Originally started in 2010, Chefs’ Night Out run a series of yearly galas and pop-up dinners hosted by chefs with all proceeds going to charity. The charity in question is Tŷ Hafan – a children’s hospice network for families in Wales. Founded by David Loosemoore, whose daughter was introduced to Tŷ Hafan after being diagnosed with a rare, life-limiting brain disorder, the inaugural Chefs’ Night Out took place at Holland House in Cardiff with support from well-known chefs including James Sommerin, Hywel Jones and Stephen Terry.
A roaring success, the event has progressed from a simple ticketed dinner to a feasting extravaganza – the event in January 2015 saw fifteen different chefs cooking at a gala dinner for 150 people, with a chef auction to raise extra funds. ‘It was just crazy’ says chef Will Holland (of Coast restaurant in Saundersfoot) who was cooking at the event. ‘There were fifteen chefs in one kitchen, all cooking a separate menu for a table of ten diners’.
Logistics aside, the auction itself brought out the competitive edge in the chefs: ‘there was quite a lot of rivalry between the chefs, seeing who would be bid for the most. We were all on roughly the same level, and my table raised £5000 for me to cook for them again, but then Ping went for over £14,000 and blew us all out of the water!’ Ping Coombes, the special guest chef, was no doubt a familiar face to many of the diners having just won Masterchef 2014.
Rivalries aside, Will says it was ‘good fun in the kitchen’ and feels very privileged to have been part of such a worthwhile event, with over £125,000 raised on the night alone. The chef is clearly moved by the cause, stating that he is ‘deeply humbled ‘ both to have taken part in such an event and by the work of the charity and the people involved. ‘The way they go about it is really fantastic’ he says, and recalls a girl he met at the event who had really benefited from the help of Tŷ Hafan, both personally in dealing with a life-limiting heart condition, and through the support it gave her family: ‘a complete lifeline’.
The popularity of the gala has proven so great that Chefs’ Night Out have also started hosting yearly pop-ups on a smaller (but no less impressive) scale. The 2015 pop-up will be held in October at the stunning Grove at Narberth, with four top chefs serving up an eight course tasting menu. Cooking for the event again, Will is being joined in the kitchen by chefs Allister Barsby (Gidleigh Park), Hywel Jones (Lucknam Park), and the much-lauded Gareth Ward (Ynyshir Hall).