Wine, dine and help combat childhood hunger at Taste of the Nation

When more than 35 local chefs, restaurants and mixologists gather at the Palms Thursday night, they’ll be feeding — and in high style — people who aren’t hungry on a regular basis. But the focus of all of these united efforts is to help those who are.

Taste of the Nation Las Vegas, which raises money to support Share Our Strength’s campaign to end childhood hunger both locally and nationwide, is scheduled to start at 7 p.m. (6:30 p.m. for those with VIP access) at Rain nightclub at the Palms. Review-Journal columnist Doug Elfman and Dayna Roselli, who has a radio show on KXNT-FM, 100.5, and is a former anchor at KLAS-TV, Channel 8, will emcee. In addition to food, wine and specialty cocktails, the event will include live and silent auctions. Three Square food bank, Catholic Charities of Las Vegas, UNCE Chefs for Kids and Project MANA will benefit.

Carlos Guia, executive chef of The Country Club restaurant at Wynn Las Vegas, is the event’s restaurant chairman. Guia has held that voluntary position for seven years, and been involved in the event as a chef for about 15 years.

“It’s giving back to the community,” Guia said. “There’s a need.

“In the beginning, to be honest, I was doing it just to do something different, getting in front of guests. Once I joined the committee, I learned that one in six households in Nevada are food-insecure — one in five kids don’t know where their next meal is coming from.”

Unless, of course, they’re getting meals at school through free- and reduced-price lunch programs; Guia said 57 percent of children in the community do. But beyond that, they’re often on their own.

Guia said his wife, who is a teacher, often is confronted by the problem on the job.

“We’re in Summerlin, and she still sees it,” he said. “It’s a nice neighborhood, but they’re on free and reduced meals. You don’t really see kids that are hungry if you’re not around them. Teachers see it, if kids aren’t learning because they’re hungry.”

Guia and his wife have two children.

“When you go to pick them up and you see other kids, you wonder if they’re OK or not,” he said. “Especially if they’re little.”

As first-time participants, DW Bistro Executive Chef Dalton Wilson and his partner, Bryce Krausman, are on the other end of the Taste of the Nation experience spectrum, but they share the goal of ending hunger.

“Before the restaurant, we were involved in the community,” Wilson said, including participating in the Feed the Homeless event.

“We always want to be part of the neighborhood, as far as doing what we need to do for families and kids,” he said. “It’s one of our biggest prides and joy. Now that we have the restaurant, we’re able to do even more for the community.”

“We’ve done a lot, and we’re going to continue to do even more,” Krausman said.

For Thursday’s event, they plan to prepare jerk pork tacos with mini-corn tortillas and New Mexican salsa.

“I see a lot of childhood hunger throughout Las Vegas and wherever Bryce and I travel,” Wilson said. “I think we need to educate families first and foremost, so they can educate their kids.”

Guia said the board hopes to eventually expand services provided to hungry children in the valley. In other areas of the country, he said, Share Our Strength provides breakfast served in the classroom.

“There’s a little bit of stigma” linked to free and reduced-price meals, he said. “Sometimes kids are embarrassed. If you provide breakfast for everybody, nobody knows who’s getting free meals. It’s more to just keep up their morale, and it doesn’t scar the kids, make them feel like they’re different.

“The kids, it’s not their fault. It doesn’t matter what the parents are doing. The kids can’t help it; it’s up to other people to help them. It definitely takes a lot more people than doing one little event.”

Contact reporter Heidi Knapp Rinella at hrinella@reviewjournal.com or 702-383-0474.