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Pittsburgh culinary leaders combine talents for tribute to chef Thomas Keller

| Sunday, June 15, 2014, 9:00 p.m.

There are dinners that are just one more harried event to rush through in order to get on to the next duty. And there are dinners that become a string of leisurely moments magnificently linked together by the company you keep and courses you savor.

FromGarden to Table defined the latter for 360 guests lucky enough to score a seat for the Pittsburgh Botanic Garden's highly anticipated Gala Tribute to famed chef Thomas Keller. The chef and author, who has business and family ties to Western Pennsylvania, is best known for his restaurant The French Laundry in Yountville, Calif.

Selling out months in advance, not a single ticket to the June 12 event was left to be had by the time the invitations were ready to be mailed.

“I had friends calling me two weeks ago and I had to say, ‘Sorry!' ” said Jeff Broadhurst, who co-chaired the evening with his wife, Sheryl, and John Miles.

Held at the Duquesne Club, the event brought together a dream team of our city's culinary leaders: Keith Coughenour, the club's executive chef; Justin Severino, chef and co-owner of Cure; Eleven's executive chef Derek Stevens; Duquesne University executive chef Tim Fetter; and Vanilla Pastry Shop owner April Simpson. Each shared a solitary goal: Create a meal that embodied and celebrated a bountiful garden that guaranteed resistance was futile.

“If we have a splendid chef, we're going to throw caution to the wind,” said Catherine Loevner.

The evening, which raised $300K, toasted the completion of Phase 1 of the garden. Opening to the public on Aug. 1, the space includes 60 acres of serene woodland trails, open meadows, a restored 1870s barn and an 1784 log cabin and nearby apple orchard.

VIPs included Botanic Garden prezGreg Nace, board prexy Bev and Steve Elliott, Dr. Ron and Judy Linaburg, Cate Linn, Susan and Alan Citron, certified master chef Rich Rosendale, Farmer Lee Jones from The Chef's Table in Ohio, and Nancy and Ed Byrnes.

— Kate Benz

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