Saint Martin's University announces three special guests to host Gala 2023

Gala 2023 chef photo compilation: Dario Cecchini, Thierry Rautureau, and Tom Douglas

LACEY, Wash. – Saint Martin’s University will host three special guests for the 2023 Saint Martin’s Gala: chefs, Tom Douglas, Thierry Rautureau also known as The Chef in the Hat™ and Italian butcher Dario Cecchini. The Saint Martin’s Gala is the University’s annual major fundraiser for student scholarships, which raised more than $3 million in 2022.

"We are excited to present celebrity chefs and butcher - Tom, Thierry and Dario - who will share their individual gifts and culinary specialties to prepare a truly inspiring meal for this year's Gala," said Jennifer Bonds-Raacke, Ph.D., President of Saint Martin’s University. "This trio is sure to entertain as they take the stage at our largest fundraising event of the year, which is completely focused on providing scholarships for our students. Everyone in our community is invited to join us for a fabulous evening at Saint Martin's."

Douglas is an American executive chef, restaurateur, author, radio talk show host, the winner of the 1994 James Beard Award for Best Northwest Chef and the recipient of the 2012 James Beard Award as Best Restaurateur. Rautureau was also named the winner of the James Beard Award for Best Northwest Chef in 1998 and awarded the Chevalier de l’Ordre Du Mérite Agricole by the French government. Rautureau and Douglas were co-hosts of the talk radio show “Seattle Kitchen” on KIRO 97.3 FM where they interviewed other chefs, shared recipes and discussed food in the news. Cecchini completes this year’s celebrity chef host trio. He is a leading contemporary Italian butcher who was featured in the documentary series Chef's Table on Netflix in 2019.  

“The Saint Martin’s University Gala is the perfect combination of our Benedictine value for hospitality and the Saint Martin’s community’s passion for supporting our students,” said Vice President of Institutional Advancement Shad Hanselman. “With the help of our celebrity chefs and generous donors, we raise millions of dollars in scholarship support to make a significant difference in the lives of our students, helping them to access higher education, develop new skills, and build a better future for themselves and their communities.”  

Long-time Seattle chef, Tom Douglas, has been cooking up Pacific Northwest cuisine for more than thirty years. Douglas launched his culinary career in 1989 when he and his business partner and wife, Jackie Cross, opened the Dahlia Lounge. With the help of their managing partner, Eric Tanaka, the company grew to include thirteen full-service restaurants; and an event space, the Palace Ballroom; the cooking school, Hot Stove Society; and a product line including rubs, sauces, mustards, and knives. In 2001, Douglas’ book, Tom Douglas' Seattle Kitchen, was named the Best American Cookbook by the James Beard Foundation and KitchenAid. He also appeared on an episode of the Food Network's Iron Chef America in 2005, where he defeated Chef Masaharu Morimoto. 

Thierry Rautureau nicknamed, "The Chef in the Hat,” is a Seattle celebrity chef and the chef and owner of several former restaurants, including Rover’s Restaurant, Loulay Kitchen and Bar and Luc Bistro. Rautureau apprenticed in Anjou, France, and at the age of twenty moved to the United States to work at several fine restaurants. In 1987 he became the chef and owner of Rover’s Restaurant which helped make him one of the most recognizable chefs in Seattle. In 2010 Rautureau opened Luc, a casual French-American café and bar named after his late father, Luc Rautureau. Three years later he opened Loulay Kitchen and Bar, named after Rautureau’s hometown of Saint Hilaire de Loulay in France, Loulay. Rautureau says his cooking philosophy “starts with freshness and continues with treating all ingredients with attention.” 

Dario Cecchini is an internationally known Italian butcher from Panzano in the Chianti region of Italy. Cecchini, on a mission to protect and promote the traditional local butcher from the rise of powerful supermarkets, explained that he believes butchery is an ancient art that involves respect for the animal. He views his role as that of teacher and educator. According to Cecchini, there are no "premium" and "lower" cuts of meat. He believes all the parts of the animal are useful if butchered and cooked appropriately. Cecchini argues that his work could amount to poetry, a combination of knowledge (understanding that you can use every part of the animal) and consciousness (respect for the animal) that can bring people back to the “original customs of the tribe,” in a world where everything seems to be getting more and more commodified, processed and impersonal.  

The Saint Martin's Gala, which will be on Saturday, Nov. 4, in Marcus Pavilion on Saint Martin’s main campus in Lacey, is the University’s major fundraising event for student scholarships. Over the years, the black-tie affair has grown to be the premier culinary event in the South Sound region, featuring a live auction, a five-course gourmet dinner, and on-stage cooking demonstrations by celebrity chefs. Previous featured chefs have included Anne Burrell, Jacques Pépin, Carla Hall, Roy Yamaguchi, and Ming Tsai. 

Learn more about Gala 2023 by visiting or by contacting the Saint Martin’s University Office of Institutional Advancement at 360-438-4366 or

Saint Martin’s University is an independent, four-year, coeducational university located on a wooded campus of more than 300 acres in Lacey, Washington. Established in 1895 by the Catholic Order of Saint Benedict, the University is one of 13 Benedictine colleges and universities in the United States and Canada, and the only one west of the Rocky Mountains. Saint Martin’s University prepares students for successful lives through its 29 majors, 11 master’s programs, one doctorate program, and five certificate programs spanning the liberal arts, business, education, nursing, and engineering. Saint Martin’s welcomes more than 1,300 undergraduate students and 250 graduate students from many ethnic and religious backgrounds to its Lacey campus, and more students to its extended campus located at Joint Base Lewis-McChord. 


For additional information: 

Nate Peters
Interim Vice President of University Relations
360-688-2572 |

Bobby Hanna
Senior Director for Advancement Services & Special Events
360-486-8885 |

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LACEY, Wash. — More than $2 million was raised for student scholarships at the annual Saint Martin’s University Gala on November 4, 2023. Three celebrity guests hosted the event: Seattle-based chefs Tom Douglas and Roy Breiman, and Italian butcher Dario Cecchini. The black-tie affair has grown to be the premier culinary event in the South Sound region, featuring a live auction, a five-course gourmet dinner, and on-stage cooking demonstrations by award winning, celebrity chefs.