Monday, October 22, 2012

The Dinner to Fight Hunger

Ever witnessed something that started with a "What if we...." and ended up with "How the heck did that happen?" That's pretty much what happened with The Dinner to Fight Hunger.

The Dinner was basically a pop-up restaurant evening at Brookeville Restaurant where I (an amateur) prepared a five course tasting menu using local ingredients. We sold tickets to the public and used the money from the tickets as a donation to the Blue Ridge Area Food Bank. I won't bore you, loyal reader (singular), with the backstory, but the actual event itself was a seriously unique experience, not because of the food, but because of the people.

Cooking really started for me as a hobby, but it held my interest when it became about people, and about a community. I realized how great that community really is through putting on this event.

Going into the dinner, I expected it would be a flop. Why would perfect strangers pay their hard earned money for the cooking of a perfect stranger? Why would a critically acclaimed restaurant allow an unskilled goof into their kitchen, knowing there would be a fifty fifty chance I might burn it down? Excellent questions. The answer? The food community here is full of the best kind of people, and they all care about supporting hungry people in our area.

 I had never met Jennifer and Harrison Keevil, co-owners and chef (Harrison) of Brookeville, going into this, but they are passionate about food, and fully invested in giving back to this community. They never hesitated to welcome me into their place and spent tons of time and energy helping make The Dinner a success. They were there for any stupid question I had, they were a great resource in my search for local ingredients (no resto does that better in Cville), and one of the highlights of the whole thing for me was a lesson in Plating from Chef Harrison himself. These two have about a million things going on in their lives, but they took a ton of time (on their day off) to help us make this possible, and that is a rare thing. Go down there immediately and celebrate their benevolence with Chicken & Bacon Waffles.

I never really expected people I didn't know to pay for tickets to this thing. We offered 20 tickets, and I thought more than half of them might be tough sells. I was shocked to see that once the word got out, we sold out within a day and a half of the announcement. What-the-What? I can promise you it wasn't the legends of my good cooking that brought them in. The Blue Ridge Area Food Bank is doing powerful work to feed the hungry in our area, and good people here just jumped at the opportunity to pitch in. When we had cancellations along the way, someone would contact me out of the blue and snap up the empty seats. We were literally destined to reach our overall goal.

Just like the last big dinner, gathering the ingredients was one of my favorite parts.We were about 85% locally sourced this time, and the quality of the results definitely benefitted from it.  Getting to know the food producers around here is a ton of fun, and they are all really terrific people. They were all very excited about the opportunity to help out for this Event. Watching them sneak in a discount or add a few more potatoes to the bag after they weighed it was just more evidence that people care about people.

Every time help was needed, someone gave it. Austin and Jessi were my loyal sous chefs/servers/dish washers, and they were ON FIRE. Not literally. Figuratively. It would have all screeched to a halt without their work, and they were 100% volunteer. Except for the free beer. And meatballs. Kevin, one of our diners, volunteered to help me prep vegetables, and he came out to the house on Saturday and chopped onions like a champ! Who does that? It turns out he has some experience cooking for causes, and we are already talking about collaborating on future events. Wendy Edwards, a local radio talk show host and DJ, offered her help for the evening  and did a phenomenal job hosting and speaking on behalf of the Food Bank and how donation dollars go to help our hungry neighbors.

By the time the doors actually opened, I was riding on a super high of positive energy from all the people who had gotten involved to get us to that point. It could have been awkward to put a bunch of strangers at a farm style table for five courses, but everyone there was ridiculously friendly, and I really believe that they came in as diners and left as friends. It was a really fun room to be in.

There are great people here, and I am glad to know them. It was my priviledge to put a few plates on the table, but 21 of our neighbors provided money that will make its way through the BRAFB's system and provide meals for literally thousands of hungry people.
Ba-Bam! That just happened!

The Dinner To Fight Hunger
First Course:
Fried Cheese Stick
Homemade Mozzarella Cheese, Apple, Red Pepper, Chile, Honey
Wild Wolf Ginger Lager
Soup and Half Sandwich
Double Buffalo Slider. Bison Patty, Smoked Buffalo Shrimp, Appalachian Cheese
Potato Cheese Beer Soup Shooter
Devil's Backbone Striped Bass Pale Ale
BBQ Special
Bacon Wrapped Smoked Meatball, Fall Slaw, Pickled Vegetables, Habanero Pear BBQ sauce
Brew Ridge Trail Black Tripel Ale
Pot Roast & Mashed Potatoes
Beer Braised Short Rib, Smashed Sweet Chipotle Sweet Potato, Bacon, Hickory Syrup
Blue Mountain Dark Hollow Ale
Chocolate Pie
Dark Chocolate Ancho Chile Tart, Raspberry Lime sauce
Devil's Backbone Skull Crushing Ape Lager

I'd like to give a special thanks to all the local food producers and distributors who contributed to the dinner. I will list them here in no particular order. Please go out right this minute and buy food from these people. It will positively make your dishes taste better.
Appalachia Star Farm
Timber Creek Organics
BBQ Exchange
Albemarle Baking Company
Gardens of Khmet
Planet Earth Diversified
Mountain View Orchard
The Organic Butcher
The Spice Diva
Radical Roots Farm
Brookeville Restaurant
Devil's Backbone Brewery
Wild Wolf Brewery
Blue Mountain Brewery

Recipes for all menu items will be coming very soon!


  1. Worry we missed it. Glad it was such a success! The menu looks scrumptious. We picked a bad week to head to the obx! Next time!

  2. This is definitely so yummy yumyum! I wish I can taste all of your recipes specially the Chocolate Pie with Raspberry Lime sauce so numnummy. Hope you can also visit restaurant in Brooklyn, this is one of My favorite here in Brooklyn.