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Dollars for Donnell

Side Dishes: Leunig's chef whips up a supper party for a good cause


Published June 4, 2008 at 12:23 p.m.

The live auction may not have been the highlight of R.U.1.2's Queer Community Dinner and fundraiser last Saturday - that honor was reserved for the evening's snarky keynote speaker, syndicated sex columnist Dan Savage - but the bidding did get a little hotter than expected.

When a five-course dinner for eight at the winner's home, prepared by Chef Donnell Collins of Leunig's, hit the docket, the bidding began at $500. But the prize's actual worth was much higher. "I value the food at $1500," Collins says. "My time I don't really add in there."

By the time the bidding war subsided, Collins' cooking chops had raised $3000 for the organization, more than twice the amount her contribution brought in last year, she relates. "I was kind of expecting a good fight [this year], because I was chatting with people beforehand and they were telling me things like, 'You're gonna be mine,'" she says. Nothing like being a hot property!

Before she shows up at the winner's house with knives in hand, Collins will hook up with the lucky - and apparently loaded - eaters to customize the meal. "The sky's the limit," she says. "It's fun to piece a menu together based on their favorite flavors." For that much moolah, let's hope they like truffles, lobster and champagne.

Happily, the chef doesn't have to pay for the fancy stuff out of pocket: Leunig's donates the food. The restaurant also chips in for two other nonprofit fundraisers to which Collins donates her services: March of Dimes and Vermont CARES.