March 23, 2013 at 17:55 PM EDT
Celebrity chef Michael Symon will lead Saint Martin's Gala celebration
Second Iron Chef in three years to headline University's annual fundraiser

LACEY, Wash., March 23, 2013 /PRNewswire/ -- Lift your forks and raise your wine glasses — Chef Michael Symon is coming to Saint Martin's University!

Symon, an Iron Chef and co-host of The Chew, will serve as the celebrity chef for the 2013 Saint Martin's Gala, an annual black-tie affair that raises funds for student scholarships. The Gala takes place Saturday, Nov. 2, at Marcus Pavilion on the University's Lacey campus.

Known for his award-winning culinary talent and effervescent personality, Symon will infuse the University's eighth annual Gala with his soulful cooking style. The chef will prepare a signature gourmet dinner from the on-stage Viking kitchen, delivering his unique brand of epicurean entertainment. Gala guests can look forward to a menu created exclusively for the event, along with specially selected wine and an exciting live auction.

Symon is a decorated chef, with culinary honors that include The James Beard Foundation Award for Best Chef Great Lakes (2009) and Food & Wine Magazine's Best New Chef Award (1998). A Cleveland native, he has won critical acclaim for his four Midwestern restaurants: Lola, Lolita, Roast and B Spot. Lola, named one of "America's Best Restaurants" by Gourmet Magazine in 2000, today is considered the flagship of Cleveland's dining scene.

As a television personality, Symon is perhaps best known as a cast member of The Chew, an ABC daytime talk show that centers on food- and lifestyle-related topics. He first took the national television audience by storm in 2007, when he competed on the Food Network's The Next Iron Chef and won, securing his place as an Iron Chef on the hit series Iron Chef America.

In 2010, Symon appeared on the Food Network's Food Feuds and Cook like an Iron Chef, competed on Iron Chef America, and judged the third season of The Next Iron Chef. In 2012, Symon published his second book, Carnivore: 120 Recipes for Meat Lovers, which showcases his passion for meat dishes, particularly pork; his first cookbook, Michael Symon's Live to Cook: Recipes and Techniques to Rock Your Kitchen, was published in 2009. Symon's Suppers, his most recent television venture, premiered on the Cooking Channel in January 2012.

Symon's unbridled enthusiasm on stage and in the kitchen has won him a devoted following among viewers of The Chew. He co-hosts the show with four others, including Mario Batali, who served as the celebrity chef of the 2011 Gala.

Both Symon and Batali are Iron Chefs, observes Roy Heynderickx, Ph.D., president of Saint Martin's University.

"Bringing two Iron Chefs to the Gala stage within three years is an extraordinary achievement, both for Saint Martin's University and for the South Puget Sound community," says Heynderickx. "It reflects the growing reputation of the event, which for the third straight year will feature a high-profile chef and decidedly gourmet flavor."

"Michael's marvelous sense of humor and fun, combined with the high standards he holds himself to when it comes to his craft, will bring Marcus Pavilion to life and no doubt inspire our guests and the many students who volunteer at the Gala," adds Armandino Batali, a Saint Martin's alumnus who has served as Gala co-chair since 2011. "We are eager to welcome Michael to Saint Martin's and share with him our rich Benedictine tradition of hospitality."

As much a philanthropist as a chef, Symon lends his culinary skills to charitable projects close to his heart. He hosted the annual Farm Aid benefit concert in 2010, becoming the first chef ever to do so. Autism Speaks, Share Our Strength and Cleveland's Urban Community Schools have also enjoyed Symon's support.

"There is a wonderful congruence between Michael's generous philanthropic spirit and our commitment to building scholarship funds through the Gala," says Heynderickx. "We will not stop in our quest to ensure the excellent education taking place at Saint Martin's is available to as many deserving students as possible, regardless of their economic situation."

Last year's Gala, featuring chef Guy Fieri, proved to be a record-setting fundraiser for the University, raising more than $700,000, while generating more than $190,000 alone from the Feed-A-Mind paddle raise for student scholarships.

The 2013 Gala co-chairs are Armandino '59 and Marilyn Batali, and Rick and Pam Panowicz. The presenting sponsor is Bon Appetit Management Company.

Individual ticket and select table sales open to the public May 1. Individual tickets for the event are $400 and tables range from $3,500 to $50,000. Availability of individual tickets will be limited; those who plan to purchase tickets are encouraged to coordinate with others in advance to buy a table. Tables at the $5,000 to $50,000 level are available now as are sponsorship opportunities. For more information about table sales and sponsorships, contact Rosanne Nichols, vice president of institutional advancement at Saint Martin's University, at 360-412-6138 or rnichols@stmartin.edu.

For more details about the Saint Martin's 2013 Gala, visit the event website at www.stmartin.edu/gala or contact Saint Martin's University Office of Institutional Advancement at 360-486-8885 or gala@stmartin.edu.

Join the conversation! Follow the buzz about Saint Martin's Gala on Twitter using the hashtag #SMUGala.

For more information about Michael Symon, visit lolabistro.com.

Saint Martin's University is an independent four-year, coeducational university located on a wooded campus of more than 300 acres in Lacey, Washington. Established in 1895 by the Catholic Order of Saint Benedict, the University is one of 14 Benedictine colleges and universities in the United States and Canada, and the only one west of the Rocky Mountains. Saint Martin's University prepares students for successful lives through its 23 majors and seven graduate programs spanning the liberal arts, business, education, nursing and engineering. Saint Martin's welcomes more than 1,100 undergraduate students and 400 graduate students from many ethnic and religious backgrounds to its Lacey campus, and 300 more undergraduate students to its extension campuses located at Joint Base Lewis-McChord and Centralia College. Visit the Saint Martin's University website at www.stmartin.edu.

Contacts:

Rosanne Nichols
Vice president of institutional advancement
360-412-6138; rnichols@stmartin.edu

Jennifer Fellinger
Vice president of marketing and communications
360-438-4332; jfellinger@stmartin.edu

SOURCE Saint Martin's University

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