Chefs Against Childhood Cancer: The Great Chefs Event

Chef Marc Vetri discusses the sixth annual Great Chefs Event in Philadelphia to fight childhood cancer

From left: Marc Vetri, co-founder Jeff Benjamin, and chef Jeff Michaud.

From June 10th to June 12th lemonade stands across the U.S. will raise money to fight childhood cancer during the 8th Annual Lemonade Days. The tradition began with Alexandra Flynn Scott, a four-year-old who fundraised for a cure to childhood cancer with a lemonade stand. She died of cancer in 2004, but her inspiration didn't. Lemonade Days raises more than $1 million for cancer research each year. Others have joined the cause, including Chef Marc Vetri who has three Philadephia restaurants.

Shortly after Alex's death, Chef Vetri hosted a dinner for her parents and her foundation. In the dinner's sixth year, the Vetri Foundation's The Great Chefs Event has become an annual tradition that has raised almost $2 million to benefit Alex's Lemonade Stand Foundation. On June 14th in Philadelphia, 40 chefs including Jose Garces, Tom Colicchio, Jeff Michaud, Chris Bianco, Paul Kahan, Jon Shook, Vinny Dotolo, and more will cook for thousands of people to raise money. In this interview Vetri explains how he got involved and what he hopes to accomplish this year.

This is the sixth year of The Great Chefs Event. Would you explain what it is?

Alex's Lemonade Stand is a foundation that was formed by Alexander Scott who basically lost her life to neuroblastoma. When she was four-years-old she started a lemonade stand outside of her home to raise money for pediatric cancer research. And obviously, the idea started to really take off. Before she died she had raised $1 million. And her mother and father have really taken this foundation to the next level. We met them right after Alex lost her life and we decided to have a small event at the restaurant for her foundation and we raised like a $1,000. Since then the event has snowballed into this mass of 40 chefs from around the world. This year we hope to raise about $1 million. It’s a little bit larger than when we started.


And how specifically did you get involved?

We actually just met them and heard about their story. We thought it would be nice to host a small event. So we hosted that event and we just started to develop a relationship with them. And the year after that we were talking and we decided, "Why don’t we have an event that’s a little bit larger and invite several more chefs, and we’ll have an evening not at the restaurant but another place and sell tickets and see what happens?" And we raised $25,000 that year. And we were like let’s do it next year but invite some out-of-state chefs.


Who’s involved, and what are they doing?

You know, chefs are always the ones to sort of always heed the call to help. Whenever anybody needs to raise any money for anyone, they're like, "Well, we can have a food event." And we’re always happy to help. This is one of those events that you know... chefs get invited to a lot of events, but not all of them are as meaningful as an event like this because you can actually see results. You can talk to Alex’s mom and dad and know exactly where the money’s going. We see the research that is being funded. We hear back about the results of it. All of these chefs... I almost have to fight them away because I have so many others who would love to come and help with the event but I don’t have the room for it. It's really hard to say no, but at the end of the day I really can’t have 100 chefs.


And where is the event taking place?

At the Urban Outfitters down by The Navy Yard.


How much money have The Great Chefs Events raised so far?

We’ve raised almost $2 million so far with these. We sort of went up every year, from $25,000 to $75,000 to $150,000 to $300,000 to $500,000 and this year we’re hoping to raise $1 million. So we’ve been definitely adding every year. And we do others. This event has spawned like events. Some of the chefs who have attended have then hosted their own events. Suzanne Goin in L.A. was so inspired by the event that she held her own event last fall and we raised $250,000 there. Jonathan Waxman who's in New York, he’s having an event this winter. And they were all kind of spawned from the event here.


What can people do to help even if they can't make it to the event?

They can go to the foundation’s website and make a donation.


What kind of food can we expect?

There’s a huge range of 40 world-class chefs all making one of their signature items. There’s going to be great food — nothing short of spectacular.


Will you be making something?

I’m always running around and organizing and we have enough food anyway.


What are you looking forward to ingredient- or dish-wise this summer?

I always love to get really awesome tomatoes and really awesome corn. Those are usually the things that I wait for. I kind of work around them.