Chef Michael Symon inspires a record-setting night at Saint Martin’s Gala

November 6, 2013

Michael Symon helps SMU raise close to $1M

LACEY, Wash. — A spirit of generosity took center stage Saturday night at Saint Martin’s University, as celebrity chef Michael Symon cooked and joked his way through the 2013 Saint Martin’s Gala, inspiring a crowd of more than 600 guests to raise $960,000 for student scholarships. This marks the highest amount the Gala has raised in its eight-year history.

The annual Saint Martin’s Gala, held Saturday, Nov. 2, featured Symon, the award-winning culinary giant best known as an Iron Chef and a co-host of the ABC talk show The Chew. Flanked by students dressed in chef’s whites, Symon made his entrance into Marcus Pavilion, which had been transformed into an elegant silver and white dining space accented with shimmering tablecloths. Symon went right to work on the Viking-sponsored stage, charming his audience with his vivacious laughter and ebullient personality.

Symon, the second Iron Chef in three years to headline the University’s signature fundraising event, offered a culinary demonstration accompanied by a five-course dinner and live auction. The chef’s signature laugh rang out throughout the evening, whether he was cooking, talking about his family or sweetening an auction item. Symon expanded one item — a trip to Cleveland to dine at his Lolita restaurant — by agreeing to meet the highest bidder in his hometown for a round of golf.

Several guests had the opportunity to join Symon on stage, including those whose winning bids landed them on barstools “in the kitchen.” When two guests were offering competitive bids on a chance to work alongside Symon as his sous chef, the celebrity chef invited both on stage to share the role.

Another auction item, a trip to Rome featuring a private, after-hours tour of the Sistine Chapel and Vatican galleries, brought in $16,000 for student scholarships. The highest-fetching auction item of the evening was an authentic Italian picnic for 30 people, which raised $24,000.

Emcee Elisa Jaffe, of KOMO News, and auctioneer Jeff Stokes, of Stokes Auction Group, led the Gala festivities.

As in years past, students played a major role in the event. Saint Martin’s junior Jeneva Burton welcomed the crowd to the Gala and introduced President Roy F. Heynderickx, Ph.D. Later in the evening, senior Dillon Linhart 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 alone raised $343,000 — more than $130,000 above last year’s total.

“Every dollar we raise through Gala goes toward funding student scholarships,” Heynderickx told the crowd. “We have more than 150 volunteers at this year’s Gala, and many of them are our students. They are here because they are dedicated to serving you as our guests.”

When Symon arrived on the Saint Martin’s campus Friday, Nov. 1, a crowd of enthusiastic, sign-waving students gathered at the Baran Drive entrance to welcome him as he cruised by in his vehicle. Soon after his arrival, Symon took part in “Symon and Saints,” a meet-and-greet event with 80 students in the University’s Trautman Union Building.

During the event, Symon delighted students with stories of how he became a chef, recounting how a badly broken arm ended his career as a high school wrestler. The injury cost him any possibility of receiving college scholarships. “I started working in a restaurant that summer, and that experience profoundly changed my life to being able to do something that I love to do for a living,” Symon told the students.

The co-chairs for the 2013 Saint Martin’s Gala were Armandino ’59 and Marilyn Batali and Rick and Pam Panowicz.

Next year’s Gala is scheduled to take place Saturday, Nov. 1, 2014, at Marcus Pavilion, and will again feature a celebrity chef. Those interested in attending the 2014 Gala are encouraged to check Saint Martin’s website, www.stmartin.edu/gala, for updates on next year’s celebration.

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

Presenting Partner: Bon Appétit

Saint Martin Table Patrons: Forma Construction; Armandino ’59 and Marilyn Batali, Brian and Debbie Charneski, 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: Cronk Family Foundation; Financial Advocates; Jim ’72 and Melissa Guerci; Matt Marcus ’94; The Rants Group; Salumi Artisan Cured Meats; Sunset Air, Inc.; and Viking Range Corporation

Saint Gertrude Table Patrons: Joe HS ’62, ’66 and Betty Alongi; Charlie’s Produce; Jack and Luellen Charneski; Dunamis Interiors & Setina Manufacturing Co., Inc.; Kathryn Fies; Jim and Linnea Bremner, Bill and Jacki Gavin, Fred Goldberg and Carolyn Lakewold, Larry and Gail Larson, Richard and Laurel Seaman; GM Nameplate; Heritage Bank; Kathy Lombardo and Fred Wright; Lucky Eagle Casino; Miller Nash LLP and Strader Hallett CPAs; Olympia Federal Savings; Panagiotu Pension Advisors; Panowicz Jewelers; Rice Fergus Miller Architecture and Planning, Propel Insurance, and SCJ Alliance; Rob Rice Homes; Dick ’64 and Karen Roney and Phil and Judy Weigand; Jay and Carla Rudd; RuffaloCODY; Saint Martin’s Alumni Association; Soderstrom Architects; South Puget Sound Community College; Sur La Table; Attila ’78 and Katalin Talaber; U.S. Bank

Saint Scholastica Table Patrons: Waite ’65 and Patty Dalrymple; Mary ’73 and Fred Gentry; McGranahan Architects; Metropolitan Market; Kathleen O’Grady; Saint Martin’s College Class of 1959; SkyCity at the Needle; The Stars Foundation of Thurston County; Timberland Bank; Virgil Adams Real Estate; Robert and Joan Wubbena

In-Kind Sponsors: Batdorf & Bronson Coffee Roasters; Caffe Vita Roasting Co.; Capitol City Press; Charlie’s Produce; g. miller Olympia; Glass Distillery; Grand Central Bakery; Lucky Eagle Casino; Olympia Olive Oil; Ostrom’s Mushrooms; Ralph’s Thriftway; Ramada Inn Olympia; Sur La Table; Taylor Shellfish; Viking Range Corporation

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 14 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 23 majors and seven graduate programs spanning the liberal arts, business, education, nursing and engineering. Saint Martin’s welcomes more than 1,100 undergraduate students and 400 graduate students from many ethnic and religious backgrounds to its Lacey campus, and 300 more undergraduate students to its extension campuses located at Joint Base Lewis-McChord and Centralia College. Visit the Saint Martin’s University website at www.stmartin.edu.

For additional information:




Meg Nugent Dwyer
Media relations manager
360-412-6126; MDwyer@stmartin.edu