From Garden to Table: A Gala Tribute to Thomas Keller

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When and Where: Thursday at the Duquesne Club.

Why: A sold-out crowd of more than 350 attended the feast catered by all-star chefs from Pittsburgh not only to honor French Laundry chef Thomas Keller but also to support the Pittsburgh Botanic Garden, the first phase of which opens Aug. 1. "Phase one of the garden has taken a lot of work, and now we can all enjoy this important beginning," said Greg Nace, garden president.

Surprises Abound: Master Chef Rich Rosendale, formerly of The Greenbrier resort, surprised Mr. Keller by introducing him at the tribute. "Rarely do you see a chef who has such profound impact on generations to follow," he said. The Friends of the Botanic Garden also presented a $10,000 donation in Mr. Keller's honor to support Ment'or. Excitement over festive desserts and the live auction, directed by Farmer Lee Jones, was almost drowned out by the spirited crowd. But a passionate young couple, David and Megan Nicklas, saved the day by bidding on two auction items, donating $34,000 to the Botanic Garden. The event raised more than $300,000.

And Now a Moment with ... Thomas Keller:

Why Pittsburgh? This is a great event, and when they asked me to come back to Pittsburgh, where my father was born, it felt good to do something for this city.

What is your favorite food? Roasted chicken, he said, smiling while sipping an espresso. I like the simplicity.

Why do you love to cook? I feel an emotional connection with food. It brings back wonderful memories of times as a child. I think chefs and cooks at all levels are nurturers. That's why we do what we do. We want to give to others.

#SEEN: Event co-chair John Miles, Kathy and Louis Testoni, Nancy Byrnes (gala event planner) with husband Ed, David and Gabriela Porges (in Lela Rose), Reid and Abby Ruttenberg, Ronald and Judith Linaburg, Clark Nicklas and Jan Kerr, Joe and Judi Nocito, Keith and Mary Martin, Dick and Ginny Simmons, Samuel and Cate Pollina, Catherine Loevner, Bill and Jamie Sarris, Nachum Golan and Steve Hough, Rocky and Jan Bleier, Dr. Phil and Wendy Pollice, Bill Slattery, Vince and Rita Deluzio, Mary McKinney with parents Don and Patsy, Alex and Silvia Speyer, Peggy McKnight (in Zac Posen), Cate Linn, Alan and Susan Citron, George and Meg Cheever, and Ken and Pam McCrory.

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