The Jacques Pépin Foundation, an organization committed to transforming lives through culinary education, canceled a fundraiser that was to have taken place on May 28 at Mountain Shadows Resort and Spa. The sold-out event, “Never Too Many Cooks,” was planned as a tribute to Barbara Fenzl, celebrating her many years of legendary work at Les Gourmettes Cooking School in Phoenix. It was also intended to benefit the JPF and local charities.
“It is with great sadness that our planning committee decided to postpone the “Never Too Many Cooks” event, as a result of the pandemic health crisis,” says Rollie Wesen, executive director of the Foundation. “The event had generated an incredible outpouring of generosity, love and support from guests, especially Barbara’s past students, who helped make this a sold-out event within the first week of tickets being offered. We hope to be able to reschedule this important tribute in the future. In the meantime, we wish everyone in the community good health and strength during this uncertain and challenging time.”
Chef Jacques Pépin, executive chairman of the Foundation, and long-time friend of Fenzl, was to have hosted the evening, joining his daughter Claudine Pépin, president of the Foundation and Wesen, her husband. Chef/Owner Mark Tarbell of Tarbell’s was scheduled to serve as emcee. The opening reception, four-course dinner and desserts would have featured tastes prepared by an all-star lineup of local chefs who have taught at Les Gourmettes including Chris Bianco, Charleen Badman, Matt Carter, Tracy Dempsey, Silvana Salcida Esparza, Nobuo Fukuda, Christopher Gross, Vincent Guerithault, Linda Hopkins, Beau MacMillan, Gio Osso, Jeff Smedstad, Alex Stratta, Eugenia Theodosopoulos, Janos Wilder and Charles Wiley.
All ticket and auction sale proceeds from the event were to support the Jacques Pépin Foundation and its mission. The Foundation supports community kitchens that offer free life skills and culinary training to individuals facing barriers to employment such as previous incarceration, homelessness, substance abuse and lack of work history. A portion of the evening’s proceeds were to be directed to local organizations providing this kind of community-based culinary training, UMOM New Day Centers and St. Mary’s Food Bank, both headquartered in Phoenix.
Although all ticket holders were offered refunds, many guests chose to leave either all or a portion of their ticket purchase with the Jacques Pépin Foundation, providing direct support for the 2020 Community Kitchen Aid Campaign. As a result of the outpouring of generosity, and despite the event’s cancellation, the Jacques Pépin Foundation sent donations of $10,000 to each UMOM and St. Mary’s to support their efforts to continue to provide hunger relief and other support to their trainees and population.
“On behalf of the JPF team, we want to recognize Barbara for the amazing contribution she has made to the culinary scene in the Phoenix area,” says Claudine Pépin, “and to thank her, and the entire community, for their dedication and support of culinary education. We hope to have the chance to bring this celebration to life in 2021.”
“I feel so blessed by all this support, and I am very honored that two such worthy charities are the recipients of these grants,” Fenzl says.