March 3, 2024


Than a Food Fitter

Wine & Dine for the Arts launching virtual event series

3 min read

ALBANY — After canceling its popular weekend of events in January because of pandemic restrictions, the Wine & Dine for the Arts festival will host its first event of the year next month, a virtual cooking class with a celebrity chef who won “The Next Food  Network Star” competition series in 2008.

Set for 5 p.m. April 17, the Wine & Dine event will feature chef Aaron McCargo Jr., appearing  virtually from his New Jersey home, leading a kitchen session that will also include popular Capital Region chef Ric Orlando, cooking with Capital Repertory Theatre’s producing artistic director, Maggie Mancinelli-Cahill. The pair will be live from the cooking school at the Different Drummer’s Kitchen store in Guilderland.

Audiences who buy web access to the fundraiser will be able to view the event, and follow along at home if they wish from a provided recipe, as McCargo, Orlando and Mancinelli-Cahill cook. McCargo, who starred on “Big Daddy’s House” on Food Network from 2008 to 2011 and last fall joined the shopping channel QVC as a food host, will be making his AMJ’s Bold & Spicy Chicken & Sausage Gumbo recipe. A cocktail recipe will also be provided.

Tickets, on sale now via the Wine & Dine for the Arts website,, start at $39 for recipe cards and viewing link. Three higher tiers of support for the fundraiser, priced at $69, $99 and $119, include additional amenities such as recipe and cocktail ingredients, a gift bag and discounts and promotions from event sponsors.

The event is the first of what is projected to be a four-show series called Wine & Dine and COOK!, said Marcus Q. Pryor, board president of Albany Chefs’ Food & Wine Festival: Wine & Dine for the Arts.

“As they say, ‘The show must go on,’ especially this year,” Pryor said. “Now, more than ever, we need to come together to celebrate food, wine and the arts organizations that make our region so special.”

The 2020 festival was held about two months before the pandemic shutdown began in mid-March of last year. With restrictions on gathering size still in place as 2021 began, Pryor and Wine & Dine’s board solicited public opinion about how the festival could offer alterative programming and expand beyond its traditional scope of one weekend’s worth of events.

If the McCargo event is a success, Wine & Dine will use it as a model for future virtual cooking events as long as social distancing and crowd limitations remain in place, and the nonprofit will continue to explore ways to grow itself into a year-round operation, said Pryor. He will be part of the April 17 show from Different Drummer’s Kitchen, along with Steve Barnes of the Times Union, who will be the evening’s moderator.

First held in 2010, Wine & Dine for the Arts was founded by a group of restaurateurs and other hospitality professionals to offer financial help to area arts organizations affected by the cancellation of the long-running Albany City Arts Grants program. To date, Wine & Dine has given away about $1.2 million, raised during weekends of events in January that in past years attracted about 3,000 people annually and included tastings with food from dozens of local chefs and hundreds of global alcoholic beverages, gala dinners, competitions and more. | Newsphere by AF themes.