Dollars for Scholars to host new dinner fundraiser

Executive chef Cory Wendel at Aposto of Des Moines. Submitted photo
Executive chef Cory Wendel at Aposto of Des Moines. Submitted photo
By Kate Hayden,

A fine dining experience in Charles City will pull double-duty as a new Dollars for Scholars fundraiser in February.

Tickets are on sale for the first Dining for Dollars for Scholars event, featuring a menu prepared by Charles City graduate Cory Wendel, executive chef at Aposto in Des Moines.

The dinner is scheduled for Feb. 20 at 6:30 p.m. in the Charles City Elks Lodge. Entertainment for the night will be provided by Endless Summer.

“We’re trying to be a little more creative of ways to generate money,” Dollars for Scholars board member Kim Wendel said. “We were trying to figure out what we were lacking around here, and one of those things was fine dining.”

Cory Wendel will be assisted by friend and chef Shawn Bennigsdorf, and Comet Cafe students from the Charles City High School in preparing a three-course meal for diners.

Cory had his first restaurant job working at a bar in Charles City, and “just kind of stuck in restaurants for fifteen years.”

“I found out you could get away with doing this professionally,” Cory said.

After moving to the Des Moines metro and helping to establish a catering business, Cory went back to school at Iowa State University in culinary food science.

He worked for a time at the French restaurant Bistro Montage when a friend from Aposto called about a job offer. Cory took over as executive chef in March 2017.

“It’s primarily Italian and French cooking. I like to add in some Asian, Mexican, South American flavors too. I’ve done a lot of traveling and it’s just fun to do,” Cory said.

For the Dining with Dollars for Scholars menu, Cory had a particular vision of what will be offered.

“Simple but just classically well done,” Cory said. “The main thing is to keep it simple but deal with classic cooking and classic recipes.”

He expects to spend eight to ten hours the Monday prior on prep work, with another eight-plus hours working with Comet Cafe students on Tuesday to prepare for the event.

“It’s a good price for a good cause, and we’ll make sure the food is good. I hope it’s a neat thing for them and a good experience for the kids,” Cory said.

Tickets are limited to 120 seats, and more than 50 tickets are already sold, Kim said. The dinner is $25 a seat, and tickets are available at First Citizens National Bank, the Charles City Chamber or by contacting Kim.

Doors to the event and the silent auction will begin at 6 p.m. Silent auction items include a weekend of the bidder’s choice at a getaway cabin just three miles outside of Charles City; dinner will begin at 6:30 p.m.

Dollars for Scholars will also match any new scholarship of $250 or more with an additional $250 that night.

“That scholarship could become a $500 scholarship in (the donor’s) name,” Kim said. “All the monies that come into us go right back to scholarships. We don’t take any administration fees … 100 percent go to scholarships.”

Dollars for Scholars awards a scholarship to every student who submits a complete application.

“We’re excited,” Kim said. “We’re going to see how it goes, but we’d like to make it an annual event.”