Who’s cooking at the 2018 Tower Bridge Dinner?

Dr. Viva Ettin shades herself with an umbrella duing the Farm to Fork dinner  at Tower Bridge on Sunday September 25, 2016 in Sacramento, Calif
Dr. Viva Ettin shades herself with an umbrella duing the Farm to Fork dinner at Tower Bridge on Sunday September 25, 2016 in Sacramento, Calif Sacramento Bee

A quartet of Sacramento all-star chefs will be part of Jeremiah Tower’s team at the 2018 Tower Bridge Dinner, the event’s organizers announced Monday.

From fine dining to mentoring tomorrow’s restaurant professionals, the four local chefs – Ed Roehr (Magpie), Ravin Patel (Selland Group), Kathi Riley Smith (Oak Cafe, American River College culinary program) and Brad Cecchi (Canon) represent a diverse slice of Sacramento’s evolving culinary scene. In America’s Farm-to-Fork Capital, they’ll work with Tower to create a memorable meal atop one of the region’s most iconic landmarks.

Tickets will go on sale for the Sept. 30 gala dinner later this summer with more details (including price) to come, according to organizer Visit Sacramento. Sold out in minutes for past dinners, public tickets are extremely limited with most of the 800-plus seats reserved for major donors.

Considered “a father of American cuisine,” Tower is expected to introduce his chefs team during an event Monday night at the Crest Theatre. Tower will host a screening of the documentary, “The Last Magnificent,” which kicks off the Sacramento Food Film Festival. Produced by Anthony Bourdain, the film is about Tower and his rise in the world of California food.

In just six years since its debut, the Tower Bridge Dinner has become a major event in Sacramento’s food community. Proceeds from the dinner help pay for the Farm-to-Fork Festival held on Capitol Mall. Last year, more than 65,000 people attended that free event.

“Sacramento’s food conscience has changed so much,” said Roehr. “It has certainly been interesting to watch and be a part of.”

Roehr was involved in the original Tower Bridge Dinner in 2013, serving on the logistical team. He realized immediately that the location helped make this meal one of a kind.

“At one point around 11 a.m., I walked out onto the middle of the bridge when there weren’t too many others,” he recalled. “The streets were all closed, so there weren’t any cars around. Everything was so pleasant and quiet. It was clear and comfortable and there was a light breeze blowing up the river. I remember thinking that the city looked so beautiful from the middle of the bridge, looking at the water and the Capitol all at once.”

“Proud and excited” to be back, Patel is a Bridge Dinner veteran, serving on its 2015 chef team with The Grange’s Oliver Ridgeway.

“Our main goal was to bring chefs from outside of downtown and even involve some former chefs who were still in the food industry to create an eclectic team,” said Patel. “The experience was great due to the collaboration of many individuals from different industries in and around Sacramento.”

As does all of Farm-to-Fork month, the Tower Bridge Dinner celebrates the Sacramento region’s close connection to food. That includes eating seasonally and locally, concepts that Chef Tower originally helped promote.

“(When) Janel and I started Magpie 13 years ago, people looked at us like we were nuts when we didn’t have (fresh) asparagus available for Christmas,” said Roehr, noting that it would not be local in December. “Eating is supposed to be a communal thing. We all eat asparagus in April and we all wait for the first peaches to arrive. In this way, food is part of the fabric that holds peoples to each other and surroundings. If the guests end up feeling that we all shared an experience, it will be a success.”