WPSU will host its 27th annual Connoisseur’s Dinner & Auction Saturday, Feb. 9, in the Nittany Lion Inn Alumni Ballroom. While the long-standing community event has changed formats and themes over the years, the mission has always been the same — supporting local public media and spreading WPSU’s vision into the community.
“It’s our largest fundraising activity of the year. It raises money for television operations and community engagement. It’s really become something that we count on at the beginning of each year,” said Isabel Reinert, WPSU executive director. “It’s well-attended. The community seems to really like it.”
She notes the majority of the funds raised over the course of the event comes from the silent auction and event sponsors. The dinner, which began in 1993, expanded to include a silent auction in 2002 and now also features additional events over the course of the weekend.
“We start Friday night with a VIP cooking class where our guest chef comes in and leads a group of 40 people in preparing a meal at the Health and Human Development Food Lab at Penn State. We have wines that we pair with the meal that everyone prepares together,” Reinert said.
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In the morning of Feb. 9, there’s an invitation-only event that features a cooking demonstration and tasting of some of the food. About 200 guests usually attend that attend, Reinert said.
It leads up to the evening of Feb. 9. This year’s dinner celebrates Greek cuisine.
“You get to meet the celebrity chef. She comes on stage, she works with the kitchen, she helps prepare meals, she helps choose the recipes and the pairings that we have,” Reinert said. “I just find the whole evening very rewarding. It’s excellent food, excellent company that shares our mission and our vision here at WPSU and they’re helping us raise the money we need for our operations.”
This year’s guest celebrity chef is Chef Diane Kochilas, cookbook author and host of My Greek Table, which airs on WPSU. In planning the menu for the Connoisseur’s Dinner, she incorporated recipes featured in past seasons of the show. Guests can expect mouthwatering options like saffron avgolemono soup, an arugula salad with grilled halloumi cheese and pears, braised beef with feta mashed potatoes, artichoke moussaka with caramelized onions and a Greek yogurt cheese cake.
For those planning to attend the Friday night cooking class, Kochilas explains, “The cooking class will be an exploration of many facets of Greek cuisine, with great recipes that are both traditional and contemporary. Every dish has a story and I like to share those stories when I teach. People who attend the class will surely leave with a handful of great, easy Greek recipes they can make at home any time.”
As of early this week, there were around 100 seats left for the event, but Reinert said they’ll go quickly.
“I really think (attending is) a fantastic way to support the local public media. It’s also a great evening of food, paired with great wine and we always have entertainment as well. It’s an opportunity to come with friends (or) your business colleagues and spend an evening celebrating public media and learning more about what we do, why we do it, how we do it and enjoy a great meal,” she said.
Tickets are available for purchase at wpsu.psu.edu/events/conndinner2019.