Male models — some of Longboat Key’s most well-known men — strut down the runway before a crowd of 200. At least 10 local restaurants flavor the event with their culinary creations. And, when it’s all over, it’s one of the Longboat Key Garden Club’s biggest fundraisers of the year — just behind the annual Home & Garden Tour. As a result, more children go to Camp Wekiva in the summer and more college students receive scholarships and grants.
That is Susan Landau’s vision for “A Taste of the Keys.” The event is more than three months away, but Landau already expects the 200 tickets priced at $50 each will sell out quickly.
“We already have dignitaries on a waiting list,” a beaming Landau says of the fashion show lineup.
“They’re all people you have read about.”
Landau is co-chairing the event with fellow Longboat Key resident and Garden Club member Barbara Kerwin and Longboat Key Center for the Arts Executive Director Jane Buckman. The proceeds will be split between the Garden Club and the Arts Center, which will host the April 13 event.
Landau’s challenge: She has the responsibility of recruiting restaurant participants, a task she knows can be difficult from her experience as chairwoman of Jewish Family & Children’s Services of Sarasota-Manatee’s Celebrity Chefs and Wine Tasting event. During the course of the season, restaurant owners are often asked to donate their time and treats for fundraisers for many worthy organizations. But Landau stresses that this event is different, because the event benefits exclusively two Longboat Key organizations.
“This is a total Longboat event,” Landau said.
As of mid-December, she had about a half-dozen restaurants signed on to participate, although she hopes to recruit at least 10. But Landau is well-suited for the task — the “Taste of the Keys” event merges two of her favorite passions: people and food. In addition, the Cincinnati native has a background in marketing. At 23, she became Miss Uniroyal, marketing the tire business and helping to create the first telemarketing firm in Ohio.
She describes herself as a born networker, and in addition to the Garden Club and Jewish Family & Children’s Services, she is active with Temple Sinai and the Women’s Resource Center. Last summer, she took on a new challenge when she became the newest member of the Longboat Key Code Enforcement Board.
Although Landau has a full plate this season, she thrives on the action in the community she has called home for the past eight years. But she almost missed out on living on Longboat. She visited the island more than 20 years ago with her husband, Lenny, and children, Robin and Tad, when both children were young.
“It was raining and we never even got to see St. Armands,” Landau said. “I never wanted to come back.”
When Lenny Landau retired in 2002, the Landaus drove across the state in search of a place to move.
They initially considered Hutchinson Island but realized quickly that they would be bored by the lack of activities and decided to give Longboat Key another shot. She quickly became involved with Key life and was even named 2007 Kiwanis Club of Longboat Key Citizen of the Year.
When it comes to “A Taste of the Keys,” Landau is still working on the recipe for success. She doesn’t know how much the event could raise or if it will become an annual tradition. But she knows that the event will spice things up for two good causes.
“We just don’t know where this could take us,” she said.
Occupation: Worked as a teacher and in marketing
Hobbies: Working out, book club and theater
Passion: Food and people
Interesting fact: When she was fresh out of college, Landau pursued theater in New York City.
Contact Robin Hartill at email@example.com