Local chef sees fundraiser as learning opportunity


BY John Bayles

Taste of Tribeca has become one of spring’s most anticipated events for Downtown residents and the event’s organizers are now gearing up for their 17th year. Chef Kurt Gutenbrunner has been participating from day one, and he recently held a kick-off for this year’s event at his restaurant Blaue Gans.

While the fundraiser serves a major means of generating outside revenue for P.S. 234 and P.S. 150, Gutenbrunner also sees it as an educational opportunity. He believes the event can help illustrate the connection between “healthy eating habits and having a healthy mind.”

“We have a very good chance right now to teach our kids something very important, which is that nutrition should be part of education,” said Gutenbrunner.

The chef is also aware that his vision has the support of the administration in Washington D.C. He attended an event at the White House last year in conjunction with First Lady Michelle Obama’s push for healthy foods in schools.

“For the first time we have the administration behind us,” said Gutenbrunner. “We need to change the way we teach our children about food.”

The chef also mentioned that now, in New York City schools, there is the opportunity to take this approach to the next level as well.

“Now in New York City, [Schools Chancellor] Ms. Black must pick this up,” said the chef.

The chef also acknowledges that while the festival does bring a lot of attention to the various restaurants involved, that should not be the focus. He said the mission shouldn’t be about exchanging business cards or networking so much as promoting healthy eating habits both to get the kids’ attention as well as the parents’.

“It’s not about the restaurants,” said Gutenbrunner. “It’s about the chance we have here in our community to support education.”

Gutenbrunner recognizes the unique role he and other restaurateurs have in the community when it comes to raising money for schools. Born and raised in Austria, he remembered school being “free” and money never being an issue when it came to education. But with city cuts to education on the rise, he knows schools have to think outside of the box when it comes to fundraising.

“It’s so much fun and it’s exciting,” said Gutenbrunner. “I can live in a country where I can be involved. It’s a good feeling and it’s all about giving back to the community.”

At the kick-off event students from both schools played the role of “assistant chefs.” Russ Moss from 92nd Street Y Tribeca brought Moroccan spiced tuna on brioche for kids to assemble. Rachel Thiebault from Tribeca Treats had cupcakes to decorate and Gutenbrunner had cookies for the kids to adorn with frosting. 

“I think we have a very educated population here and we want to introduce good food to our children,” said Magda Lenski, a parent coordinator at P.S. 150. “And they are lucky enough to experience a lot of these restaurants thanks to their parents.”