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Chefs and Champagne brings big city fun to Great Falls on Saturday

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The Paris Gibson Square Museum of Art this weekend throws a fundraiser worthy of the Guggenheim Museum, but without the overbearing crowds, the astronomical prices or the otherwise annoying hustle and bustle of the big city.

Chef Janet Neil, owner of Bert and Ernies in Great Falls, prepares her appetizers at last year's Chefs and Champagne at the Paris Gibson Square.
Chef Janet Neil, owner of Bert and Ernies in Great Falls, prepares her appetizers at last year’s Chefs and Champagne at the Paris Gibson Square.

The second annual Chefs and Champagne is Saturday starting at 6 p.m., at Great Falls’ contemporary museum.

The four chefs from last year return along with two new ones. All will be vying for the “Best Chef” title from the three culinary expert judges, and bragging rights with the “People’s Choice” award.

The chefs, who each will serve two surprise appetizers, are Janet Neil, owner and chef, at Bert and Ernies, executive chef Richard Schafer at Meadowlark Country Club, Jim Mintsiveris, co-owner, and chef at Dimitri’s, Celtic Cowboy executive chef David Heffner, executive chef Kevin Towers at Bowser Brewery are joining the competition as well the Chef from The Grandview at Benefis.
While the recipes are being held secret until Saturday, Tracy Houck, executive director of the Paris Gibson Square, said last year there was a broad range of foods from fish to chicken and beef to vegetarian options.

Houck added that while the event committee discussed whether or not to allow non-certified chefs to join the competition, they made the decision to keep it open to actual chefs only.

“This is the second year we held true to the fact that all of our chefs have credentials and have the schooling to receive their chef’s certificate,” she said.

A look at some of the appetizers from last year's event.
A look at some of the appetizers from last year’s event.

Houck said she expects at least half of the appetizers to be gluten free, as well, and each of the chefs will be on hand to answer any questions about the ingredients if someone attending has a particular food allergy.

People are encouraged to dress up, however Houck said they’ve classified the dress code as “Montana classy” because she’s found that there are quite a few people, usually men, who like to attend fancy events but don’t want to dress to the nines.

“If men want to get dressed up, we want them here, but we’re also OK with them wearing cowboy boots and blue jeans,” Houck said. “Most women love to get dressed up, though, so hopefully we’ll see a lot of men in wranglers and women in their cocktail dresses.”

Upon entering the Square, people will be given a glass of champagne and a cork which they’ll use to vote for the people’s choice award.

A champagne cupcake dessert will be served by Great Harvest Bread and a team of “desperate housewives” from Pizazz will demonstrate how to roll sushi with free samples.

People will be given note cards to write their opinions about the food and drinks being served, and Houck said all of the wines available can be ordered at Pizazz.

Executive chef David Heffner from the Celtic Cowboy stands in front of his appetizers at last year's Chefs and Champagne.
Executive chef David Heffner from the Celtic Cowboy stands in front of his appetizers at last year’s Chefs and Champagne.

There also will be beers provided by local breweries The Front Brewing Company and Bowser Brewing Company.
Music will be provided by Melissa Dascoulias, who Houck says will perform a range of jazz tunes throughout the evening.

“She’s kind of like this tall, dark-haired gal with a soulful energy,” Houck said. “She’ll belt out all the great jazz tunes and I think when you have someone with a sound like that, with our all-hardwood floors upstairs, it’s just (makes for) a gorgeous sound throughout the museum.”

Finally, there will be a silent auction featuring things including a three-month membership at the Dark Horse/Celtic Cowboy Wine Snug, a Bowser Brewery Drink and Draw evening, an instructional “Wine 101” course in your own home, a Montana Moscow Mule gift basket, a private evening and German dinner at the Hofbrau with artist Chiuck Fulcher, a private pizza party and game night at Know Dice, Griz Football Tickets, Golf lessons, teeth whitening and a valentine’s day basket.

All of the money raised this year goes toward helping continue new programming for the Square for the next year.
Houck said the money also helps them ensure the educational opportunities for children and adults alike who use the Square on a daily basis.

“We’re not fixing anything with this money this year,” she said. “This money will be used for programming things to keep doing what we do at the museum. For instance this year, and every year, we have all the third graders from the public schools come and do tours through our galleries. This year they get to see (Julia Galloway’s) clouds exhibit and they’re all making paper cups similar to Julia’s, too. This fundraiser is to support bringing in high calibre exhibits and partnering education to go along with it.”

Houck added that this event helps showcase the Square as not only a unique contemporary art gallery, but also a place that’s great for holding other private events. She said last year organizations such as the Great Falls Clinic and others booked events right after Chefs and Champagnes because it offers a venue that’s unlike any others in town.

“They were like (last year) ‘we had no idea we could have an event at a contemporary art museum,’” Houck said. “They had people form Atlanta and Nashville come here for their event and they were just thrilled that we had a cool, urban contemporary place for an event that wasn’t a hotel. There’s nothing wrong with a hotel, but here is a great place for when you want to host people and be able to tell people ‘You also can walk around and look at contemporary art while we’re hosting this event.’”

Tickets to Saturday’s fundraiser are $75 per person and include 12 appetizers per person along with all the beer, wine and champagne you can sample.

For more information on how to order tickets, visit the Square online here.

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