Executive Chef Dane Mechlin refers to Italian food as “rich but with a lot of simplicity.” His idea of an Italian Experience fundraiser, hosted by the Washington Open Parent Faculty Group (WOPFG), extended beyond a pot of spaghetti and a plate of garlic bread. Filling the buffet tables at the American Legion Post 419 on the evening of Feb. 26 were about twenty of Mechlin’s creations. They included bruschetta, crab cakes, mushroom risotto, polenta, lasagna, braised beef shanks, a vegetable quiche, Florentine style roast pork loin, Caesar salad, and grilled vegetables. Mechlin and about 24 parents from Washington Open volunteered to prepare for this dinner gala through the course of the day, with Mechlin and two other parents even starting their cooking duties the day before. Over 100 parents came.
“This event is about community, having fun, giving parents an opportunity to perform and raising money for our programs at Washington Open,” says Barbara Berman, principal of Washington Open Elementary School. When Berman emceed the adult talent show after dinner, she wore a high black wig and a purple gingham dress designed by parent Lorrie McPheeters.
“The goal is to raise $10,000 during this evening,” says Anne Kepner , a parent and the Ways & Means chair on the WOPFG. “The reason we decided that the Italian dinner and talent show would be enjoyed by our community is because we have a talented group of parents. Our parents love to perform and I thought we could have a dinner show. We don’t go around peddling candy bars or wrapping paper because those activities don’t create community. This Italian Experience and adult talent show seems consistent with our objective to create community.”
The event also created satisfied appetites.
“Chef Dane’s mushroom risotto was my favorite; it’s absolutely delicious,” says alumni parent and current school staff member Mary Erickson. “Chef Dane put so much of his heart and soul into doing this.”
“I really enjoyed the chicken with the pear,” says parent Stacie Murdoch. “The balsamic vinegar and the pear gave the chicken a sweet tart flavor.”
Teacher Andrea Burrows’ chocolate mousse, creamy and decadent, also received compliments.
Performing in the talent show were parents, alumni parents, faculty and staff. The acts included a trombone solo, vocal performances with accompanying instruments, dance routines, lip syncing and a magic show. Drawing laughs was a simulated performance of a synchronized men’s swim team with circle forming, leg raises and a shark attack.
“My favorite part of tonight is the talent show,” says parent Anna Welsh. “It’s a chance for the parents to come out and be silly. Without the kids here, we can really just connect.”