Morgan Freeman Dinner Raises $80,000 for Emerald Coast Children’s Advocacy Center
Sandestin, FL (July 3, 2012)…Forty-five guests from the local area and across the country, arrived at the home of Stephan and Lori Karian in Burnt Pine at Sandestin Golf and Beach Resort. The exclusive dinner, held in June, was prepared by renowned area chefs with the guest of honor being none other than the academy award-winning actor, Morgan Freeman. Wine aficionados Michael and Valerie Thompson, also Sandestin residents, began organizing and hosting parties in their home that over the years has officially become the Chi Chi Miguel Throwdown to benefit numerous Gulf Coast charities. This past April, the 6th Annual Chi Chi Miguel Throwdown was comprised of numerous events which began with Emeril Lagasse sharing his culinary expertise at Lovelace Interiors in Destin, Florida. Other events included a Sip ‘n’ Shop for the ladies at participating boutiques along Scenic Corridor 30-A, a golf tournament at Kelly Plantation, and the grand finale, an outdoor barbeque competition at the Thompsons’ home. Five teams competed, including guest of honor Emeril Lagasse, with celebrity judges naming the best barbeque team and guests voting a People’s Choice winner. An integral part of the Throwdown is a prize bevy of unique live auction items including a Hawaiian vacation, Napa Valley tourings and tastings, George Rodrigue art, dinner with Morgan Freeman, and more. The Throwdown hosted 125 exclusive guests who opened their hearts and their wallets to make the event a remarkable success, raising an astonishing $528,444.
That brings us back to the heart of the story. A dinner with Morgan Freeman was auctioned for $80,000 with one hundred percent of the proceeds directly benefiting the Emerald Coast Children’s Advocacy Center. In late June, the Karians graciously hosted a stellar evening where guests enjoyed one-on-one visits with Morgan Freeman, entertainment by Geoff McBride who starred on NBC’s The Voice, and a 5-course wine dinner. Well-known area chefs from Stinky’s Fish Camp/Blue Mountain Catering Jim Richard, Todd Misener and Brannon Janca, together with David Cunningham of “V” Seagrove, prepared the sumptuous dinner. Wine pairings were provided by Dan Kosta, partner of Kosta Browne Winery from the Russian River Valley, Sonoma County, California. Sysco generously donated the gourmet dinner and Freeman donated his time for his appearance for the Throwdown. “We were quite mesmerized by Morgan Freeman and his generosity,” commented hostess Lori Karian. “He literally spent time with everyone. Our guests thoroughly enjoyed the evening; in fact, they even started dancing during the appetizers while Morgan Freeman sang along with Geoff McBride. The most rewarding component of the evening is that everything benefited the needs of the Emerald Coast Children’s Advocacy Center.”
Everyone’s had a special dinner guest over the years, but for Lori and Stephan Karian, it was Academy Award winner Morgan Freeman who dropped by for dinner Saturday.
“I’ve done a lot of dinners in the past, but I’ve never had that type of a star coming,” said Lori. “I wanted it to be special.”
The Karians opened the doors of their Burnt Pine home to 40 guests for an evening of fine dining, Kosta Browne wine and charity fundraising. The night benefitted the Emerald Coast Children’s Advocacy Center, which aims to prevent child abuse and neglect and protect children in Okaloosa and Walton counties.
Saturday’s dinner was the icing on the cake for the annual Chi Chi Miguel Throwdown, which has become a tradition for a group of hard-working friends in Sandestin. As part of Michael and Valerie Thompson's 6th annual Throwdown, a variety of one-of-a-kind lots were up for grabs in a live auction.
This year's event raised $500,000 for charity with the Morgan Freeman Dinner bringing in $80,000 alone.
As for the dinner, the attendees gladly paid $2,000 a piece to rub elbows with the "Shawshank Redemption" star, and he was gracious for their contributions.
“He was outside taking pictures with every single person including the servers, the chefs and all the guests,” Lori said. "He was just really sweet with everyone."
Freeman even arrived at the party early so he could meet the Karian family and take photographs.
“My son heard us talking about the party, and I honestly didn’t think (the kids) knew who Morgan was, and my son said ‘you mean God is coming to dinner at our house?’ " Lori said of her son's reference to the character Freeman played in the movie "Bruce Almighty. “They were all giddy.”
Guests arrived by valet and walked the red carpet as they were greeted by a lavishly decorated home, turquoise centerpieces, sequined linens, glasses of champagne and live music by local entertainers Hans McMiniman and Geoff McBride, who recently represented Santa Rosa Beach on the hit reality TV show “The Voice.”
People couldn't help but dance, Lori said.
"The music was great and everybody started dancing and having a good time," Lori told The Sun.
As for the menu, guests were treated to the culinary creations of Chefs Jim Richard, Todd Misener and Brannon Janeca of Stinky’s Fish Camp, and Chef David Cunningham of “V.”
The menu included Foie Gras, pork belly and a grilled peach tart, paupiettes of snapper filled with crawfish, sautéed veal tenderloin medallions, and hand-rolled Pappardelle pasta.
“I don’t even like snapper, but it was delicious,” Lori said. “They just did a great job.”
The meal was topped off with a chocolate cherry blackout, and the entire meal was complimented by the wines of Dan Kosta, of Kosta Browne Wines out of California and the Sonoma County. Kosta's pinot noir was named Wine of the Year in 2011 by Wine Spectator Magazine.
With the dinner party less than a week in the rearview mirror, Lori and Valerie said they have already begun to think about next year's event, and they hope they would be able to have Morgan Freeman as the guest of honor once again. Freeman also dined in Destin last year.
"He was just so gracious," Lori said. "I would definitely do this again — not to mention that all of the proceeds go to the Children's Advocacy Center, which really needs our support."