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Giving Thanks by Giving Back

Submitted by on November 24, 2011 – 12:45 amNo Comment

It’s Thanksgiving, so here’s something different for Road Trips Foodies. Read about how some chefs and restaurateurs take time off to reflect on the importance of giving back in their own special way within their communities.

Haley Bittermann, Executive Chef, Ralph Brennan Restaurant Group – New Orleans, Louisiana:
“As the Executive Chef of several Ralph Brennan restaurants, I work with hundreds of folks and get to know them personally. Your heart goes out to those who have no one to go home to, especially in the holiday season. Every year, I have many of the kitchen staff and some of the less fortunate “street” guys to my house for a holiday gathering. Also, I take the day off from my daily routine and serve food at the Salvation Army.”

Ralph Brennan, President, Ralph Brennan Restaurant Group – New Orleans, Louisiana:
“Growing up in a large, Irish/Italian family, cousins and siblings are running around and clumped together at holidays; and coming from New Orleans, we have a lot of holidays. It is important to allow children to imagine and create stories that inspire dreams. I know growing up, I would peer into a Gingerbread House window and pretend I saw Santa’s elves creating all the toys. Therefore, I tried to create those wonderful memories for ill and underprivileged children. Every year we give to the New Orleans Children’s Hospital Gingerbread Houses and make sure we have handfuls of toys for tots.”

Chris Clime, Chef de Cuisine, PassionFish – Reston, Virginia:
“Our police force serves our needs tirelessly everyday, and it is important for all of us to take notice. PassionFish and I collectively provide an abundance of food to the families of our police men and women, in order for them to enjoy a special holiday meal during the season.”

David Guas, Owner and Chef, Bayou Bakery, Coffee Bar & Eatery – Arlington, Virginia:
“Since Bayou Bakery opened in November 2010, I have been giving daily to the homeless shelter down the street any baked goods that remain at the end of the evening. That just didn’t feel like enough, though. I wanted to give my time and truly be a part of the homeless community for one day. Thanksgiving is when both sides of my wife’s and my family come together and this year, my very best friend will be joining us. I signed everyone up a few months ago to serve at a homeless shelter on Thanksgiving Day. It will bring a new perspective to our dinner table and a tradition we are starting as a combined family.”

Lee Richardson, Executive Chef, Ashley’s at The Capital Hotel – Little Rock, Arkansas:
“Six years ago Katrina changed me and had me look at my neighbors, the grocery store clerk, postman, and the farmers so much more differently than before. That first holiday in 2005, after moving to Little Rock, the holidays were right upon us and our goal [my wife and I] was to bring some value to our life. We heard of an exciting event with St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital—the St. Jude Garden Harvest—at Heartwood Hall in Piperton, Tennessee. It is an exciting event with generous farmers, suppliers, and chefs who contribute. Having a child of our own encouraged us to participate with St. Jude.”

Peter Smith, Executive Chef and Owner, PS7’s – Washington, D.C.:
“With a house full of children, myself included at times, we have plenty of food on the table. As a chef, you reflect on days like Thanksgiving how to maintain those traditional dishes each year as staples of the dinner. So what about those families who have traditions but cannot fulfill them? We support our church every year in bringing food to those tables of families in need.”

Jeff Tunks, Owner and Chef, Passion Food Hospitality Restaurants (Acadiana, Burger, Tap & Shake, Ceiba, DC Coast, District Commons, PassionFish) – Washington, D.C.:
“I am deeply gratified to be able to prepare a number of holiday dinners for the wounded and their families at the Walter Reed Hospital Center every year. These men and women put their lives at risk for us, unconditionally, and to me, the military is one of the most admirable professions. For the past 25 years, as a chef, I have been front and center seeing what food can generate from satisfaction to gratification, and the holidays are a time for these brave service people to enjoy what I can offer them, for a change.”

Robert Wiedmaier, Owner and Chef, Marcel’s – Brasserie Beck – Mussel Bar – Washington, D.C.:
“For the last seven years, I have organized the Virginia Ann Wiedmaier Holiday Dinner at the Mologne House at Walter Reed Hospital for wounded warriors, family members, and active duty military. Last year I gathered a group of chefs including Brian McBride, John Snedden, and Todd Gray to participate and it was such a gratifying experience everyone is making plans to come back for another year.”

Tucker Yoder, Executive Chef, The Clifton Inn – Charlottesville, Virginia:
“Most people will never see behind-the-scenes at a working farm or the hardworking people who supply us with the bounty of their growth – it just appears like magic when they sit down at our table at The Clifton Inn. These farmers give so much and receive so little in return. During the holidays, I go back to several of my local suppliers and prepare dinner for them on their farm. Not just me, but my whole family takes part in the celebration.”

(Photo by Pam Roth)

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