On The Avenue

A Recipe for Philanthropy

by Debbie Bancroft Photographed by Ben Rosser/BFA.com
Wednesday, October 17, 2018
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There are few more enthusiastic groups, than the Park Ladies. Summoning the collective trill of the 1,200 supporters at its annual Hat Lunch, a smaller but no less charged group buzzed and chatted their way into the Mandarin Oriental ballroom for the Women’s Committee of the Central Park Conservancy. No paper table number cards were given. Wasted paper is a pet peeve of many and slightly insulting to our faculties. I can remember I’m at #7.                                                                                       


Women’s Committee President, Alexia Leuschen opened the program and had us at “happy kids,” as many of ours have been, romping through our special park. Add “flower beds, healthy trees, fountains and thriving animals” and we were pulp, or perhaps more appropriately, mulch.


The Park receives 42 million visitors every year, and 80% of its budget comes from private support, including lunches like this.


The crowd tucked in at its chic, Clarence House paisley covered tables (for sale, of course), and listened to the  host of Deadline Crime With Tamron Hall interview cookbook author and TV host, Ina Garten.  


Clearly the Park Ladies and their families have relied on Ina’s simple but sublime recipes, and with her every bon mot, the group either chuckled- (“ I don’t have even a glass of wine when I cook. I’m a terrible drunk and would never finish”) opined (“The one thing I don’t eat is cilantro”),  agreed (“If I had only one meal I’d have a simple roast chicken and vegetables”)  giggled with self-doubt (“When you say, ‘I’m cooking,’ everyone comes”), and lovingly nodded at the story that was Ina in a nutshell (“I remember walking up Madison and a lady in a big coat said, ‘Darling, I love your cookbook,’ and the next block a truck driver leaned out of his window and said, ‘Hey babe, love your show’”). Such is the appeal of Ina and the Park all in attendance love.


Co-Chairs were: Abigail Baratta, Maryellen Cundey, Samantha Topping Gellert and Clémence von Mueffling. Friends and supporters also included: Norma Dana (founder of the Women’s Committee), Katherine Birch, Alexandra Robertson, Karen Klopp, Tracey Huff, Marcia Mishaan, Deborah Roberts, Rachel Hovnanian (an acclaimed chef in her own right,  who slipped one guest some recipes during lunch), Suzanne Cochran, Webb Edgerton, Karen LeFrak, Jenny Paulson, Margo Nederlander, Conservancy President, Betsy Smith, Marcia Mishaan, Gillian Miniter and Shelley Carr.


The sold out event, supported by Morgan Stanley Private Wealth Management, raised $400,000


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