Chefs collaborate for Freedom a la Cart charity dinner

Beth Stallings, Columbus Crave

Tickets are now on sale for Freedom a la Cart's dinner with a purpose, Eat Up. The fundraiser, which benefits the nonprofit catering company and its mission to lead victims of human trafficking on a path to freedom, returns on Saturday, Nov. 14, and will again feature multiple courses crafted by up-and-coming chefs.

Leading the team this year is Skillet chef Patrick Caskey. He'll be sharing the kitchen with Tommy Gallo of Gallo's Kitchen, Julian Menaged of The Crest, Sangeeta Lakhani of The Table and Dustin Brafford of Opus in Denver, Colorado. Brafford, the former culinary head for A&R Creative Group, led the Eat Up team last year before moving to Denver in 2015. Notable bartender Cris Dehlavi of M at Miranova will craft drinks for the cocktail hour preceding dinner.

"I wanted to have a variety of cooking techniques, but with the same level of passion for food and utilizing locally sourced foods instead of reaching too far out of state," Caskey says, adding all the chefs on the docket share this mindset. "They support local and are very seasonally driven."

Some dishes include a blue crab, crawfish and shrimp etouffee prepared by Gallo, a roasted apple and cauliflower bisque by Brafford and fall root vegetables with brisket and sorghum gastrique by Caskey. Each tasting course will be accompanied with a drink pairing. Similar to last year, guests will be seated at long communal tables with 300 expected to attend.

Last year's Eat Up event was the first of its kind for Freedom a la Cart. The $100,000 in proceeds from the 2014 event allowed the catering company to expand its reach, says executive director Jan Trent. Last year, the nonprofit employed six survivors. Now, the team includes 22. The funds raised will help them continue to refine workforce development programs, employment and support services to victims of human trafficking. In the next 12 months, Trent hopes they'll be ready to open a brick and mortar cafe.

"We really need and want to grow our catering and box lunch business that will help us as we move to a brick and mortar," Trent says. "People who decide they are going to get catering from us, they just don't buy a meal. The way they can support these women is include us on their list of alternate vendors and suppliers. That is just an incredible thing to do. And the food is outstanding."

Caskey agrees. "The most important thing, the biggest thing, is the cause itself," he says. "Freedom a la Cart, they do an excellent job taking in donations and applying it to their effort. Being able to take my skillset and do something you can actually see is helping others is fantastic.

"That's enough reason for me do it. Being able to work with all these others chefs is just icing on the cake."

Tickets are $150 per person. The event is Saturday, Nov. 14 at St. Charles Preparatory School. For more on the event or to buy tickets, visit Freedom a la Cart's website here.