All-star fundraiser Cooking for Capitola raises $40K for restaurant employees

Several chefs work together to plate a dish of roasted king trumpet mushrooms at Cooking for Capitola on Feb. 6.
(Kevin Painchaud / Lookout Santa Cruz)

“When a disaster comes, chefs have a great opportunity to step up and help out the community,” Anthony Kresge said of the event he organized with fellow chefs from Capitola and Soquel. “It was good to see an event like that after all the disasters and the pandemic — a celebration of community.”

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Cooking for Capitola, a fundraising event held at the historic Shadowbrook restaurant Feb. 6, not only met its fundraising goal, says organizer and chef Anthony Kresge — it exceeded it. The event brought together five chefs from Capitola and Soquel to raise money for employees of Capitola Village restaurants closed due to damages from January’s storms.

Over the course of the evening, they raised $40,000, including $25,000 from ticket sales and $15,000 from a silent auction. The money will be distributed to more than 100 employees via gift cards through Community Foundation Santa Cruz County.

Kresge, who owns Reef Dog Deli in Capitola, was inspired to create the event in order to help the restaurant community in the village. In two weeks, he brought together for a five-course dinner chefs Brad Briske of Home in Soquel; Nick Sherman and James Manss at Trestles in Capitola; and Michael Cameron and pastry chef Linda Estrada of Capitola’s Shadowbrook. Each chef created a course, which included roasted king trumpet mushrooms with Gruyere fonduta and arugula prepared by Sherman and Manss; beef cheek gnocchi prepared by Briske and dry-aged duck breast with coconut-curry sauce by Kresge. Each course was paired with local wines selected by Curtis Cooke, owner of the Tasting House in Los Gatos, from vintners like Bargetto Winery and Mount Eden Vineyards.

Chefs and staff from kitchens in Capitola and Soquel teamed up for Cooking for Capitola on Feb. 6.
(Kevin Painchaud / Lookout Santa Cruz )

Kresge says the event exceeded his expectations and at times was emotional. “When a disaster comes, chefs have a great opportunity to step up and help out the community,” he said. “We can create an atmosphere where people are celebrating food and wine. It was good to see an event like that after all the disasters and the pandemic — a celebration of community.”

All 84 of the $300 tickets sold out within a few days, and the dining room at Shadowbrook was full of members of the Capitola community, including residents, business owners and politicians. Kresge noted that Jill Ealy, who co-owns Zelda’s On The Beach, was there with her husband, kitchen manager Josh Whitby. Zelda’s was heavily damaged by the storms and it will be several more months before it reopens. “It was really great to have them there,” Kresge said, “because the purpose was to show the restaurant employees, who give their lives to the restaurant community and keep it going, that they’re appreciated.”

With such a successful first run, will there be another event like it soon? Probably not, says Kresge, although he has hopes to perhaps do a similar annual fundraiser on the anniversary of the event: “Everyone wants us to do it again but unfortunately we have to get back to our day jobs.”

Coverage of the storms that hit Santa Cruz County in January 2023 and the cleanup and recovery efforts that have...

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