Great Taste for a Great Cause

If you’re looking for a night of fine food and drinks, music and dancing, and a chance to bid on fabulous auction items all for a great cause, you’ll be in good company at the Best Buddies Maryland Tastebuds event.

Best Buddies is a nonprofit organization dedicated to establishing a global volunteer movement that creates opportunities for one-to-one friendships, integrated employment and leadership development for people with intellectual and developmental disabilities (IDD).

Tastebuds, which will be held on Friday, November 10 at The Grand Lodge of Maryland in Cockeysville, is a unique tasting event that features 18 fine-dining restaurants such as Jimmy’s Famous Seafood, Casa Mia’s, Michael’s Café, Barrett’s Grill, The Capital Grille, Fusion, Parfections and LaCakerie. Guests will enjoy sampling chefs’ signature dishes while sipping on specialty cocktails, wine, beer and champagne.

 Each restaurant’s chefs will team up with a buddy pair, who serve as the “sous chefs” for the evening. The buddy pair includes one person with a disability (Buddy) and one without (Peer Buddy).

Entertainment includes the music of Roses n Rust, and Master of Ceremonies is 105.7 The Fan host and Essex resident Rob Long. Auctioneer Baltimore Sun columnist Dan Rodricks will be auctioning off a wide range of items, including a six-course dinner with wine pairings prepared by Best Buddies Board of Directors member Michael Paul Smith.

“Michael Paul is a terrific person and a great community leader. What I didn’t realize is what a talented chef he is. This will be his third auction, and over the past two years the dinner has averaged $3,500 each year,” said Vince Fiduccia, State Director of Best Buddies Maryland.

Smith, an Essex resident, is a partner with the regional law firm Smith, Gildea and Schmidt, LLC, headquartered in Towson, and he has been on the Best Buddies Board of Directors for more than three years. Smith’s daughter Ellie, 20, has Cerebral Palsy and has been in the Best Buddies program for about a year.

“I really believe in the mission of Best Buddies, and that is how I got involved. Ellie was a tremendous influence on the life of my older daughter and her friends. She helped shape who they are,” said Smith. “Best Buddies programs are so important not only for the child with disabilities, but for the peer buddy as well. It helps the child with no limitations appreciate who they are and learn to grow. I know how important those relationships are.”

Throughout the globe, Best Buddies has eight formal programs  Best Buddies Middle Schools, High Schools, Colleges, Citizens, e-Buddies, Promoters, Jobs and Ambassadors  which positively impact over 900,000 individuals.

“Participants create a one-on-one friendship and their goal is to see their buddy once a month doing something they both enjoy, whether it be sporting events, movies or just hanging out at each others’ houses. In addition, they need to reach out at least one time a week with a call or a text or on Facebook or other social media,” said Fiduccia.

“It’s a simple concept. Without friendship, how do we develop? How do we get our socialization skills? We would be isolated and alone,” he said.

“After kids grow out of the 18-21 program, what’s next? There is a lot of social isolation for adults with IDD that our programs can help address. Jobs allow people with IDD the opportunity to make money, enjoy freedom and gain the confidence that maybe they could one day live on their own,” said Fiduccia, who said there is an 81-84% unemployment rate for people with IDD. “Guests coming to this event will get to see for themselves how wonderful our participants are and that they would make great employees.”

Smith offered to auction the dinner for Tastebuds because he has always loved to cook. “It started with my grandfather on my mother’s side who thought it was very important that I learned how to cook, and then with my uncle on my father’s side who was a chef,” said Smith.

After he graduated from college, he was given the gift of cooking classes. Smith studied under Jerry Pellegrino, executive chef at Corks and Waterfront Kitchen and the owner of cooking school Schola.

While he enjoys whipping up all types of ethnic cuisines, he most enjoys Spanish and Italian cooking because of their strong, bold flavors. Smith will work with the winners of the auction to create a menu that fits their tastes in both food and wine.

Some of the courses from last year’s dinner include grilled duck with blood orange sauce, toasted pine nuts and parsnip puree with black truffle oil accompanied by Burgundy; seared ancho-chile espresso-rubbed beef tenderloin with caramelized winter root vegetables accompanied by Cabernet Sauvignon; and gourmet vanilla ice cream with homemade Cabernet Sauce.

“Tastebuds helps fund our mission of friendships, jobs and leadership development for people with intellectual and developmental disabilities in Maryland,” said Fiduccia. “I hope everyone will come out and support this great event and meet some of our Best Buddies who benefit from our programs.”

Best Buddies Maryland hosts “Tastebuds” 

Friday, November 10, 2017 from 7:00 – 11:00 PM

The Grand Lodge of Maryland

304 International Circle, Cockeysville, MD 21030

Tickets $100.00 each. Free Parking at venue.

For tickets and more information, go to