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If you’re unable to think of anything better than eating stellar food and drinking luscious wines from some of Orlando’s most acclaimed restaurants for under $200, how about this: eating and drinking creations from those restaurants for under $200 to benefit the United Way. At the 2008 Chef’s Gala on April 5, hosted by Epcot and organized by the Heart of Florida United Way, those astronomical gastronomical dreams can come true while, in the process, helping realize the dreams of those in need.

In its 16th year, the event has evolved to include some of Orlando’s most exclusive restaurants, including Hemingway’s, Citricos, Primo and Todd English’s bluezoo, where a dinner for two could easily push your credit card past the gala’s (relatively) modest ticket price of $175. A few newcomers will pepper the landscape of the event: popular gastropubs the Ravenous Pig, Raglan Road and the new Funky Monkey wine bar. And don’t worry, there will be entertainment to complete the evening: Chef Jean-Louis of Disney's Royal Plaza Hotel is planning a stunning pyrotechnical display showcasing his signature bananas Foster for dessert.

This year, organizers of the inevitable silent auction have focused less on stuff and more on experiences, such as a Miami hotel stay or lunch with an astronaut at Kennedy Space Center. With over 197 programs funneled through 97 agencies connected to the United Way in Central Florida, the Chef’s Gala isn’t just a place to network and hobnob; the money collected from ticket sales stays here in Central Florida to benefit the locals.

The Chef’s Gala has all the ingredients for a memorable night: an auction filled with adventures, party favors that include a recipe collection from the restaurants at the event, and most important, a very full stomach.

(For ticket information, contact Leigh Smith at 407-835-0900, ext. 238.)

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