Tweet if you love this gala! – The Boston Globe

Putting on a successful charity gala these days means taking advantage of technology, and Barbara Lynch’s Toques & Tonic benefit proved there’s a connection between branding and bandwidth.

Before guests even set foot inside the Boston Children’s Museum Friday night for the food and wine extravaganza to benefit Lynch’s namesake foundation, the auction company Qtego starting linking guests’ smartphones up to bid on the silent auction items. Lighting outside the museum projected the event logo on the sidewalk for guests to see as they arrived, and once inside, they posed at a step-and-repeat backdrop for photos (taken on their phones by attendants) to post on social media using hashtags #ToquesandTonic and #BLFoundation.

Continue reading below

“It’s a different type of scene for a nonprofit event,” said Linda Matzkin, owner of Hopple Popple, the event company that produced Toques & Tonic. “Guests discover their favorite chefs in various rooms of the museum, which adds a novel element to the already delicious experience.” “Unlike many events where the guests are on one side and the vendors on the other, this is not that.”

The modern gala has evolved. Along with rubbing elbows, social media has become critical for not-for-profits and corporations alike in engaging — and enlarging — an audience.

But Werner Kunz, director of the Digital Media Lab at UMass Boston, said social media success is dependent on finding the right trigger. “Do you have a good reason why people should do it?” he said.

Kunz noted two examples of how technology advances brand buzz by bringing fans into the fold. Sephora, the French beauty company, regularly asks for beauty tips from Facebook followers. Meanwhile, during the Ice Bucket Challenge, a deeply moved worldwide audience helped raise funds for ALS.

While he didn’t attend Toques & Tonic, Kunz said the selfie station was a smart combination of service with entertainment.

Boston MA 4/11/15 Barbara Lynch (cq), left and Kristin Kisch (cq) (chef de cuisine at Menton) plating sample dishes during Barbara Lynch's Toques and Tonic Gala at Boston Children's Museum on Friday April 11, 2015. (Matthew J. Lee/Globe staff) Topic: BarbaraLynchGala2 Reporter: Jill Radsken

Matthew J. Lee/Globe staff

Barbara Lynch and Kristen Kish prepare plates.

“In the past, there was an official photographer in the corner, hopefully getting the shot,” he said. “Now [shooting selfies] makes sense for attendees, and of course, organizers because they can create buzz and make the experience better.”

Lynch’s foundation raises money for culinary and entrepreneurial programs for inner-city students. The James Beard Award-winning restaurateur and chef started Toques & Tonic last year after her inaugural Blizzard Bash planned for February 2013 was cancelled due to — what else? — a blizzard. Lynch moved the event to April, and renamed it while retaining the original concept of star chefs and bartenders serving at 30 different stations. This year’s event cost about $100,000, according a Lynch Foundation spokeswoman.

“There’s no large event anymore in the city — nothing that gets national talent,” said Lynch last week during a pre-gala walk-through of the space. “The [now retired] Spinazzola Foundation gala drew thousands, but you couldn’t get a cocktail. Here there are no lines.”

Lynch, Matzkin, and their staffs worked for months to ensure the experience for guests — and the guest chefs who had flown in from San Francisco, Chicago, and Seattle — was top-notch. Seven trucks delivered 11,000 small plates, 7,600 napkins and forks, and more than 8,700 Barbara Lynch Foundation drink glasses. They brought in four kinds of ice — bar, dry, chef, and beverage — totalling 2,500 pounds, and the audio/video/lighting team spent 300 hours planning, and executing all things multimedia. Volunteers and museum staff numbered nearly 200 compared to the 538 guests.

Boston MA 4/11/15 Grant Achatz (cq) one of the leaders in molecular gastronomy or progressive cuisine and chef at Alinea in Chicago pouring savory Carabbean spices on chunks of rib eye steak during Barbara Lynch's Toques and Tonic Gala at Boston Children's Museum on Friday April 11, 2015. (Matthew J. Lee/Globe staff) Topic: BarbaraLynchGala2 Reporter: Jill Radsken

Matthew J. Lee/Globe staff

Chicago chef Grant Achatz pours sauce on rib eye steak.

“It’s pretty amazing what Linda turns this into,” said Lynch, who chose the museum for its whimsical setting. In the lobby, Tim Cushman of o ya served sashimi while the museum’s hands-on bubble room was turned into an adult Bubbler Bar with champagne, wine, and beer. Nearby, guests made multiple return trips to Eventide, a restaurant from Portland, Maine, for its lobster roll served in a steamed dim sum-style roll.

“We’re opening our third restaurant, The Honey Paw, on Sunday?? . . . so it’s not the best timing,” said co-owner Arlin Smith. “But we felt honored to be invited because it was Barbara Lynch.”

The gala, which raised $250,000, could be a case study in marketing, from the curated lineup of celebrity chefs to the strategy of using guests to help hype the evening’s success. On the foodie front, Kristen Kish (formerly of Menton, “Top Chef” Season 10 winner) joined Lynch behind a station serving beef carpaccio while Ana Sortun (Oleana) served duck kadayif with a pistachio labne and tomato brown butter.

Down the hall and around a corner, Matt Jennings (Townsman) served tilefish with a Vietnamese sauce and spinach on a spring cracker while Michael Scelfo (Alden & Harlow) plated monkfish liver with caviar.

“We’re first timers,” said Scelfo.

Boston MA 4/11/15 Cerry Kane (cq), left from Chicago shows off his tweet about the party to Celina Munoz (cq) from Los Angeles during Barbara Lynch's Toques and Tonic Gala at Boston Children's Museum on Friday April 11, 2015. (Matthew J. Lee/Globe staff) Topic: BarbaraLynchGala2 Reporter: Jill Radsken

Matthew J. Lee/Globe staff

Terry Kane shows his tweet about the party to Celina Munoz.

High-concept chef Grant Achatz (Alinea, The Aviary) flew in from Chicago with executive chef Andrew Brochu to serve their inspired take on the Dark and Stormy (clear by way of a rotary evaporator) and a barbecue-glazed wagyu beef displayed on a bed of sliced ginger and limes.

“We pick and choose events carefully because it requires a tremendous amount of effort,” he said. “When we’re out of our restaurant, we have to represent our identity. We can’t come with a bottle of gin and some limes.”

Guests— like Jon Sanford, who came from Tennessee for the event — were impressed.

“I have never experienced anything like this. All the chefs are showing off,” said Sanford, who works as a chef at Jiggy Ray’s. “I got so excited meeting Grant Achatz I had to get back in line to get his food.”

Steve Dillberg, an accountant who lives in Natick, called the gala a leap forward from the traditional chicken dinner.

“It’s better than going into a big banquet hall,” said Dillberg, who came with his wife, Nicole. “You can’t beat the lineup of chefs and you can jump behind the counter [with them]. It spices up the event.”

And the ripple effect extended well outside the museum walls as guests shared their #ToquesandTonic status and checked their phones for updates.

“Six of my friends have already liked the post,” said MIT student Laura Breiman, who posted her selfie on Instagram. “It helps that I’m so popular.”

Matthew J. Lee/Globe staff

Juliana Regan takes a photo to post to Instagram.

Jill Radsken can be reached at [email protected]