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Culture worthy of your calendar

Josh Garrick

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The great Chef’s Gala

There are some big food and wine events in Central Florida, but none are as truly fabulous, as extravagant or as much-anticipated as the Annual Chef’s Gala that benefits Heart of Florida United Way. This year we need to set our calendars — and our waistlines — for Saturday, May 21, beginning at 6:45 p.m. The sparkling wine begins to flow at that time (along with a silent auction), and the main event runs from 7:30-10 p.m. at Epcot at Walt Disney World. The evening features fine cuisine from more than 20 of Central Florida’s top chefs and restaurants, along with fine wines, desserts and specialty coffees. Each entrée is thoughtfully paired with wines to complement each menu selection, and sommeliers will be on hand to provide information about each wine.

Most importantly, proceeds from the Chef’s Gala benefit local health and human service programs supported by Heart of Florida United Way. Now — more than ever — those programs provide food, shelter and vital services to Central Floridians in need. Sponsored by Walt Disney World for the past 19 years, the event also includes live music. True to its slogan, the Chef’s Gala is a “Tasteful Way to Make a Difference.” For tickets, visit www.ChefsGala.org or call 407-429-2129.

Virtuoso violinist Joshua Bell

It is an occasion for celebration when one of the most famous musicians in the world performs for us in Orlando, and it’s fireworks time as the Orlando Philharmonic announces that violinist Joshua Bell will perform two concerts with the orchestra in May. The first concert is on Saturday, May 14, at 8 p.m. at the Bob Carr Performing Arts Centre, and the second is on May 15 at 3 p.m. at the Peabody Auditorium in Daytona Beach.

Under the direction of Maestro Christopher Wilkins, Bell will perform the Tchaikovsky “Violin Concerto” in a program that also features the Philharmonic performing Sibelius’ “Symphony No.1,” and the world premiere of a commissioned work by composer Daniel May.

Having come to national attention at the age of 14, Bell has performed for audiences worldwide. His youth, virtuosity and his multifaceted musical interests have made him a true classical music superstar. Bell has more than 30 CDs recorded, and his performances include “The Red Violin,” which won the Oscar for Best Original Score. He appeared in a film starring Meryl Streep and on TV shows “The Tonight Show” and “Live from Lincoln Center.” Bell was profiled as one of People Magazine’s 50 Most Beautiful People.

For tickets to either performance, call 407-770-0071 or visit OrlandoPhil.org

Flower power performances

Flower-powered cars from the upcoming Disney Pixar film “Cars 2” and other Disney characters — created completely from flowers — dot the landscape at Disney’s Epcot International Flower & Garden Festival running through May 15. The Festival’s final weekends feature The Monkees’ Davy Jones and Herman’s Hermits starring Peter Noone. Both singers came to America from Manchester, England, and both landed at the top of the pop music charts in the mid-1960s. Now Davy Jones and Peter Noone bring their hit-making sounds to Epcot to conclude the 2011 Flower Power Concert Series. Davy Jones will take the stage on May 6, 7 and 8, having traveled from TV to the top of the charts aboard the “Last Train to Clarksville.” Herman’s Hermits’ star Peter Noone, appearing May 13, 14 and 15, scored 11 Top 10 hits from 1965 to 1967, including “Mrs. Brown,” “You’ve Got a Lovely Daughter,” and “I’m Henry VIII, I Am.” Performances are at America Gardens Theatre at 5:15, 6:30 and 7:45 p.m. The Flower Power performances are included with Epcot admission. For additional information, visit disneyworld.com/flower