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    LGBT Athlete Supports, Promotes Local Artists Through Gourmet Meals

    By John Chen–

    Zac Stein, a multi-sport athlete, loves good food and aspires to build a loving and trusting community in our Bay Area. “I believe the foundation in building a strong community is through two parts of our society that are time-tested traditions: food and art,” he recently told me for the San Francisco Bay Times.

    A former gymnast, soccer goalie, volleyball pin hitter, quarterback, and collegiate Lacrosse attacker, he is a jock in every sense of the word. But Stein is more than just an athlete. He’s well educated, well versed, and well-traveled, including having studied abroad in India. Through his experiences, Stein developed a taste for spices, cultures, diversity, and a strong appreciation for various forms of art.

    A little over two years ago, Stein and his now partner Gina Connolly started hosting a weekly dinner, called Gina Dinner, at their home in Oakland for 10 people celebrating food, people, art, and the community. Stein enthusiastically said, “Our initial private offering was to bring friends together, eat great food, and hold meaningful conversations about life in both general and specifics.

    Connolly is a sous chef and has worked for some of the more well-known restaurants in the Bay Area, including Pearl in San Francisco and Boot & Shoe Service (the restaurant “Sister” is now at that Oakland site). Stein said, “She would create and serve diverse and cultural flavors for all of us to enjoy, and I would plan, organize, market and manage the dinners.”

    He continued, “Last year [2019], we parlayed Gina Dinner from a small private dinner group to a much larger public fundraising offering called An Art Tasting. We got the idea from Lexa Walsh’s event called Oakland Stock. We bring together people who love art and food, and believe in community as a concept and framework for life. Just as importantly, we wanted to provide some financial support and a platform for local Bay Area artists to showcase their talents. Our first two Art Tastings by Gina Dinner were held at the Humanist Hall in downtown Oakland, and saw half a dozen artists performing their craft to nearly one hundred enthusiastic food lovers and supporters. At our dinners we’ve featured musicians, writers, dancers, and visual artists. We’re proud to have raised several thousands of dollars at An Art Tasting to help our local artists.”

    As a fellow foodie, this writer absolutely supports any community-oriented event feathering gourmet dining, especially one that benefits local artists in pursuing their dreams. Stein tells me that Connolly meticulously designs a multi-course gourmet meal showcasing flavors from local farms, all in an effort to support our local Bay Area growers.

    Gina Dinner also takes great care in selecting the artists they support at An Art Tasting. Stein explained, “We first and foremost look at the artist’s ability to put on an entertaining experience for our dinner guests. We also take into consideration diversity in performance and performers as well as artists who are deserving and in need of financial support. Finally, we want our artists to pitch and discuss the meaning and significance of their work with their audience. I try to make the application process simple and transparent. In our future Art Tastings, we hope to expose out guests to more diverse art forms such as aerials, impersonators, and exotic and cultural musical instruments, etc.”

    Gina Dinner strives to create an unforgettable evening featuring everything food and art from the Bay Area. This is how Stein and Connolly envision building and supporting our community. If you would like to attend a future An Art Tasting by Gina Dinner, receive more information on how to support Gina Dinner artists, or become An Art Tasting artist, please follow Gina Dinner on Instagram @GinaDinner and “like” their Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/ginadinner/

    John Chen, a UCLA alumnus and an avid sports fan, has competed as well as coached tennis, volleyball, softball and football teams.

    Published on February 13, 2020