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Benefit series brings celebrity chefs to Wilmington restaurants

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The participating IRC x Wilmington chefs and restaurateurs pose with Tyler Akin (center right, blue) and BPG Co-President Rob Buccini, right. | PHOTO COURTESY OF BPG

WILMINGTON – Beginning in December and lasting through March, Wilmington restaurants that are members of the nationwide Independent Restaurant Coalition (IRC) will host a series of five local fundraising dinners featuring celebrity chefs such as Tom Colicchio and Jennifer Carroll.  Returns from the series, called “IRC x Wilmington,” will be used to fund programs of the organization.

The events were announced Monday at a press conference at Le Cavalier at the Hotel du Pont restaurant hosted by the restaurant’s chef/owner, Tyler Akin, who is also on the IRC board, Wilmington Mayor Michael Purzycki and Rob Buccini, co-president and founder of Buccini/Pollin Group (BPG), owner or landlord for several local eateries including Le Cav.

“We’re looking for each of the visiting chefs to organize the dinners in cooperation with the local chefs,” Akin said.

Most are personalities who have hosted or participated in tv shows, and Akin said, “They will interact with the guests before and after the dinner and will do some circulation during the event.”

BPG has a personal interest in the series, as the development group serves as landlord for each of the five restaurants, Buccini said.

“We’ve learned a lot over the past decade about restaurant design and operation, and we’ve lent our knowledge to those involved,” he added.

The series IRC x Wilmington series kicks off Dec. 9 at Le Cavalier, although the host will be Jim Burke, the Philadelphia-based chef who will open a Wilmington restaurant in the soon-to-be-opened Method Co. boutique hotel at 519 Market St. His guest chef will be Ashley Christensen, owner of AC Restaurants.

Next in the series will be Akin on Jan. 20 welcoming Collichio, the “Top Chef” host and owner of Cradle Hospitality, and Carroll, chef-owner of Spice Finch in Philadelphia. On Jan. 30, Niki Russ Federman of New York-based Russ & Daughters culinary foods will visit Dan Sheridan, chef-owner of Stitch House Brewery, for a Sunday brunch.

On Feb. 17, TV personality, writer and chef Andrew Zimmerman will team up with Bardea chef-owner Antimo DiMeo, and the series will conclude March 10 with dinner at La Fia with chef-owner Bryan Sikora and guest Gregory Gourdet of Kann in Portland, Oregon.

According to Akin, tickets will range from $175 to $275 per person for the dinners and $100 for the brunch. They are available at https://tinyurl.com/ircxwilm.

“Since March, the IRC grew from a dozen chefs to an organization of thousands across the country who have given our industry a platform for change,” Akin said in a prepared statement. “This work led to the Restaurant Revitalization Fund, which helped over 100,000 restaurants across the country keep their doors open.”

Continued support is needed, however, as 65% of applicants are still awaiting federal relief, Akin noted.

BPG said that it has invested $1.6 billion to revitalize Wilmington through various commercial and residential structures, including restaurants. The company has a business portfolio, chiefly on the East Coast, that includes 40 hotels, 7 million square feet of office and residential space and several entertainment venues.

“Wilmington has actually grown stronger during the pandemic in regard to its restaurants,” Buccini said, noting that all in his company’s group continued operations in some manner during the lockdowns. “We’ve come through the experience relatively unscathed, unlike other cities.”

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