Asheville chefs cook up small-plate specialties for MANNA’s Blue Jean Ball

Peter Pollay, chef and owner of Posana, serves one of his dishes at the 2013 Blue Jean Ball. Posana is also among 20 area food businesses participating in this year's event on Saturday, June 6. Photo courtesy of MANNA FoodBank

From Cheerwine-braised smoked ham to decadent chocolates, Asheville-area chefs are cooking up a storm in preparation for MANNA Food Bank’s Blue Jean Ball on Saturday, June 6.

The yearly gala, which serves as MANNA’s largest fundraising event, will feature dishes from 20 local and regional businesses. Attendees will get to experience the dishes through small-plate tastings. The participating chefs donate their time, food and creativity to give back to an organization that they believe is vital to the local community.

Jason Roy, chef and co-owner of Biscuit Head says he became involved with the event due to his past experience with the organization when he worked at Lexington Avenue Brewery and through his son’s school’s (Evergreen Community Charter School) commitment to MANNA.

“We are superexcited to be a part of MANNA’s fundraising efforts,” says Roy. “This is one of my favorite events. It’s fun and it is an organization in our community that really helps.”

Roy has created what he calls a Soul Bowl for the event. The dish, which plays on the ball’s theme Bowl Full of Soul, features Cheerwine-braised smoked ham with Southern collards, smoked cheddar grits and a jalapeño cornbread/biscuit hybrid served up neatly in a bowl.

Jael Rattigan, owner of French Broad Chocolates says her business supports MANNA because she wants to ensure that the people of Asheville have enough to eat. “It’s as simple as that,” says Rattigan. “We support the Blue Jean Ball every year as well as MANNA’s Empty Bowls event.”

French Broad Chocolates is featuring an assortment of truffles at the gala. Rattigan says they chose truffles because, “We feel as though it is the signature item that we contribute to our community, and it is a great bit-sized delicacy that is easy and enjoyable in that kind of atmosphere.”

Duane Fernandez, chef and owner of Isa’s Bistro, says he supports MANNA as a personal obligation. “I am around food and serve food to hundreds of people every day,” he says. “Our patrons are fortunate enough to have expendable income in order to go out to eat.

“We do however need to remember that there are hundreds of less-fortunate people in WNC that need help,” he continues. “Our restaurant is obligated to help when we can and what a better way than donating at the Blue Jean Ball.”

Fernandez will feature a grilled peach and buratta salad with cucumbers, opal basil and lemon-champagne vinaigrette. He says he chose the dish to reflect the coming summer months and the warmer weather. “Peaches are just coming into season and they pair incredible with creamy mozzarella,” he says. “Basil also goes really well with this, and Jolley Farms is producing beautiful opal basil right now. This combo should be great for this outdoor event.”

Other food contributors include the Biltmore Estate, Asheville French Quarter, The Cantina at Biltmore Village, Chestnut, Corner Kitchen, Harrah’s, Lexington Avenue Brewery, Lobster Trap, Old Europe, Posana, Red Stag Grill, P.F. Chang, Rosetta’s Kitchen and Buchi Bar, Tupelo Honey, Ultimate Ice Cream and Chef’s Kitchen. The event also features live music and dance performances and a silent auction.

The Blue Jean Ball takes place 7-11 p.m. Saturday, June 6, at MANNA FoodBank on Swannanoa River Road. Attendance is limited to 900 attendees, but there are still tickets available HERE

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