Impact of Giving: Wine & Food Festival

Supporting Education and Billings

Since the inception of the Wine & Food Festival in 1992, there have always been supporters of education, wine, and food. Some supporters are interested in helping the students of MSU Billings while enjoying the atmosphere created by those planning the annual festival. Others are interested in promoting Billings and all it has to offer, including this premier fundraising event. Some are interested in both. The Wine & Food Festival is pleased to have the long-standing support and talents of a Billings trifecta: The Rex Restaurant Bar & Grill, Gene Burgad, and David Maplethorpe.

It is no secret to those in the Billings area that Gene Burgad, owner of The Rex, has been instrumental in revitalizing the downtown neighborhood where The Rex is located. “I think a lot of people have affectionate memories for this part of town, with the Depot and all. So to me, it made sense to pump up this part of town and create a pleasant atmosphere.” He has also been very generous to the Wine & Food Festival, donating items for both the silent and live auctions over the years. A perennial favorite is the dinner and wine live auction items donated by Burgad and hosted at The Rex.

In addition to these generous auction items, The Rex has been the venue for some of the festival’s most popular events. Each year, the Guest Chef Dinner is held at The Rex where chefs, local and from out the area, provide an incredible meal pairing food and wine throughout a lovely evening. Recently The Rex agreed to host a new pre-festival event, the Daring Pairing, where area chefs create a food pairing with a surprise wine. The ambiance of the Rex makes these events extremely popular. The award-winning restaurant boasts a number of Billings Gazette Readers’ Choice Awards, the prestigious National Beef Backer Award for Innovator of the Year (2007), and multiple Wine Spectator Awards of Excellence.

The Rex Executive Chef David Maplethorpe earned a college degree because his parents were adamant about education. However, his ultimate desire was to become a chef. He mentored with a French chef and continued his education at the Culinary Institute of America in St. Helena, California. That education helped develop David’s impressive cooking talents. Maplethorpe started at The Rex in 1994 and got involved with the Wine & Food Festival in 1998 when he became part of the Rogue Chef Dinner. He has continued participation in that dinner and added the Troyka Chef’s auction item. He co-chairs the Guest Chef Dinner event and serves as a valuable member of the Wine & Food Festival steering committee. Maplethorpe sees his involvement with the Wine & Food Festival as a way to marry his passions. The festival benefits the students who might not be able to afford an education and boosts the Billings economy while people enjoy great food and wine.

“Whatever I may be able to do to create that ability to go to college, I will assume that responsibility,” stated Maplethorpe.

Both Maplethorpe and Burgad understand that the items they donate to the Wine & Food Festival – time, expertise, and venue – provides funding for MSU Billings students. The money raised through the festival makes a difference when potential students choose between going to college or not. Because of their generosity, students are able to pursue their dream of a higher education. And the icing on the cake: Wine & Food Festival also promotes the Billings economy.

The Wine & Food Festival is a benefit for the Montana State University Billings Foundation and will take place this May 9–14. For more information on how you can purchase tickets, volunteer, or donate to the Wine & Food Festival, please contact us at 406.657.2244, 888.430.6782, or foundation@msubillings.edu.

Gene Burgad

Gene Burgad

David Maplethorpe

David Maplethorpe