101 courses served without a break at Culinaire for a Cause in Oklahoma City

Oklahoma City chef Kurt Fleischfresser's Culinaire for a Cause goes where no chef has gone before.
by Dave Cathey Modified: July 25, 2012 at 11:56 am •  Published: July 25, 2012

Mathematicians will tell you it's impossible to give more than 100 percent, but chef Kurt Fleischfresser dispelled that notion Saturday by serving 101 courses when only 100 were promised during the Culinaire for a Cause.

The event began at The Tasting Room, 4322 N Western Ave., midmorning Saturday and ended early Sunday morning.

Proceeds benefit the Regional Food Bank of Oklahoma. Fleischfresser's description of what would happen couldn't prepare me for witnessing it from beginning to end.

Chefs Fleischfresser and David Henry, of The Coach House, wrote the expansive menu, plotting it course by course.

They devised a plan to execute it and called on plenty of local talent to make this culinary Snake River Canyon jump a success.

But as remarkable as the logistical feat was, the food was the star. Not only did Fleischfresser and Henry write a successful map to seamless service, they also happened to serve some of the best food this town has ever tasted.

A team of about 40 service professionals served more than 2,400 plates between 10 a.m. and 1 a.m. without a hitch. The level of quality never dipped below outstanding.

“We didn't fall behind until 5 o'clock,” Fleischfresser said. “And then it was only by a minute.”

The team met at 10 a.m. and literally synchronized their watches as the schedule he and Henry created had to be followed by everyone involved. That's because they weren't just throwing a few nibbles on a plate and calling it cuisine.

“This is probably the most chefly thing I've done,” Fleischfresser said.

Meaning, he's done his fair share of large services, including trips to the James Beard House in New York City, but neither he nor any other chef has likely ever delivered so many different plates topped with unerring technique, showmanship and flavor in this amount of time.

More than 5,000 components were plated at a rate of about 1 plate every 30 seconds. Courses went out every 10 minutes.

Food takes spotlight

From desserts born of molecular gastronomy to simple soups like Pepper Pot and Cock-a-Leekie, the food kept coming. While knees began to buckle and backs began to stiffen, the flavor never waned. The level of consistency is what made this a transcendent expression of culinary art.

The idea was grand, the planning inspirational, the execution an exercise in laserlike precision. But none of that would've mattered if the food had been bad.

It wasn't.

It not only tasted great, but it acted as a reminder of foods we loved while hinting at what we might love in the future. It made friends of strangers; it brought joy into hearts; and it was all for a good cause.

Guests arrived 20 at a time in 10 seatings from as far away as Dallas and many points in between. Each seating was fed 10 courses based on a theme, including breakfast, lunch, seafood, pork, beef, fowl, dessert, classics, vegetarian and after-hours favorites. Each course was unique, paired with wine donated by brokers Clayton Bahr of Putnam Wines, Alex Kroblin of Thirst Wine Merchants, Rick Naifeh of Premium Brand Liquors, Megan Naifeh of Central Liquor and Tim Rosetano of Dynamic Brands. Ben E. Keith Foods donated ingredients and a refrigeration truck to act as de facto walk-in for the event. Linda Lee of Irma's Burger Shack coordinated the kitchen. Kyle Fleischfresser coordinated the wine, and Allie Fleischfresser organized reservations. Angel Stork managed the flawless service.

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by Dave Cathey
Food Editor
The Oklahoman's food editor, Dave Cathey, keeps his eye on culinary arts and serves up news and reviews from Oklahoma’s booming food scene.
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