Tonight in a home somewhere in Greenwich, Debra Ponzek will be helping get dinner on the table, but it won't be her table, and it won't even be her house.

"In this kind of town, everyone is running to get to everything they have to," said Ponzek, on a recent morning at the Riverside location of Aux Delices, a specialty food shop business she runs with her husband, Gregory Addonizio. "I get it. I do cook every night, but it takes time, even if you are doing a simple thing."

Nearly 20 years ago, the Greenwich couple opened Aux Delices in a two-story, sunny spot along the Post Road. This is the first of what would grow to be four locations, with two stores in Greenwich and one each in Darien and Westport. The award-winning chef watched customers grab prepared sandwiches and salads from the store's display cases as she spoke. Flying out the door as well were some store favorites -- lasagna Bolognese, turkey tettrazini, shrimp salad, kale salad and turkey chili -- that can go easily from store to oven or microwave and to the family table.

"A lot of the way the business was shaped and the way it has grown is based on what people were looking for, for their own families," said the mother of three and author of four cookbooks. "Even when I worked in New York, I liked a simpler approach to food and that has stayed with us."

Ponzek caught the attention of critics and culinary fans early in her career in the 1980s, during a seven-year turn as executive chef at New York City's Montrachet, becoming the first female chef to be awarded three stars by the New York Times three consecutive times.

Growing up in New Jersey, she said she did not aspire to be a chef, though she began cooking around the age of 9 or 10. As she made her way through high school and into college, some 30 years ago, there were few celebrity chefs to inspire hopefuls. Instead, she studied biomedical engineering at Boston University.

It was Ponzek's next-door neighbor in New Jersey with friends who owned a New York City restaurant that Ponzek would visit that would change her career path. "When I met them, it just sort of opened that world up to me."

She went on to study at the Culinary Institute of America, which her husband also attended. It was there that she integrated the skills and training she was acquiring with her intrinsic approach to food.

"I guess I always start with simple ingredients or ingredients that I love," Ponzek said.

But she also likes to take a familiar dish and reach for an atypical ingredient to give it a deeper, unexpected flavor -- maybe it's the addition of miso, a pickled vegetable, a dried fruit or curry vinaigrette. "It takes it out of the realm of the way it is always presented ... and it gives it a different taste. I do that at home and in the stores.

"Even at Montrachet, we were on a budget and we had to be imaginative with simple, day-to-day ingredients."

For a home cook or a professional, it's a fine line to walk between the familiar and the unfamiliar. Dishes become beloved for a reason -- they are consistently satisfying. Most of Aux Delices' dishes are rotated on a fairly regular basis, she said. Favorite soups and salads return again and again as weekly specials, while new dishes are introduced that may, in time, become classics. She said much of the work is in sourcing ingredients to find those that are healthy, fresh and flavorful. She said it may sound cliche, but it really is the best way to create a dish that is consistently good.

"You always have to be great, and I hold that very much to heart," she said. "I want the food to be very good, consistently."

It is that approach that has earned her the honor of "great chef," as part of Greenwich Hospital's 30th annual "Great Chefs." More than 60 restaurants, caterers and food and drink purveyors will provide guests with interesting edibles on Friday, March 6. Proceeds from the event support the Community Health program at Greenwich Hospital, which offers screening, support groups and other programs to more than 26,000 residents in Fairfield and Westchester, N.Y., counties.

Chef Aaron Sanchez, from the popular Food Network program, "Chopped," and owner of Paloma, a Stamford restaurant he opened last year, will be honored, as well. He is also the chef ambassador with WhyHunger, an organization that works with communities to raise awareness of hunger and poverty.

Ponzek is still working on the menu for the event, which she has participated in for 18 years, and said it would be a taste of the culinary creations made for special events by her catering and party planning business.

"It is for such a great cause," she said. "And it's always a fun night."

Many factors go into the selection of a "great chef," said Cynthia Catterson, senior communications officer of the Greenwich Hospital Foundation, which coordinates galas and benefits. "Debra has been on our radar for a long time. She's very active in the community and has been very generous to the hospital."

When asked about the various turns her career has taken, Ponzek said she feels she has "worn a lot of different hats," from caterer to cookbook author, executive chef to mom, entrepreneur to instructor (Aux Delices also runs cooking classes in a commercial kitchen in Stamford).

"I get to dabble in all that," she said. "(Greg) is really the backbone of the operation and that allows me to work as much as I do and do the things I like to do."

Westchester Country Club, 99 Biltmore Ave, Rye, N.Y. Friday, March 6, 7 to 11:30 p.m. Tickets start at $250 and are only sold in advance. Call 203-863-3865 or email events@greenwichhospital.org. http://giving.greenhosp.org/home

Christina.hennessy@scni.com; Twitter: @xtinahennessy