EXCITEMENT filled the Enderun Tent as the live auction of the Harvest of Hope fundraising dinner began. The sale’s tempo started off at a stately pace, with auctioneers setting bid increments at P10,000. By the end of the run, guests were furiously bidding for “72 Hours in the World of Alain Ducasse,” with each paddle raise corresponding to a price increase of P100,000.
The “72 Hour” lot was the biggest in the auction, and the only one that went live. Other lots that were silently auctioned off throughout the evening included the Livre Ducasse at Home cookbook; two-night stays at Hijo Resorts in Davao, Misibis Bay in Albay, and Donatella Hotel in Bohol; dinner for two at Rech Hong Kong; a bottle of Ducasse Champagne; the famous cookpot designed by the famous chef and Pierre Tachon; and a chef’s jacket signed by Mr. Ducasse.
Harvest of Hope was meant to raise funds for Youth With a Future, a program which provides scholarships at Ducasse Education Philippines at Enderun Colleges, along with job placements, to select culinary students of the Tuloy Foundation which provides shelter and education to former street children.
Chef Alain Ducasse was the guest of honor on Nov. 27 at the sumptuous dinner created by teachers and alumni of Ducasse Education Philippines.
Front and center at the tent’s foyer were the items up for the silent auction, while lining the walls were booths featuring the organizations which were chosen to provide the ingredients used in the dinner — Kitayama Beef, Sambali Beach Farm, Pinkie’s Farm, Shumei Natural Agriculture, Hineleban Farms, Meliomar, DowntoEarth, Malagos Farmhouse, AWC Philippines, and Bestworld Beverage Brands and Federated Distributors, Inc. (distributors of Evian and Badoit). These organizations were featured in video clips shown during the dinner as the event’s different chefs introduced the next dish on the menu, giving the guests a glimpse into the secret life of the items on the plates before them.
Guests, who had each shelled out P10,000 for a seat at the table, were first served Greek-style micro cucumbers, local white cheese, and edible flowers — a balanced dish, with a sweetish dressing well matched by the sour yoghurt and strong feta cheese, and the miniature cucumbers adding crunch to the soft concoction. Then came Tuna belly escabeche with local fruit vegetables, a cold dish, almost “gazpacho-like” as someone at the table said. Made with exceedingly fresh vegetables — hydroponic peppers, eggplant, radish, squash blossoms, and cherry tomatoes on a bed of caramelized onions, the dish could almost stand on its own without the fish. The main course was Kitayama beef loin with local farm vegetables, dalandan and black pepper jus which had the carnivores at the table satisfied. The fact that it came with a tasty adlai risotto instead of regular rice was a bonus.
The meal ended with a plate of local artisanal cheese from Malagos Farmhouse paired with mulberry jam and pili nuts followed by Tropical Lemongrass Vacherin with mango, passion fruit and coconut, and tarragon tea.
Tuloy Foundation Founder and President Fr. Marciano “Rocky” Evangelista took to the stage and talked about how the organization started back in 1993 with 12 children, and how it has 1,000 children today, with three dorms, a gym, a chapel, a football pitch, and workshops for nine skills that the children learn. And yet, he noted, they had no money then and they have no money today, and are reliant on donors like those filling the Enderun Tent, giving an impetus for the diners to open their wallets wider.
At the end of the dinner, another heartwarming video, featuring several of the successful Youth With a Future scholars was shown. According to a release from Enderun Colleges, “all 30 past scholars from the Youth with a Future initiative have flourishing careers worldwide: one is working in the prestigious Ducasse Sur Seine, a river cruise and restaurant boat in Paris, France, seven are employed in Four Seasons Resort Dubai, three in an international shipping line, and 19 are placed in restaurants in the Philippines.”
“In the coming year, Ducasse Education Philippines at Enderun Colleges is set to train 10 scholars from Tuloy Foundation with the proper knowledge and skills that they need to contribute and succeed in the tourism industry under the wing of its world-class chef instructors,” it continued.
Then came the main event — the auction of “72 Hours in the World of Alain Ducasse,” which includes three nights at Plaza Athenee in Paris, dinners and lunches for two at Ducasse Sur Seine (a river cruise and restaurant boat in Paris), the three-Michelin Star Plaza Athenee, at Allard, at Ore (with a tour of the castle of Versailles), and the two-Michelin Star restaurant Le Meurice, and a culinary short course for two at Ecole de Cuisine Alain Ducasse.
The bidding started at P280,000, and as the paddles were eagerly rising around the room, the auctioneers started to increase the increments, and the numbers quickly rose — P300,000, P350,000, P450,000, P500,000, P600,000… In the middle of the furious bidding, Ducasse Education CEO Cyril Lanrezac announced that they would be adding one more night to the package. After a bidding war between two tables, things stalled at P800,000, at which point Davao-based businessman Dennis A. Uy, founder, president, and CEO of UDENNA Corp. which acquired Enderun Colleges, went up on stage and announced that he would match the bid if it reached P1 million.
And it did.
And then two more tables announced that they too would buy the “72 Hour” package for P1 million.
By the end of the night, Mr. Uy again went up on the stage and announced that they had raised P6.5 million that evening.
Fr. Rocky had a big smile on his face. — AA Herrera