By Great Performances

Each year, we’re honored to plan and cater The Sylvia Center’s summer benefit at Katchkie Farm. Over the years, the event has evolved, most recently becoming a farm-to-picnic-table (or blanket!) celebration in the Learning Garden at the farm. This year, 250 people attended and were able to enjoy the beauty of our farm from the fields full of summer vegetables and sunflowers to the Learning Garden framed by the rolling Catskills on one side and woods on the other.

With a menu curated by Chef Georgette Farkas and featuring ingredients sourced directly from the fields, it was a delicious event that highlighted the best of summer flavors. Read on to learn more about the experience. To donate to The Sylvia Center and learn more about future events, visit their website by clicking here.

It was a beautifully warm, sunny day in July, and one could feel the anticipation and excitement as guests walked along the path (or rode in one of the golf carts!) flanked by fields of sunflowers. As guests registered for the event and bought raffle tickets, happy chatter turned to exclamations and warm hugs as familiar faces were spotted and friends reunited. The Sylvia Center Executive Director Jonathan Cetnarski was on hand along with CEO and Founder of Great Performances, Liz Neumark, to meet guests and towards the registration table Guests were greeted at the registration table by The Sylvia Center team, including Executive Director Jonathan Cetnarski, and by Liz Neumark, CEO and Founder of Great Performances. After registering and joining the raffle, they proceeded to the food tent where they picked up their picnic bags and headed to the Learning Garden where there was plenty of space to spread out and enjoy their feast. Drinks were served under the shade of the Pavilion, which also hosts the pizza oven we used last year. This year, Rafi Bildner brought his Hilltown Hot Pies pizza truck and served his pizzas – always a fan favorite!


Delicious food highlighting the best that summer in New York has to offer was packed in cooler bags that guests picked up on their way to their tables. The menu included fresh, flavorful foods like NY Collection of Cheese & Charcuterie, Dried Apricots, Assorted Flatbreads; Gazpacho; Parker House Rolls (cultured local butter); Sweet Pepper Roast Chicken (cippolini onions, smoked paprika aioli); Corn and Cherry Tomato Succotash (edamame, swiss chard, feta cheese, roasted sunflower seeds, lemon-basil miso vinaigrette); Roasted Sweet Yellow Peppers (cherry tomatoes, black olives, capers, anchovy, yellow raisins, basil); Watermelon & Radish Salad – featuring both watermelon and watermelon radishes – (kale, cucumber, black beans, ginger lime vinaigrette); Lemon Grilled Baby Zucchini (whole wheat apricot couscous); our fan favorite Eggplant Chermoula; and Peach – Blackberry Crumble Bars.

As a special thank you to our guests, Farmer Jon picked cherry tomatoes fresh from the fields and we paired them with a savory basil parmesan pesto.

Rafi Bildner debuted his Hilltown Hot Pies pizza truck and served made-to-order Neapolitan style pizza with his own artisanal, wild-yeasted dough featuring produce picked from the farm and local cheeses and meats.

2020 will be a year that none of us will ever be able to forget, yet we cannot forget the health and nutrition disparities of our next generation who live in under-resourced communities throughout New York City and in Columbia County. The Sylvia Center provides young people with hands-on knowledge, skills-building and inspiration to chart a more healthy future for themselves and their families. This work has grown even more important and impactful during this year of unprecedented circumstances. Not only did The Sylvia Center transition to digital programming to connect with their students safely during the pandemic and beyond, but they also started a fresh meal fund. Looking ahead to 2021, there is an acute and growing need for their programming. To do this they need your help and resources to accelerate their programming.


The Sylvia Center is excited to host our Art of Cooking Virtual Fundraiser in just two short weeks, and we are thrilled to have two incredible special guests join us for the evening!

This hour-long event full of fun and engaging moments as we celebrate our mission and commitment to our communities.


Chef Wu

The Sylvia Center is thrilled to have Chef Wu 2019 Masterchef contestant –  close out the show with a delicious cooking demonstration perfect for Fall!

As a New York City public school teacher of 10 years, Chef Wu not only teaches middle schoolers math and literacy but also partners with The Sylvia Center cooking program teaching young chefs how to make plant based meals. 

Chef Wu

Joining us as emcee for the evening is Jamie McDonald, TV host for Conde Nast Traveller, Travel & Leisure and, most recently, the Wall Street Journal. 

Jamie has helped raise money for charities such as UNICEF, and more local institutions like the Joyce Theatre, New York. He has a passion for New York eateries, and is excited to help The Sylvia Center fund its cooking-based nutrition education program. 

Every ticket sponsors students and families to participate in our virtual cooking classes and receive fresh food boxes, building healthier communities one plate at a time.

Plus, your purchase of a VIP Level ticket (or above!) gives you exclusive access to two of our virtual holiday cooking classes! 

Your support enables The Sylvia Center to continue its work delivering high impact programming while helping kids develop a toolkit of skills necessary to be successful in the classroom and in the kitchen.

This year, because our fundraiser will be virtual, your generous support will be 100% tax deductible and a portion of the proceeds will be used to fund fresh food meal kits for The Sylvia Center kids and their families.