Evening of Fine Food Raises $160K for QCP

By Celia Bernhardt | cbernhardt@queensledger.com

Over 600 Queens residents came out on Feb. 27 to celebrate the Queens Center for Progress’s 28th annual Evening of Fine Food. 

Hosted at Terrace on the Park in Flushing Meadows, the evening featured scores of local restaurants, caterers, bakeries and more, each with their own booth dolling out samples throughout the night. Attendees could also take part in a Silent Auction, casino games, and a photo booth. 

The night brought in over $160,000 to support QCP’s work of assisting individuals with developmental disabilities in leading more independent lives. 

QCP highlighted two “Chefs of the Year” who have made a difference and impact in their  community. Frank J. Quatela, Owner and Principal Architect at Frank J. Quatela Architect, P.C., and Hersh K. Parekh, Esq., Deputy Chief of Intergovernmental Affairs at the Port Authority of New York & New Jersey received the honors. The two served their community in a different way for the event, cooking up a family specialty to serve alongside other vendors. 

The Claire Shulman “Spirit of Community” award,, was presented to Lara Gregory, Esq., Queens Community Leader, QCP Board Member, and Principal Attorney at Lara Gregory and Associates.

“When we look for Chefs of the Year, we look for people who are engaged in the community, who have a lot of friends in the community and great contacts of the community, which helps us out in terms of raising money, of course,”  Wendy Phaff Gennaro, director of development at QCP, said. “But we’ve always focused on folks in Queens who make a difference in their personal and professional lives with people around them… then we started the Claire Shulman award about three years ago, and that is similar to the Chefs of the Year, but really just a merit based award for people who really are out there every day volunteering — sometimes it’s food related, sometimes it’s not — but people who really are out there giving time and their services to the community.”

Phaff Gennaro has helped organize the past fifteen Evenings of Fine Food. Still, she says, “it’s never old hat.”

“The word ‘elated’ came to mind this year,” Phaff Gennaro said. “We raised so much money, and when I look around the room, and I see people enjoying themselves and having a good time…it just makes me feel really good.”

Queens Centers for Progress hosts ‘Evening of Fine Food’

By Stephanie Meditz



From fine cuisine that reflects Queens’ diversity to Jim Altamore’s smooth Frank Sinatra covers, Queens Centers for Progress’s 27th annual “Evening of Fine Food” was a night to remember.

Over 40 vendors donated their time and food to an event that raises funds for children and adults in the borough with developmental disabilities.

Attending restaurants included Aigner Chocolates in Forest Hills, Bourbon Street in Bayside and Mezze in Whitestone.

“QCP is all about community,” Wendy Gennaro, QCP’s director of development, said. “Our ultimate goal is to enrich the community by promoting independence, inclusion and integration of the people who we serve.”

To raise money for its services, QCP offered several raffles and a silent auction.

“The story of this organization is amazing, going back 70 years. [It] started as a group of families whose children needed services, and they wanted to share that need, that hope,” presenter Greg Mocker from PIX11 said. “It grew into what we are today, now providing service and support to 1,200 individuals with intellectual disabilities…The goal of the services is to create what we all want: a better quality of life.”

Each Evening of Fine Food gives “Chef of the Year” awards to community members who dedicate themselves to the wellbeing and culture of the Queens community.

QCP honored The Leadership Team at Stop & Shop with a Chef of the Year award for their commitment to its supported employment program.

Various Stop & Shop locations throughout the borough have hired individuals who receive services, and employment has given them a stable income and a sense of community.

QCP recognized Veronica Tsang as a diamond sponsor.

Melissa Cange, QCP’s assistant director of vocational services, presented The Leadership Team at Stop & Shop with their award.

“We would like to thank Stop & Shop for their decades of support and partnership that has allowed people in our program the opportunity to become more independent through employment,” she said.

Queens College President Frank Wu was also honored with a Chef of the Year award.

He has dedicated his career in law and higher education to celebrating diversity and empowering Queens residents to reach their fullest potential.

“It’s just great to be Chef of the Year working with a charity that does so much throughout the borough,” he said. “Let’s continue to help everyone in our community reach their best.”

The third Chef of the Year award went to Brett Swanson, senior manager of community affairs and social impact at Grubhub.

“I really focus on supporting our local independent restaurants as well as addressing food insecurity…around the five boroughs of New York City,” he said. “This is my brainchild, we started this over a year ago. I want to get to those who need food the most.”

The Claire Shulman Spirit of Community award commemorates her legacy — she was a registered nurse at Queens Hospital Center and later the first woman to be Queens Borough President.

The award recognizes a community member who embodies her love for the Queens community.

NYPD Detective Tanya Duhaney was this year’s recipient.

“Detective Tanya Duhaney’s social media accounts are filled with endless selfies, including smiling faces of colleagues and the people whom they serve. For this selfless 24-year veteran of the NYPD, this comes as no surprise,” deputy chief Christine Bastedenbeck said. “For her kindness and her compassion, she is able to build a bridge between the police department and the community. She knows that in the process, she is helping people in the neighborhood of Southeast Queens, which is where she grew up.”

Duhaney led several events for Patrol Borough Queens South’s Community Affairs unit, including senior luncheons, barbecues for children living in shelters and parades for people with disabilities.

“Even though I am from Southeast Queens, I go everywhere. And now I’m citywide, so I’m able to spread love more throughout the city of New York. I’m able to help more people in need, regardless of anything,” she said.

