By Lori Fredrich Senior Food Writer, Dining Editor, Podcast Host Published Apr 19, 2023 at 12:01 PM

For over 25 years, SHARP Literacy has been engaging urban youth in experiential and hands-on learning that enhances their understanding of science, technology, engineering, art and math. 

In support of their work, six local chefs will showcase their creativity by creating gourmet small-plate entrees, appetizers and desserts using McDonald’s core ingredients.

The 8th annual Unwrapped MKE will take place on Thursday, May 18 from 5 to 8 p.m. at The Gage, 1139 S. 70th St. in West Allis, and will feature Fox 6 Anchor Carl Deffenbaugh as emcee.

In addition to food stations where guests can sample the chef-driven fare, UnWrapped will also feature a silent auction, a bourbon experience with Steve Palec and a student art display.

All proceeds from the annual foodie fundraiser will go to support SHARP Literacy's ongoing STEAM-based programming (Science, Technology, Engineering, the Arts and Mathematics) for over 8,000 urban elementary students in 49 schools across Milwaukee, Racine and Waukesha. 

Childhood favorites

Participating chefs for the 2023 event will include Brent Davis of Bacchus: A Bartolotta Restaurant; Tom McGinty and Brian Frakes of Milwaukee Athletic Club; Brian Taborski of Saz’s Hospitality Group; Ashton Rotman of Rot’s Hots Food Truck; Brian Ward of Ward’s House of Prime; and Amanda Wisth of Lemonyay.

The chefs have been asked to reflect on beloved dishes from their childhood and reimagine those foods in an elevated format. As a result, each dish will be comprised of beloved memories, family recipes and the nostalgia brought to the table by classic comfort food.

“Creativity is the foundation of our programming and that’s why Unwrapped makes so much sense for our supporters,” notes SHARP President and CEO Lynda Kohler. “We are incredibly appreciative of the seven chefs who share our resolve to make a difference with young students in southeastern Wisconsin, and we’re looking forward to learning a little more about them through their creations.”

Award honorees

During the event,  SHARP Literacy will also present two “Bartolotta Partners of the Year” awards.

Awardees will include Dottie Metz, McDonald’s owner and operator, who will be honored for her ongoing support of Unwrapped Milwaukee events as well as SHARP Literacy's annual fundraiser, A Novel Event. Distributor Martin Brower will also be recognized for its role in facilitating the delivery of donated ingredients from McDonald’s suppliers.

Both awards are named in honor of the late Joe Bartolotta with acknowledgement for the spirit of partnership and cooperation with which Joe approached his work. 

Eight years of Unwrapped

The inaugural UnWrapped fundraiser in 2016 was the brainchild of former SHARP Literacy board member, McDonald's owner-operator and presenting sponsor Marshall Chay.

Inspired by similar events in Dallas and San Francisco, which tapped chefs to create dinners with McDonald's ingredients, he moved to create a similar nontraditional yet upscale event in Milwaukee to raise funds for the nonprofit.

 Over the past seven years, the event has generated more than $335,000 in revenue and has expanded into Waukesha County with “Unwrapped Waukesha Edition.”

“I look forward to this event every year, not only to support the important mission of SHARP, but also to test my culinary creativity,” notes Chef Brian Taborski  of Saz's Hospitality Group, who has participated in the event for five years.

“I reflect on the theme and then test multiple combinations using McDonald’s ingredients, as well as my own favorite flavorings and spices, to come up with the perfect dish that I hope will surprise and delight guests.”

Ticketing information

Individual tickets for the event are $100 and include unlimited sampling at chef stations. They can be purchased online at

Various levels of corporate and individual sponsorship are also available.

Lori Fredrich Senior Food Writer, Dining Editor, Podcast Host

Lori is an avid cook whose accrual of condiments and spices is rivaled only by her cookbook collection. Her passion for the culinary industry was birthed while balancing A&W root beer mugs as a teenage carhop, fed by insatiable curiosity and fueled by the people whose stories entwine with each and every dish. She’s had the privilege of chronicling these tales via numerous media, including OnMilwaukee and in her book “Milwaukee Food.” Her work has garnered journalism awards from entities including the Milwaukee Press Club. 

When she’s not eating, photographing food, writing or recording the FoodCrush podcast, you’ll find Lori seeking out adventures with her husband Paul, traveling, cooking, reading, learning, snuggling with her cats and looking for ways to make a difference.