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When I first heard the term "Chef Celebration," I had no idea what it meant. It was bandied about in conjunction with a series of dinners in which a handful of chefs from different restaurants converged at a central venue and cooked one course apiece to comprise a complete meal.

At first, it sounded like a great concept and an even better marketing idea. Having attended a few of these affairs, I can attest that I was right about the first part. However, it turns out that, despite the fact these meals provide chefs the chance to showcase their style and what diners can expect when visiting their eateries, Chef Celebration isn’t about marketing at all.

It’s the name of a San Diego not-for-profit organization that puts on this series of dinners, which is taking place all through the month of April. The mission of the organization is to provide aspiring chefs with opportunities to gain an education so that they may help to bolster the local dining industry. The dinner series is a vehicle for raising funds to do that.

In the last 16 years, Chef Celebration has raised over $130,000 and sent 75 people to specially tailored week-long courses at the Culinary Institute of America at Greystone campus in Napa. A portion of those funds are also used as salary reimbursement, because like most people, taking a week off is challenging if not impossible.

Not surprisingly, culinary professionals have a soft spot for this charity and contribute their time and energy to the cause. A number of chefs who’ve benefited from the scholarships, including Victor Jimenez of Cowboy Star and Hanis Cavin of Carnitas' Snack Shack, are among that volunteer legion.

Dinners are being held at Bertrand at Mister A’s, Terra American Bistro and The Shores Restaurant and will feature chefs from those restaurants as well as NINE-TEN, KITCHEN 1540, Burlap, Gabardine, La Valencia Hotel and The Marine Room. Additionally, the series will be closed out with a graze-at-your-own-pace walkabout at Escondido’s Stone Brewing World Bistro & Gardens, where over a dozen toques will pair their dishes with Stone beers.

The cost for each event is $65 per person and over 50% of that amount will go to the organization. For a schedule of the remaining events and menus for each, visit the Chef Celebration website.

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