A night in Wonderland

It was torture not being able to take a bite or sip from the tabletops at An Alice Affair on Tuesday. The other two judges and I had to go on looks at the Durham event, which raised money for the Inter-Faith Food Shuttle. Fourteen area members of the National Association of Catering Executives competed in three categories with an Alice in Wonderland theme.

The winner in the Wonderland category (no spending limit) was the Washington Duke Inn and Floral Dimensions of Durham. It’s hard to describe the design, and it was even harder to photograph. The design kind of circled around, and told different parts of the Alice story in different places. It packed a lot into the 10-foot by 10-foot space each Wonderland contestant was allowed, but didn’t go over the top into kitsch.

Other categories were Down the Rabbit Hole, where participants were limited to spending no more than $150; and High Rollers, where the scenes were atop tall cocktail tables. Entrants in each category had four hours to trick out their spots.

I talked with Jill Staton Bullard, executive director for the Food Shuttle. She said that financial donations are managing to hold steady, but that the amount of food the shuttle recovers from restaurants is way down. Restaurant are cutting costs, so there’s less food leftover.

I did get to eat, of course. The food at the event was prepared by members of the Food Shuttle’s Culinary Job Training Program, which educated disadvantaged folks for work in food service. There was chicken tagine, fresh tortillas with shrimp and chicken, a lovely spinach salad with diced sweet potatoes, and rabbit stew. Hmmm…I don’t think I saw the March Hare last night…

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