SOPAC Hosts ‘Savor the Arts’ Night of Culinary Adventure Sept. 25

From the South Orange Performing Arts Center:

Nothing brings people together like an evening of tantalizing food and drink, in this case accompanied by music and a celebrity chef slam! On Tuesday, Sept. 25, 6-9 p.m., SOPAC hosts Savor the Arts –An Evening of Culinary Adventure in the Loft. Two local chefs will vie to deliver the tastiest New Jersey-sourced dish and several New Jersey food and beverage purveyors will also be on hand to share their own farm-to-table offerings. Patrons are encouraged to mix and mingle while sampling the wares; guests’ favorites will be announced at the end of the night after the chef slam. Local foodies won’t want to miss this new community event featuring culinary skill and beverage pairings as performance art.

The evening begins with several food stations, each paired with a complement of wine, beer or cider to fully exploit and embrace the flavors and complexities of the dishes on offer. Emcee and wine enthusiast Hank Zona is on deck to keep the evening- and the libations- flowing and to guide Savor guests through the pairings.

Who doesn’t love a celebrity cook-off? Vying for top honors for the evening will be up-and-coming chefs Leia Gaccione of South + Pine American Eatery (Morristown) and Central + Main American Eatery (Madison), and Kwame Williams of Vital Dining (Montclair). Both of these rising star owner/chefs have built their reputations at some of the finest dining establishments in New York, Las Vegas, and New Jersey.

Chef Leia Gaccione served as Bobby Flay’s Executive Chef and Chef de Cuisine for seven years, and her restaurant South+Pine American Eatery was named one of the top 30 restaurants in the state and Critics Choice Best American Restaurant by NJ Monthly. “Even though you must bring your own bottle, the food will be extraordinary” said Morris|Essex Health & Life when they named South+Pine “Best BYOB” in Best of Morris|Essex from Morris|Essex Health & Life magazine.

These two celebrated chefs will vie for top honors as they make culinary magic with a basket of mystery ingredients.

Hank Zona interviews Chef Leia Gaccione and Chef Kwame Williams to preview the upcoming event.

Celebrity chef Ariane Duarte, well known for her appearance on Top Chef and as a Beat Bobby Flay winner, will lead the chef slam Judges’ Panel.  Chef Ariane Duarte’s love for cooking began as she was growing up, watching her grandmother cook the family dinners. She attended the Culinary Institute of America in Hyde Park, New York.  Upon her graduation, she was hired as a sous chef at the Highlawn Pavilion in West Orange. From there she went to the Terrace in New York City, to Dallas and Chicago, and ultimately became the Executive Chef at Vine in New York City. She found her way back to New Jersey and opened the famed CulinAriane in Montclair. She currently runs Ariane Kitchen & Bar in Verona.

SOPAC Executive Director Mark Packer and South Orange Village President Sheena Collum will join Chef Duarte at the judge’s table, along with two guests selected at random from among the Savor patrons.

Patrons are encouraged to buy tickets early to this exciting culinary event as the seating is limited.

Tickets are $70 and are on sale now. They can be purchased at or by calling the SOPAC box office at (973) 313-2787.