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Published: Monday, 3/20/2000

Toledo's Taste of the Nation helps feed the hungry


Last night you could literally chew your way from one end of the Valentine Theatre's Grand Lobby to the other - and still find more wondrous culinary inventions in the Historic Lobby adjacent.

Attendance soared by 6 p.m. as Taste of the Nation, the wonderful chef's chatauqua set up shop in Toledo. Hundreds of formally attired guests turned noshing into an art form while helping feed those to whom plain old grub is most welcome.

Even the floral arrangements were edible: Keith Brooks tucked cabbages, celery, whole cauliflower, huge leeks, and red peppers into his dramatic d├ęcor.

Star chefs Matthew Koury and Paul Minnillo presided energetically over tables where their complex concoctions drew oohs and ahs, while Mary Beth Cothern watched her tiny, cream-filled profiteroles fly off the table.

Sax whizbang Joe Vincelli and soul goddess Doreen Robideaux and her Soul Kitchen group supplied musical calories.

Annette Bunkers in a smashing deep red knit coat-dress combo from Hamburg, Germany, and Michelle Garrity, in long tulle skirt and body-hugging top in taupe, looked too sleek to have been indulging - but they were. Laura Harris was exotic in a gold silk two-piece punjabe purchased during a recent trip to India.

Co-chairs Labib Hajjar, with wife and helpmeet Karen; Dean Kasperzak, and Steve Thomas hope to surpass last year's $86,000 local contribution to groups which help feed the hungry.

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