Presented by the Emeril Lagasse Foundation, the 13th annual Chi Chi Miguel Weekend took place April 4 - 6 in Santa Rosa Beach and Miramar Beach and raised over $1 million for Gulf Coast charities.
Founded in 2006 by co-chairs Valerie and Mike “Chi Chi Miguel” Thompson as a small backyard barbeque competition, the Throwdown Benefit Auction & BBQ has since expanded to a three-day, star-studded event and one of the most successful fundraisers along the Emerald Coast.
This year, four partner charity events kicked off the weekend festivities beginning on Thursday with the annual Wine Walkabout wine tasting and first-year Dine & Wine hosted at Bijoux Restaurant. The Sip ‘n Shop at Emeril’s Coastal Italian and Golf Tournament in Miramar Beach followed on Friday. All proceeds from partner charity events benefited Emerald Coast Children’s Advocacy Center, Sinfonia Gulf Coast and Alaqua Animal Refuge.
On Saturday, the 13th annual Throwdown Benefit Auction & BBQ took place at Churchill Oaks Clubhouse in Santa Rosa Beach. Bringing together the very best in wine, food and philanthropy, the spirited outdoor barbeque competition featured five star-studded cooking teams of acclaimed winemakers, pitmasters and well-known chefs, including Tim Creehan, Janice Mondavi, Rich Aurilia, Trish Hines & Emeril Lagasse. Celebrity judges were Chef Jimmy Bannos, Chef Jimmy Bannos Jr., Linda & Jack Del Rio and Chef Jim Shirley
Drawing guests from across the country, the Throwdown kicked-off with a “porktail” hour with exclusive wines poured by some of Napa Valley and Sonoma’s best winemakers and Nat Sherman cigar tastings. The festivities continued with silent and live auctions featuring private wine estate experiences, collectible wines, luxury travel experiences, fine jewelry and custom artwork.
Among the evening’s standout barbeque dishes, Emeril Lagasse Foundation’s local beneficiaries Food for Thought and Seaside School Foundation also teamed up to collaborate on a special dish that was served throughout Saturday’s main event.
“It’s been incredible to see this event grow from a backyard barbeque with friends into the world-class fundraising event that it is today,” says Emeril Lagasse, chairman and founder of the Emeril Lagasse Foundation. “My wife Alden and I are honored to be involved and are continuously humbled by the generosity of our guests, winemakers, chefs, sponsors and community members who make it all possible.”
Funds raised during the weekend will be distributed to charities along the Gulf Coast, with the majority of grants given to local organizations. Beneficiaries include the Emeril Lagasse Foundation, Emerald Coast Children’s Advocacy Center, Camille’s Art for Autism, Sinfonia Gulf Coast, Alaqua Animal Refuge, Food for Thought, the Ingram Lee Foundation and Seaside School Foundation.