Each fall, top-rated chefs gather at the Stamford Yacht Club to provide a delightful culinary experience for supporters of The Food Bank of Lower Fairfield County.

As the signature fund-raising event for this hunger-relief organization, this year the fifth annual Connoisseurs' Dinner featured several courses of food to satisfy the most discerning palate. There was also a silent auction plus high-ticket items offered at live auction.

"Everything came together in such a perfect way," said Executive Director Kate Lombardo, "and everyone was there for one important reason -- to raise money so we can continue to provide food through the holidays to more than 100 non-profit agencies and programs in Darien, Greenwich, New Canaan, Norwalk, Stamford and Wilton that feed the hungry."

The Cingari family of Grade A ShopRite, donated all of the food, and The Royal Bank of Scotland and Thomson Reuters were sponsors.

The seven chefs who participated in the event -- Bryan Malcarney who owns Rory's Pub in Darien and Westport's Blue Lemon Restaurant; Erik Anderson of David's Soundview Catering in Stamford; Jean-Louis Gerin of Restaurant Jean-Louis in Greenwich; Tom Isidori of the Country Club of Fairfield; Stephen Maronian of Sweet Lisa's Exquisite Cakes in Cos Cob; Pietro Scotti of Da Pietro's Restaurant in Westport; and P. Quint Smith of the Stamford Yacht Club -- donated their time to prepare a menu that included hors d'oeuvres, a five-course meal, dessert and a variety of wines.

In addition to the chefs, Lombardo noted that there were many who worked to make the event a success.

This year, meteorologist Matt Scott of News 8 WTNH used a mix of humor and theatrics to raise the bidding on the live auction items, which included a dinner party catered by all seven chefs, a dinner for four at Blue Lemon Restaurant, four tickets to the Westport Country Playhouse and a dress by designer Tamsen Heath, and two tickets to, and a backstage tour of, "The Late Show with David Letterman."

More than two dozen students from the Norwalk Community College Hospitality Management and Culinary Arts program -- led by Catering and Event Management Chef Professor Steve Maronian and Service Management Professor T.J. Diagne -- helped to prepare and serve the food.

"That these students had an opportunity to apply their skills at a live event staged to raise funds to help feed people," Lombardo said, "is good for the students and for those who are the ultimate beneficiaries of the effort."

Lombardo said there is still more to do.

"We raised money at the annual Connoisseurs' Dinner, and we are most thankful to everyone who helped us achieve our goal, but this time of year places significant demand on the agencies and organizations that distribute bags of groceries or serve congregate meals to feed people who are hungry; and The Food Bank has to be ready to meet that need."

As people in lower Fairfield County begin preparations to celebrate Thanksgiving and the holiday season, The Food Bank will be reaching out with its Annual Appeal to solicit donations.

"All of us know that this is a festive time when we gather with family and friends," said Lombardo, "but it is also a time when we should remember those less fortunate."

To meet the year-round need for food in the six communities it serves, which -- as a result of the economy -- now extends beyond people living in poverty to include those who, until recently, were more financially secure, The Food Bank solicits food donations from the public.

According to Lombardo, the number of people who will need help putting a meal on the table this Thanksgiving has increased significantly as a result of economic conditions.

"We distributed more than 11,000 turkeys last year and anticipate a need for 15,000 turkeys this year," she said. "We hope those who generously donated turkeys last year will do so again."

Lombardo said even small donations make a difference.

"For $35, a family of six will enjoy a modest Thanksgiving meal of turkey, stuffing, mashed potatoes, green beans, sweet potatoes, gravy, rolls and a pie."

To make a donation, visit www.foodbanklfc.org.

The Food Bank of Lower Fairfield County, Inc., a 501(c)(3) non-profit, is the primary hunger-relief organization in Lower Fairfield County. The organization provides food to more than 100 non-profit agencies and programs that serve people in its six-town service area through bags of groceries and congregate meals. These include soup kitchens, food pantries, child care programs, homeless shelters, senior centers, domestic violence safe houses and rehabilitation programs. In 2009, The Food Bank supplied more than 1.6 million pounds of food to its member agencies at a savings of $2.5 million over wholesale costs. $0.96 of every dollar donated goes directly to support The Food Bank's mission. To find out how to you can help, visit www.foodbanklfc.org/how-to-help or call 203-358-8898.