Students of Saint Martin's and celebrity chef Lidia Bastianich
December 19, 2014

LACEY, Wash. — The sights and smells of Italy filled the Hal and Inge Marcus Pavilion at Saint Martin's University on Saturday night, as celebrity chef Lidia Bastianich cooked and shared recipes from the “old country” at the 2014 Saint Martin's Gala, inspiring a crowd of 600 guests to raise $886,230 for student scholarships.

The annual Saint Martin's Gala, held Saturday, Nov. 1, All Saints Day, featured Bastianich, the award-winning chef and entrepreneur. Led by Italian minstrels on accordion and mandolin, the “grande dame” of Italian cooking rhythmically clapped to the music and exchanged elegant high fives with members of the warmly welcoming audience as she made her entrance and paraded throughout the Marcus Pavilion followed by students decked out in chef's whites.

The Pavilion had been transformed into an elegant Tuscan dining space accented with shimmering purple and green tablecloths and stemless wineglasses. “I love this family style of eating! Salute!” Bastianich declared as she raised her wineglass to toast the audience and then went right to work on the Viking-sponsored stage.

Bastianich, the fourth celebrity to headline the University’s signature fundraising event, offered a culinary demonstration accompanied by a five-course dinner and live auction. At one point, the chef gently commandeered a videographer taping on stage with her to move his camera in close to better show the Gala diners how she was preparing a salad. The menu, which repeat Gala guests said was the best yet, featured marinated calamari salad, pasticciata bolognese, and beef barolo so tender it fell off the fork.

Bastianich expanded one auction item – a trip to New York City to dine at not one but two of the hottest Italian restaurants in town, her restaurant Felidia and Mario Batali’s restaurant Babbo – by selling it twice at $15,000, for a grand total of $30,000, the auction item that fetched the highest amount for scholarships.

Several guests had the opportunity to join Bastianich on stage, including those whose winning bids landed them on barstools “in the kitchen.” One lucky bidder won the chance to work alongside Bastianich as her sous chef and received a chef's coat signed by the guest chef.

As in years past, students played a major role in the event. Saint Martin’s junior Annabel Warnell welcomed the crowd to the Gala and introduced President Roy F. Heynderickx, Ph.D. Later in the evening, senior Ben Lopez shared his story of success and expressed his gratitude for the financial assistance he has received. Inspired by the students' remarks, guests “raised their paddle” to make gifts toward the University's “Feed-a-Mind” scholarship funds. This portion of the program raised $280,490.

“This is like throwing a party for your 600-plus friends – I guarantee you, this will be a party tonight!” Heynderickx told the crowd. “More than 150 volunteers are here with us tonight, and many of them are our students.”

When Bastianich first arrived on the Saint Martin’s campus Friday, Oct. 31, a crowd of enthusiastic, sign-waving students, including a pair resplendent in purple grape balloon costumes, gathered at the Baran Drive entrance to welcome her as she drove in her vehicle. Soon after her arrival, Bastianich took part in “Meet the Chef,” a meet-and-greet event with 70 students in the University’s Trautman Union Building. Upon seeing all the students applaud her entrance, Lidia expressed “ero commosso” which she translated for the audience as “I am so moved.”

During the student event, Bastianich enchanted everyone with stories of her early life in Italy and her favorite desserts, spices and wines. At the end of the evening, Bastianich encouraged the students to enjoy life to the fullest and “somewhere along the way give a little back.”

The chairs for the 2014 Saint Martin's Gala were Armandino '59 and Marilyn Batali, Rick and Pam Panowicz, and Kathy Lombardo and Fred Wright.


At the end of the evening on Saturday, Gala emcee Elisa Jaffe revealed a special preview video that announced that next year's Gala will feature the return of celebrity chefs Mario Batali and Michael Symon, and their co-stars from The Chew, Daphne Oz, Clinton Kelly and Carla Hall. Those interested in attending the 2015 Gala, scheduled to take place Saturday, Nov. 7, 2015 at Saint Martin's University, are encouraged to check the Saint Martin's Gala website for updates on next year's celebration.


Saint Martin’s University thanks the following Gala 2014 Event Sponsors:

  • Presenting Partners: Bon Appétit and Forma Construction
  • Stage Sponsor: Viking Professional
  • Print Sponsor: Capitol City Press
  • Media Sponsor: KCTS9
  • Wine Sponsor: Palatine Foundation
  • Saint Martin Table Patrons: Armandino ’59 and Marilyn Batali, Terence ’62 and Mary Louise ’60 Monaghan, Rick and Pam Panowicz, and John and Hollie Xitco; and Joe and Liz Williams
  • Saint Benedict Table Patrons: Jim ’72 and Melissa Guerci; Jay and Carla Rudd; Yelm Cinemas; Sunset Air, Inc., The Rants Group; GM Nameplate
  • Saint Gertrude Table Patrons: Joe HS’62, ’66 and Betty Alongi; Ken and Nancy Anderson, Jeff and Patty Pantier , Rob and Helena Rice, Kevin and Tammi Schreiner, and Mark and Kelly Schreiner; Armandino ’59 and Marilyn Batali; Jim and Linnea Bremner, David and Dione Hayes, Ed and Patty McCarroll, Hank and Diane Roehrich, Richard and Laurel Seaman; Charlie’s Produce; Jack and Luellen Charneski; Kathryn Fies; Financial Advocates; Hanson Subaru; Heritage Bank; Miller Nash, LLP; Olympia Federal Savings; Panagiotu Pension Advisors; Dick ’64 and Karen Roney and Debbie Hodous; Rumbaugh; Soderstrom Architects; South Puget Sound Community College; Sur La Table; Dr. Attila HS ’74, ’78 and Katalin Talaber and Dr. Albert and Nancy Goerig
  • Saint Scholastica Table Patrons: Anchor Bank; Charles Schwab; Chicago Title Insurance Co.; Waite ’65 and Patty Dalrymple; Barb ’78 and Doug Hiatt; Kell-Chuck Glass; Lucky Eagle Casino & Hotel; McGranahan Architects; Metropolitan Market; Moss Adams and Propel Insurance; Kathleen O’Grady; Panowicz Jewelers; Providence Health & Services – Southwest WA Region; Saint Martin’s Alumni Association; Timberland Bank; Virgil Adams Real Estate; Worth Law Group
  • In-Kind Sponsors: Olympia Olive Oil and Caffe Vita
  • Green Room Sponsor: DeLaurenti Specialty Food & Wine
  • Auction Bid Card Sponsor: Chicago Title Insurance Co.
  • Valet Sponsor: Hanson Subaru

Saint Martin’s University is an independent, four-year, coeducational university located on a wooded campus of more than 300 acres in Lacey, Washing¬ton. Established in 1895 by the Catholic Order of Saint Benedict, the University is one of 14 Benedic¬tine 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 25 majors and seven graduate programs spanning the liberal arts, business, education, nursing and engineering. Saint Martin’s welcomes nearly 1,200 under¬graduate students and 323 graduate students from many ethnic and religious backgrounds to its Lacey campus, and 350 more students to its extended campuses located at Joint Base Lewis-McChord, Centralia College and Tacoma Community College. 

For additional information:

Genevieve Canceko Chan
Vice President, Office of Marketing and Communications
Saint Martin’s University

Meg Nugent Dwyer
Media relations manager