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Best bake sale ever: A unique fundraising effort helps raise funds to save local restaurants

Best bake sale ever: A unique fundraising effort helps raise funds to save local restaurants

May 6, 2020 at 11:41am

Who doesn't love a bake sale? Biting into the gooey deliciousness of a warm chocolate chip cookie; wiping the crumbs from your chin of a perfectly baked brownie.

It's all yummy goodness and for the second Sunday in a row, the LBS Putting on the Pounds Bake Sale in Coral Gables was also a sellout for a good cause: raising nearly $30,000 for the SOBEWFF® & FIU Chaplin School Hospitality Industry Relief Fund.

Drivers lined up in their cars along Hardee Road in Coral Gables to get their hands on exclusive goodies promoted all week via Instagram by South Beach Wine and Food Festival Founder and Executive Director Lee Brian Schrager, FIU's Chaplin School of Hospitality & Tourism Management and Schrager's celebrity friends and social media influencers Channel 7's Belkys Nerey, NBC6's Roxanne Vargas and Kelly Blanco, Channel 10's Louis Aguirre,  Channel 4's Lisa Petrillo, Miami New Times writer Lanie Doss, Miami Herald writer Carlos Frias and many others.

"Like so many other businesses this quarantine has hit the restaurant, hospitality industry so hard," said local FOX affiliate, WSVN-TV news anchor and FIU alumna Belkys Nerey '89. "The bake sale was such a great idea I was happy to help FIU in any way that I could," she added.

The idea seems simple, but Schrager, who came up with it, took it up a notch. For $25, drivers could drive by Schrager's home and choose to take home one of the following: a box of Andrew Gonzalez's Night Owl Cookies, Finka Table and Tap Eileen Andrade's Cuban Sunday Survival Kit, Chef Michael Pirolo's Banging Baked Ziti, Gio Gutierrez of Chat Chow TV's rum cocktail mixer or Schrager's famous buttermilk cheddar biscuits.

All of the bake sale proceeds went directly into the fund to help pay employees at independently owned restaurants and bars struggling due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

"At 3:05pm, we are sold out," Schrager shared with his Instagram followers, while also revealing he was too tired to immediately count up the money. But later, with a fun IG image of him blowing a bugle, he said, "The total raised from the Hospitality Relief Fund bake sale THANKS to a match from Pepe Badia and my best friend Arlene Chaplin is $29,805."

Sunday's sale comes a week after 250 boxes of Night Owl Cookies sold in less than 40 minutes the previous weekend, raising $20,000. That total came after a generous match of $10,000 from Pepe Badia of Badia Spices.

Cindi Avila and her 9-year-old daughter Alexia were one of the lucky ones to snag a box during the first bake sale. They felt helping the fund was important.

"I am a chef, a foodie and a frequent restaurant patron. I want to do anything I can to support local restaurants. Plus eating something yummy for a good cause isn’t hard," Avila said.

The bake sales are part of an ongoing effort by Schrager and FIU Chaplin School to help those in the hospitality industry, which is one of the largest industries in Florida. So far, more than 500 restaurants and bars in Miami-Dade, Broward and Palm Beach counties have received funds totaling $1.4 million since the fund kicked off in late March.

"I want to thank you all for supporting our industry relief fund that has raised over $1.6 million to date," said Schrager, who promises to continue the efforts with an even bigger and "Mother of All" bake sales this Sunday on Mother's Day at 517 Hardee Road in Coral Gables from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. or sold out.

The Mother's Day sale will feature traditional baked goods like tartlets from Cindy Lou's Cookies and Mojo Donuts, but will also offer unique items such as a "picar" or grazing box from Dos Croquetas of snack items like crispy chicharrones (aka pork rinds), to fruit and cream flavored Cielito Artisan Pops to tropical floral arrangements in honor of mom. They'll be local celebrity guests handing out purchases and collecting donations and even live music by a DJ.

Follow at @FIUHospitality and @Leeschrager for additional bake sale items and information.

The Lee Brian Schrager Bake Sale TeamBelkys Nerey and husband Dimitri donated their time at this weekend's bake sale

9-year-old Alexia snagged a box.

Alexia and mom, Cindi, eating cookies for a good cause