Chef’s Dinner Auction Helps Fight Hunger


Journal Staff Tanya Manus

Fork Real Community Café continues its mission to feed people by hosting a mouth-watering chef’s dinner auction. Sunday is the deadline to purchase tickets for the culinary-themed fundraiser.

The Chef’s Dinner Auction will be held Nov. 5 at 5 p.m. at the Dahl Arts Center in Rapid City. Tickets are $50 per person. All proceeds from the event will support Fork Real Community Café’s ongoing efforts to reduce hunger and improve food security. Go to to buy tickets.

The Chef’s Dinner Auction brings together a variety of amateur and professional cooks and bakers, all of whom will have food available to enjoy at the fundraiser. Guests can bid on the prices for dinners and desserts that the chefs will prepare.

This is the first time that founders Dave and Rhonda Pearcy have held a fundraiser for their non-profit Fork Real Community Café and, like the café itself, Dave said the couple wanted to organize an event that came out of the ordinary.

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“It’s not a sit-down dinner,” Dave said. “Every chef will be there and everyone who has purchased tickets will be able to talk to the chefs. The chefs will bring some dishes from the (price) they advertise. »

Hosted by Helen Usera, the Chef’s Dinner Auction will open with a social hour where guests can taste the dishes and meet the chefs. A program begins at 6 p.m., followed by a live auction at 6:30 p.m. to bid on an assortment of gourmet prizes.

– Dinner of ham, creamy scalloped potatoes and dessert prepared by Chris Swarthout, Fountain Springs Church.

– Culinary adventure of smoked alligator with spicy potatoes and Mexican corn, prepared by Jason Golden, United States Air Force.

– Four or five special occasion cakes throughout 2023, baked by Vinnie Tomlin, the Pastry Princess. Tomlin, from Colorado, has over 40 years of culinary experience. She has guested on Discovery Channel’s “Home Matters”, Food Network’s “Unwrapped” and has been listed on “Faces to Watch” in Food Arts and Food & Beverage magazines.

– Four or five special occasion cakes throughout 2023, prepared by Brenda Pates, Jackalope Headquarters in Piedmont.

– Boil shrimp for up to 20 people at the Fork Real Community Café, prepared by five or more members of the Rush Hockey Team and its mascot, Nugget.

– Thanksgiving dinner of turkey, mashed potatoes, green beans, and pumpkin or apple pie for a family of 10, prepared by Tessie Hawkins of Fork Real Community Café.

– A personal cheesecake making session with Rhonda Pearcy of Fork Real Community Café. Fork Real currently sells 21 cheesecake flavors on its website as well as other flavors on its menu. Guests at the Chef’s Dinner Auction will be able to enjoy specialty cheesecakes created especially for this event. Throughout the Chef’s Dinner Auction, guests can bid on specialty cheesecakes in addition to bidding on the cheesecake making session.

Fork Real Community Café is the only paying cafe in Rapid City. Its goal is to provide farm-to-table fresh meals in a welcoming environment. The cafe at 324 St. Joseph St. serves breakfast Tuesday through Saturday and lunch Tuesday through Friday.

Since the cafe was incorporated in 2017, Dave Pearcy said it has served nearly 12,000 “gift meals”. These are meals that people have paid for by volunteering at the cafe, or someone else has paid for the meals. The cafe also serves 70-90 lunches each week that are not giveaway meals.

“We’re saying if you’re giving away free stuff, you can’t sustain that,” Dave said. “If someone can’t afford at least $2 for a meal, they can come in and volunteer for half an hour, have their meal and enjoy the rest of the day. It’s a sense of dignity on their part.

Fork Real Community Café was born out of an idea Rhonda Pearcy had to fill a need in the community. One in nine South Dakota suffers from food insecurity, meaning they don’t have consistent access to enough food to lead a healthy life.

None of the Pearcys had been in the restaurant or nonprofit world before opening the Fork Real Community Café. The cafe has been open for 5 and a half years and has been funded by private donations and grants. The cafe’s annual budget has reached $380,000 and funds raised from the Chef’s Auction Dinner will help the cafe continue its mission to address food insecurity.

“What you see is due to a vision from Rhonda and support from the community,” Dave said. “We are still there. … Fundraising is an opportunity to have more visibility. We’re going to bring in people who love to cook and it’s definitely a unique event.

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