To help the children of his hometown recover from the Hurricane Katrina disaster, New Orleans' most famous chef, Emeril Lagasse, pitched in with an evening of wine and music in late October in Las Vegas.
Lagasse had originally planned to host the inaugural Carnivale du Vin in his home base of New Orleans, as a benefit for various children's charities. But after Katrina, the event was refocused and moved to Las Vegas' Venetian resort, where Lagasse runs the Delmonico Steakhouse. The star chef and his team raised $1.4 million to benefit children who suffered from the storm.
More than 600 guests paid $1,000 per ticket to attend, with almost 100 people making the trek from Louisiana. The event kicked off with a walk-around tasting featuring many of Lagasse's famous friends (including chefs Charlie Trotter, Mario Batali, Daniel Boulud, Nobu Matsuhisa and others), with a wine specially chosen to match each dish. A silent auction during dinner raised nearly $20,000.
A 22-lot live auction raised $726,300 amid spirited bidding and much banter from the stage. The top lot, fittingly enough, featured Lagasse, who invited six guests to join him in New York for the taping of his hit show, Emeril Live. It went for $150,000, and was purchased by New Orleans businessman Ray Wooldridge, co-owner of the New Orleans Hornets basketball team.
The top bidder was Larry Ruvo, senior managing director of Southern Wine & Spirits of Nevada. Among his purchases was a private tennis clinic with Andre Agassi (who was in attendance) and Stefanie Graf, which sold for $140,000.
Carnivale du Vin was organized by the Emeril Lagasse Foundation. The proceeds will support such programs as St. Michael Special School, America's Second Harvest and Covenant House, which are helping New Orleans-area children who were displaced or whose lives were disrupted by the hurricane.