QCP executive director Terri Ross recognized Veronica Tsang as a diamond sponsor for her generosity and dedication to the organization.

Also in attendance was Queens Borough President Donovan Richards.

“Coming out of this pandemic, we know that those with disabilities suffered more than anyone else, because historically there has not been a lot of support for our individuals with disabilities,” he said. “But this organization, the work that you’re doing each and every day to support those who are not victims but victors in their struggle, is something that we want to commend you for.”

Richards expressed his hope to install more housing and services in Queens to support people with disabilities.

“One of the things I love about being Borough President is that you can really get a taste of the world right here in Queens County,” he said.

QCP’s sponsors donated almost $100,000 to Evening of Fine Food.

“We really would not be able to pull this off without our sponsors. These are the true heroes of the evening,” Ross said.

Queens Centers for Progress to present 27th annual ‘Evening of Fine Food’

By Stephanie Meditz


Evening of Fine Food is an opportunity for individuals and businesses alike to enjoy fine dining, entertainment and networking.

On Feb. 28, Queens Centers for Progress (QCP) will host its 27th annual “Evening of Fine Food” at Terrace on the Park in Flushing Meadows-Corona Park. 

Evening of Fine Food offers fine dining, networking and entertainment to garner support and raise funds for QCP’s efforts to help individuals in the borough with intellectual and developmental disabilities. 

“We’ve been around for 72 years…and this is the 27th anniversary of the event,” Wendy Gennaro, QCP director of development, said. “Basically, all of the proceeds go to the organization, so outside of the expenses, 100 percent of what we raise at this event goes to support our programs here in Queens.” 

QCP’s programs promote independence and community engagement for children and adults with developmental disabilities. 

Local restaurants like Bourbon Street and Austin’s Ale House have attended Evening of Fine Food since it began. 

“On the restaurant side, we have some very loyal restaurants that come back every year. They’ve been through the ringer over the past few years, but they still show up, which is amazing,” Gennaro said. 

QCP also has longtime sponsors who offer financial support every year, including Veronica Tsang, Gerald Caliendo Architects, Resorts World NYC and Grubhub. 

“What we love most is when we honor people and they keep coming back. We’ve been very blessed in that way,” she added.

Each Evening of Fine Food celebration recognizes various movers and shakers who contribute to the wellbeing, culture and community of Queens, referred to as “Chefs of the Year.”

Frank Wu, president of Queens College, is one of this year’s honorees. 

“I am as excited to be [a] chef for the QCP Evening of Fine Food as I am to live in the world’s borough where every culture is represented by its cuisine,” Wu said in a statement.

Brett Swanson, community affairs and social impact at Grubhub, will also be honored at the event. 

At Grubhub, Swanson focuses on food insecurity and restaurant revitalizations. 

“Because he does what he does, he impacts so many people in the borough. They are always handing out meals to people in communities…and not only do they feed people in the community, but they also support local businesses by using food from the local businesses to feed people. He’s just a great example of what someone can do for people in the community.” 

He feels extremely grateful to be honored in this way and to support QCP’s overall mission.

“QCP’s work has changed the lives of so many, and I am incredibly proud to be aligned with such an amazing group,” Swanson said in a statement. “Cheers to many more years to come.”

Although QCP typically honors individual people, it will honor The Leadership Team at Stop & Shop this year. 

This year, Queens Centers for Progress will honor Stop & Shop for its promotion of QCP’s Supported Employment Program for individuals with developmental disabilities.

“Stop & Shop has hired hundreds of our individuals to work in their stores throughout Queens and they’re a great employment partner to us,” Gennaro said. “What they do for our individuals by employing them is give them a sense of pride, a place to go to work every day where they thrive, earn an income and are out in the community. We’re all about inclusion and integration into the community, so they really help us in that way by doing these hires.”

Last year, QCP created the Claire Shulman Spirit of Community Award in honor of the former borough president who frequented Evening of Fine Food. 

This year’s recipient is Tanya Duhaney, Community Affairs Bureau for NYPD South.

“Tanya is selfless every day of the week,” Gennaro said. “I’ve never seen anyone who’s so busy doing things for everyone else, and she’s just a force in the NYPD, so we’re really excited to be honoring her.” 

Entertainment at Evening of Fine Food will consist of Frank Sinatra cover singer Jim Altamore, casino tables, a silent auction of items donated by the community and a selfie booth. 

Most of the Queens business community attends the event, as do individuals who want to support the cause and influencers from QCP’s partners, such as Yelp. 

“In the past, we’ve had upwards of 700 people attending the event,” Gennaro said. “Over the years, we’ve added entertainment, we’ve added more restaurants, we’ve added more companies with different offerings and expanded our reach by getting more attention on the event so we can get more people to experience it. It’s just grown so much from a small, intimate thing to this exciting, full of energy, networking, food extravaganza.” 

Tickets are available for $135 at https://queenscp.givecloud.co/qcpfinefood

QCP also offers several sponsorship packages ranging from $1,500-$7,500 that include tickets.

Packages over $3,000 include VIP seating and early entry.

“[Evening of Fine Food] affords companies the opportunity to get their name in front of a lot of people,” Gennaro said. “We also have a lot of signage at the event…we really try to give everyone great value for their money between tickets and ads and attention and letting everyone know what an amazing thing they’re doing by sponsoring the event.” 

Vendors interested in donating their food and time to the event can call the QCP office at (718) 380-3000, ext. 324 or visit https://queenscp.givecloud.co/qcpfinefood for more information.

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