noted.

Sponsors last year included the Prestage family, Star Telephone, Murphy Brown LLC, Hog Slat Inc., and Southern Produce Distributors, among others. Carr said she hopes, and is confident, sponsors will be receptive to supporting the process again.

It is a unique experience, and one that has an added benefit to United Way’s partners.

“One hundred percent of the proceeds from this event go into our county to help address the needs of our community,” Carr said. “That’s part of the reason we like to encourage sponsors, because the sponsors really help us cover the cost of this event. Although so much of it is donated, there is some cost. What we strive for is that all of our ticket sales will be profit.”

“Outstanding in Our Fields” raised $10,350 in 2013. Tickets are limited to 100 and passes to last year’s exclusive event sold out in the first week. The limitation on tickets will stay the same in order to maintain the ambience of a five-course meal.

“We are going to limit the number of tickets to 100 people. That is mainly to accommodate the chefs and the venue. We want to have a first-rate gourmet experience and the chefs feel like they can deliver that to 100. Once you start getting much more than that it becomes a different type of affair,” Carr attested. “We really want this to remain a first-rate, five-course (meal) of decadent local food.”

Seating is available for $125 per person with a limited number of VIP seats available for $150 per person. The select VIP tickets will include VIP parking near the lodge, indoor seating for dinner, and the chance to meet and mingle with the chefs.

A different twist to this year’s event, members of the 16-person United Way’s Board will be acting as servers for the meal.

“We talked about it and they wanted to roll up their sleeves and work this event. They are committed to United Way, they are just a fabulous board and they decided this year that they would like to serve the guests,” Carr said proudly. She praised the board’s enthusiasm and dedication.

“It’s definitely a working board,” she said of the chapter’s president Sherrill Allen and its board members. “Everybody has a role and they are just great people to work with.”

To purchase tickets for the “Outstanding in Our Fields” event or for more information, contact Sampson County’s United Way at 910-592-4263 or send an email to uwaysampsonco@embarqmail.com. United Way of Sampson County can be visited online at www.unitedwaysampson.org.

Chris Berendt can be reached at 910-249-4616. Follow us on twitter @SampsonInd.

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