PHOTOS: Debra Ponzek and Aarón Sánchez Brighten Up Great Chefs 2015 Preview Party at Paloma in Stamford

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Chef Debra Ponzek and Chef Aarón Sánchez, the chef/partner of Paloma restaurant in Stamford, where a kick-off event for the 30th annual Great Chefs 2015 event benefited from bright sun, despite sub-zero temps on Feb. 3. Credit: Leslie Yager

It may have been bitter cold on Tuesday, but the sun beamed through the vast expanses of glass at Aarón Sánchez’s restaurant in Stamford, Paloma, for a fun preview party for Greenwich Hospital’s Great Chefs 2015 fundraiser.

Screen Shot 2015-02-03 at 8.06.47 PMThe preview party was attended by Sanchez and fellow honoree, Debra Ponzek, the well-known force behind Aux Délices gourmet prepared food stores with locations in Greenwich and Riverside.

Before the official program began, Sánchez and Ponzek sat down with Greenwich Free Press to talk about their inspirations.

“I’ve always known and admired Debra,” said Sánchez. “Because my mother is a female chef in New York City and because she has a nice balance between family life and cooking,” he said likening the busy Greenwich mother of three to his own mother.

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The preview party featured hors d’oeuvres from Paloma, a lively, Latin-inspired grill that features Sánchez’s diverse approach to cooking. Credit: Leslie Yager

“My mom was a powerhouse of Mexican cooking at a time when there were not a lot of female chefs,” he said.

Of his mother’s early career, Sánchez said, “She was female. She was Latina. She cooked Mexican food. No way!”

The co-star of Food Network’s hit series, Chopped, as well as the Cooking Channel’s Taco Trip, Sánchez recalled how hard his mother worked, and what a role model she was.

“She’d work late and she would be asleep when we got up for school, but she’d have something made for us and leave it for us with a note,” Sánchez said, recalling how as a young boy, he was drawn to his mother’s restaurant. “I worked in the coat check, but eventually I got into the kitchen,” he said.

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Honored chefs Aarón Sánchez and Debra Ponzek with Greenwich Hospital Community Health director at Greenwich Hospital and event co-chairs Jenni Salinas and Janet Delos at Paloma in Stamford. Credit: Leslie Yager

“It’s good for a kid to see the passion for working,” Sánchez said of both example his mother provided, as well as that of Ponzek, who keeps an incredibly busy schedule but still makes time for her three teenagers.

Ponzek weighed in on the balancing act and avoiding becoming neither neglectful nor a martyr to children, saying, “A lot of dads when we were younger – we didn’t even know what they did.”

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Great Chefs 2015 co-chairs Jenni Salinas and Janet Delos at Paloma restaurant in Stamford on Tuesday. Credit: Leslie Yager

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Left to right: Adam Truelove, Stephanie Dunn-Ashley of Greenwich Hospital, Aarón Sánchez, Debra Ponzek and Francois Kwaku-Dongo. Credit: Leslie Yager

Jim Wright, Vice President of the Greenwich Hospital Foundation, introduced Kathy Carley-Spanier of Community Health for the Hospital.

“What that program does, and does so well, is take the mission of the hospital out into the community, serving thousands of people literally every year from all walks of life, from all income levels, regardless of ability to pay, and for many people, many of our friends and neighbors, it’s truly a lifeline.”

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Kathy Carley-Spanier of Community Health at Greenwich Hospital expressed her gratitude to guests and the Great Chefs preview party at Paloma restaurant in Stamford. Credit: Leslie Yager

The Great Chefs fundraiser, now in its 30th year, will feature cocktails and a seated dinner. Guess will also be treated to live and silent auctions and enjoy dancing to live music by Stolen Moments. Chefs Sánchez and Ponzek join the distinguished company of previous Great Chefs honorees inclding Daniel Boulud and Lidia Bastianich, and local chefs Rui Correia, Francois Kwaku-Dongo, Lisa Maronian, Rafael Palomino, Christian Petroni and Adam Truelove.

The Great Chefs event takes place on Friday, March 6 at Westchester Country Club. Tickets may be purchased online at greatchefs.cbo.io

Paloma is located at 15 Harbor Point Rd in Stamford.

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