An intimate evening with several of St. Louis’ most distinguished chefs is a rare opportunity, but that's exactly what Melissa Lee, executive assistant manager - culinary food and beverage for The Ritz-Carlton, St. Louis, plans to do next week.

She's bringing together nine of the city's best chefs, including Kevin Nashan, who was recently named Best Chef: Midwest by the James Beard Foundation, for a two-hour grand tasting to benefit Lift for Life Academy. The event, Savor for Students - A Grand Tasting, will be held on Thu., June 29, from 5 to 7pm at The Ritz.

“The inspiration came from the vision to gather some of the finest chefs from this city to give them the recognition and to come in one room to do something special for the Lift for Life community,” Lee says.

Her vision of creating this event not only highlights the city’s best chefs but also gives food-lovers a rare opportunity to speak with their favorite chefs one-on-one. The evening is about the chefs and their accomplishments. Many of the chefs participating in the event have close relationships with Lee, including working alongside her in the past, and gladly accepted the invitation to the tasting. Each chef will have his or her own station that will feature a signature dish or two of theirs served tapas-style, and attendees will be able to chat with the chefs. This unique, personalized opportunity gives guests a chance to learn who the chefs are and what drives them.

Chefs participating in the tasting include Nashan (Sidney Street Cafe and Peacemaker Lobster & Crab Co.), Nathaniel Reid (Nathaniel Reid Bakery), Jesse Mendica (Olive + Oak), Simone Faure (La Patisserie Chouquette), Eric Heath (Cleveland Heath), Jayshree Nathoo (The Ritz-Carlton), Kevin Willmann (Farmhaus), Qui Tran (Mai Lee), Lee (The Ritz-Carlton) and Jeanine Edmonds-Mott (The Ritz-Carlton).

“What I’m looking forward to most is really creating the ambiance, making people happy, the interaction  just to see the passion from each chef come to life and really focusing on the food,” Lee says.

In addition to custom cocktails and beverages, guests can expect quite a delicious feast. Squash blossoms are now in season and inspire one of Lee’s two dishes – seared bass with corn-filled tempura squash blossom, smoked Nueske’s bacon and pea succotash. The southern Ireland native also plans to create a burrata mousse with fresh heirloom tomatoes, pesto, balsamic pearls and micro basil. Other dishes to look forward to include Tran's Vietnamese-style shrimp with garlic butter tossed with shallots, Heath’s pork belly with watermelon and even a candy bar taco. 

Christie Pink, Director of Sales and Marketing for The Ritz-Carlton, St. Louis, says that the Ritz-Carlton brand is committed to staying involved and giving back to the community. Of three community pillars the company supports, the St. Louis hotel chose the well-being of children as its main focus. Two years ago, it teamed up with Lift for Life Academy, a community charter middle school and high school working to create a creative and challenging environment for students to succeed in academia. Pink says the hotel continuously works with the school volunteering, donating supplies and supporting its cause. Lift for Life embraces children starting in sixth grade to foster a stable education up through graduation – a rare experience for charter schools. According to Pink, the school is a strong, positive impact on the lives of kids in underserved communities. If all goes well, Lee says this could be an annual event.

For a night of exquisite tastings and one-on-one mingling with some the city’s finest chefs, tickets can be purchased online at $99 per guest. All proceeds will go toward Lift for Life Academy to help create more positive educational opportunities for the lives of hundreds of students in underserved communities. To purchase tickets and learn more about Savor for Students and the chefs participating, click here.

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