Acclaimed Chefs Return for UH Five Star Sensation

Chefs Michael Symon and Matt Del Regno are some of the busiest guys we know, yet they’ve teamed up once again to execute University Hospitals Five Star Sensation. The event returns after a customary hiatus and will take place on June 15 at the eastern campus of Cuyahoga Community College. More than 50 chefs and vintners from across the country will converge in Cleveland for an evening unsurpassed in culinary variety.

The epic food-focused fundraiser has been going on since 1987.  The biennial event has raised more than $20 million for Seidman Cancer Center, and that mission is definitely part of the appeal for both chefs.

Michael Symon and his biggest fan—his mom.

Symon took over the reins as host chef in 2015, succeeding Wolfgang Puck, who led the event for 25 years.  Chef Symon splits his time between restaurants in Cleveland, Atlantic City, Detroit and, most recently, Las Vegas, where he’s just opened two restaurants at the Palms Casino Resort.

Five Star Sensation is a highly-anticipated, over-the-top event that is grounded in its mission to raise big dollars for innovative cancer therapies and care. Chef Symon is committed to Five Star Sensation for personal reasons—because cancer has touched his family. “Right after Wolfgang asked me, Liz’s dad (Michael’s father-in-law) found out he had esophageal cancer. He’s now made a full recovery,” he said. With no shortage of requests, Symon said that he finds himself supporting causes that have touched him, his family, or his staff, personally but said, “we wish we could do everything near and dear to us.”

Symon, armed with his signature affable demeanor and undying love for his hometown, appreciates the camaraderie exhibited at the event and looks forward to the creativity of the chefs, who come in from all over the country at Symon’s invitation to lend a hand.

Chef Doug Katz is back for another year in 2019.

The grand scale of Five Star Sensation is part of the appeal for guests, but making it run seamlessly requires months of preparation. This is where Chef Matt Del Regno of Levy Restaurants comes in. Del Regno, who has served as the event’s chef liaison for 10 years, coordinates everything, from reviewing ingredient lists, sourcing and ordering products, and setting up each station on site.

The preparation begins a full week prior to the actual event when the massive tents arrive. Del Regno’s team coordinates all of the individual chef stations so they are ready for action.  He also makes sure these visiting chefs see the best of Cleveland, coordinating visits to restaurants that may not be represented at the event. “Chefs are supportive of each other, and they enjoy getting out and about when they’re in town,” he said.

Del Regno says that he’s formed many professional connections and friendships, but it’s recently turned more personal. “My mother was diagnosed with cancer this past year, and we sought treatment at Seidman Cancer Center. The level of care she received was so far above what we had previously experienced. I am even more passionate than ever before,” he said.

Yummy food from Five Star 2017.

Attending Five Star Sensation is like a culinary trip around the U.S. because guests get to meet some of the most well-known chefs from around the country while sampling epic food and drink.  Visiting chefs include Brad Lettau and Frank Ostini (The Hitching Post, Napa); Celina Tio (The Belfry, Kansas City); Charles Voudrous (iPic Entertainment, Los Angeles); John Alers, (Flour & Barley, Las Vegas); Kelly English (Restaurant Iris, Memphis); Marc Vetri (Vetri Cucina, Philadelphia); Sam Choy (Poke to the Max, Hawaii); and Stephen Lewandowski (Harlan Social, Miami).

Cleveland will be represented by Douglas Katz (Fire), Chris Johnson (Cibreo), Robert Records (Lindey’s Lake House), Michael Schwartz and Vinnie Cimino (Michael’s Genuine – Cleveland), Jonathon Sawyer (Greenhouse Tavern); Jonathan Buchner (Barrington Golf Club); and Michael Symon (Lola, Mabels BBQ).

Students from Tri-C’s Hospitality School, along with chef/instructor Michelle Gaw, will lead the charge to create an exciting VIP experience in collaboration with Chef Steve Aheimer, executive chef for First Energy Stadium, and John Selick and Anthony Verona from Sodexo at University Hospitals. Volunteers play a critical role in the event as well, particularly during set up, getting everything ready for the nearly 1,000 guests.

Michelle Gaw and the Tri-C Hospitality Team lend a hand every year at the event.

Get your tickets to Five Star Sensation or learn more about how to sponsor by calling 216-844-0416 or going online here.

–Lisa Sands