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A Casual Spinoff of Bal Masque Might Be In The Works

Link & Stryjewski talk future plans

Chefs Donald Link and Stephen Stryjewski
Josh Brasted

This weekend marks the second annual fundraising event for the recently formed pay it forward entity The Link Stryjewski Foundation. Bal Masque, a ritzy $1000 ticket affair featuring seven celebrity chefs from around America and a performance by Dr. John, takes place at the Orpheum tomorrow night, January 7. An intimate dinner by Mario Batali preempts the already gluttonous affair tonight at Calcasieu (a cool $1500).

But before you throw your ugh-rich-person-things side eye, just know that Donald Link gets you, boo.

“We’ve done a lot of events out of town that don’t break even and don’t make a profit,” Link says. “It was a huge struggle for us to come up with this ticket price— we lost sleep— but it comes down to basic math. At the end of the day, we chose to do smaller event at a bigger ticket price in hopes it would gain momentum and build more national attention.”

In fact, the foundation was able to raise $150,000 during the debut Bal Masque weekend in 2016, and hopes to raise $400,000 to $500,000 this weekend. With that in mind, Link and partner Stephen Stryjewski have been turning their attention to expanding their foundation.

Link tells Eater that they’re considering the addition of a second, more casual fundraising event in New Orleans “eventually.” It’s possible this casual event— something more along the lines cost-wise with Boudin, Bourbon & Beer or Hogs For The Cause— could arrive in the next year or two, but nothing is definite.

“I mean, I would love to do another event, sure,” Link says. “One that involves more of local chefs, without it being a straight copy of Boudin & Beer or anything. We’ve got some ideas.”

The chefs would also want to make the nonprofits a prominent feature of the event, which is pretty cool considering they include Grow Dat Youth Farm and The Roots of Music (who already perform at Bal Masque).

One of the main factors the chefs are dealing with is finding a time of year when another casual fundraiser/epic food event would be feasible for an already jam packed New Orleans fest schedule. Plus, it takes months of planning, but the Link Stryjewski Foundation recently brought on executive director Emery Van Hook Sonnier, with 18+ experience in the non-profit sector, to steer the ship.

“We’ve talked about doing something in the spring,” Link says, noting that fall tends to be exceptionally clogged with events.

Scenes From the Link & Strywjeski Foundation's Inaugural Bal Masque
The Roots of Music perform at Bal Masque 2016
Paul Broussard

For now, Stryjewski tells Eater that the emphasis is on getting the foundation more involved with the nonprofits it works with, which means many of the Link Group’s 350 restaurant employees have been volunteering on a weekly basis.

“It’s cool to see who volunteers,” Stryjewski says, “And who was already volunteering before the foundation even started. It makes you feel good.”

Want to support Kingsley House, the Youth Empowerment Program, Grow Dat, and the Roots of Music via the Link Stryjewski Foundation? You can make a donation or bid on Bal Masque auction items right here, and tickets to Bal Masque are available here as well.

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