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The dinner's five courses may include all-kosher dishes like this one from Genesis Steakhouse.

Image: Alice Levitt

When diners hear the name Luis Roger, the chef at BCN Taste & Tradition, they likely think of crisp-skinned suckling pig. Mark Holley of Holley's? Probably some delicious shellfish. But next Monday, February 20, such ingredients will be literally off the table. Those chefs will join five other big names to cook a five-course meal as part of the Gourmet Kosher Extravaganza, an annual benefit dinner for Ben-Gurion University of the Negev's Houston branch. It's one thing to eat an all-kosher dinner prepared by some well-respected secular chefs, but when's the last time you attended a meal that had a goal of raising money to establish a cyber security research lab?

Deborah Bergeron, executive director of the Texas region of the American Associates of Ben-Gurion, says she began the event 16 years ago when the local office opened. "We needed a fundraiser, and I realized we needed something unique and different," she recalls. "In order to be different, I needed to get the top chefs in Houston."

At that time, the first to sign on was Robert Del Grande. Carmelo Mauro of Carmelo's Ristorante Italiano, and Mark Cox, formerly of Mark's American Restaurant, now owner of Mark's Culinary Consulting, were among the chefs who joined the first year and will return this time. Who else will cook on Monday? Efisio Farris of Arcodoro will bring his Sardinian flair, joined by Steve Caruana of the event's host, Westin Galleria Hotel. The only cook among the seven participating this year who habitually prepares kosher cuisine is Jason Goldstein, owner of Genesis Steakhouse

The seven chefs will collaborate on five seated courses, as well as each presenting a passed appetizer during the cocktail hour and silent auction. The group will prepare the meal under the watchful eye of a member of the Houston Kashruth Association, to make sure that everything that makes it onto a plate is truly kosher, from ingredients to preparation. And the well-known chefs are doing every bit of it for free, as a donation to the university. "They all work together, that’s one of the beauties of this," says Bergeron. "It has really bonded a lot of the chefs together." And it's raised money for the school. Bergeron claims that over the event's 16 years, they university has received "hundreds and thousands of dollars," to help continue its well-respected programs.

Want to see (and taste) for yourself? Click here for more information or to buy a ticket.

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