The "wow!" factor will be as much in evidence at this year's Sterling Silver Dinner as it was in 2009 when the annual fundraiser sponsored by the Bakersfield College Foundation began.
It was planned to be an innovative and memorable experience said Mike Stepanovich, executive director of the foundation. And that standard has been maintained ever since.
"We called it Sterling Silver because we wanted it to signify elegance," he said. "The name itself told people this would be something beyond the usual steak-and-potatoes kind of event."
This year's six-course meal, designed by William Bloxsom-Carter, executive chef of the Playboy Mansion West in Los Angeles, gets under way at 6:30 p.m. on Feb. 2 in the John Collins Campus Center.
Stepanovich first met Carter in June 2008 when both were on a wine-judging panel in Paso Robles.
"Our palates were in sync with each other, so I threw this idea (for the inaugural dinner) at him and he said, 'Let me think about it' -- and he's done every one since," the director said. "Everything we hoped for has come to pass."
The men and their wives get together on the Fourth of July each year and that's when the planning begins.
In mid-September, Carter comes to Bakersfield for a meeting with BC chefs Patrick Coyle, Suzanne Davis and Alex Gomez and Petroleum Club sous-chef Ray Ingram. A test dinner, served at lunchtime, is critiqued at that time.
Of course, the major purpose of the event is to raise money for the foundation and it has been successful in that respect.
Amber Chiang of the BC information office said for the past four years Sterling Silver has been a sold-out event, providing more than $54,000 in financial support to the Renegade Fund.
Chiang said the unrestricted revenue from this fund allows the foundation to direct funds where they are needed most on campus, whether it is for scholarships, program support or equipment. For their assistance with the preparation and execution of the Sterling Silver meal, a portion of the proceeds directly benefits the college's Culinary Arts program.
The first two Sterling Silver dinners were held at the Petroleum Club and about 140 guests attended each one, Stepanovich said. Since moving to the BC campus, the attendance has risen slightly.
"We can seat up to 180 but we usually keep it to about 150," he said. "At $175 a plate we want to deliver a dinner worth the price."
Attendees can deduct part of the ticket cost for tax purposes, the director said. The value of the food is $80, so $95 of the total price is a donation.
In 2011, the dinner was moved to the BC campus where the kitchen is much larger allowing more students to be involved.
It is held in the college's cafeteria, which is transformed into an elegant setting for the evening. Kelly Chamberlain, wife of former BC president Greg Chamberlain, is in charge of decorating. Changing the institutional atmosphere into a sophisticated setting involves both staff and volunteers.
Their work begins at noon on Friday when the campus closes and continues all day Saturday, finishing at about 5 p.m. -- or in enough time for everyone to go home and change to fancy clothes.
"I always wear my tux -- just because I like to," the director said. "Most men wear suits and the ladies wear cocktail dresses."
Those who attend represent a broad cross-section of the community.
"Certainly some are alumni," he said, "but also wine and fine-dining aficionados, BC Foundation board members, and people interested in supporting Bakersfield College.
Stepanovich will act as emcee and will discuss each of the six wines being served. All of them, he added, have a Bakersfield connection. The event also includes silent and live auctions.