Taste of the Nation Atlanta 2011

“It seems like there is so much food and so much going to waste, so the thought of somebody going hungry is just impossible to understand,” said Chef Gerry Klaskala at the 23rd annual Share Our Strength’s Taste of the Nation Atlanta.

A participating chef since the first year, the executive chef of Aria joined nearly 40 other chefs at the Georgia Aquarium Thursday night for the event benefiting No Kid Hungry™.  The campaign’s goal is to end childhood hunger in America by 2015.

According to Share Our Strength more than 17 million kids in America — nearly 1 in 4 kids — are at risk of hunger over the course of a year.

Klaskala, who served his grandmother’s recipe for veal meatballs, was one of thirteen chefs who were honored for participating in Taste of the Nation Atlanta for ten or more years.

Chef Hilary White said it was event chairperson and CEO of Buckhead Life Restaurant Group Pano Karatassos who inspired her to get involved fourteen years ago.

“I was employed by Pano and really what he taught me as an executive chef is to give back and to do whatever you can,” said the executive chef at The Hil, a restaurant at Serenbe.  “Kids shouldn’t be hungry, especially in our country.  So to do anything I can to be a part of helping that, that’s fantastic.”

Playing off the nonprofit’s abbreviated name, Chef White created a dish she called SOS — shiitakes on a shingle.  Locally foraged shiitake mushrooms were served in a cream sauce on a slice of toast.

The gourmet fare at Taste of the Nation Atlanta ranged from whimsical and savory to rich and sweet.  With sushi, steak, bison burgers, duck sausage, thai curry and more, chefs offered something for every taste.  And for those who had room for dessert, there were cannoli, cookies and a chocolate fountain.  The food was complemented by a selection of wines, spirits and Belgian beers.

Serving English pea soup with bacon oil, Chef Kevin Gillespie remarked that it was an honor to be asked to participate in his second year.

“SOS has been and will always be an organization that chefs should stand behind because they support causes that are near and dear to our hearts.  And if we can take part in that, and help raise money and help people less fortunate, then we’ll always support that.”

For Chef Jay Swift of 4th & Swift, the evening was also an opportunity to have a good time with fellow chefs.

“I get to come out here with a lot of people in my industry,” said the chef who has participated every year since 1997.  “It’s fun, it’s for a good cause.  It’s like reunion time for us.”

“It’s funny, after you do it one time you feel it’s almost like a family,” echoed Chef Gillespie.

According to event organizers, the 2011 Taste of the Nation Atlanta raised more than $750,000.  The money will support Share Our Strength’s efforts which include enrolling children in effective federal nutrition programs, investing in community organizations that fight hunger and teaching families how to cook healthy meals on a budget.

For chefs including Chef Klaskala, their participation with Share Our Strength will continue until the problem of childhood hunger in America is solved.

“And if it it ever is, I hope we move onto something else where we can help.”

For more information on Share Our Strength and its mission to end childhood hunger visit strength.org.

Click here to see more photographs from Taste of the Nation Atlanta 2011