With perishables in the cooler and a reservations book thinned by Hurricane Florence-related disruptions, The Durham Hotel’s Andrea Reusing figured there were two ways she could contribute to storm relief: She could truck food to an affected area and sling hot meals for displaced residents, or she could sell it at a premium to Triangle diners, raising money for North Carolina farmworkers.
“We wanted to do something for the people on the margins, who historically don’t go to shelters because of the fear of deportation,” Reusing says, explaining how she landed on the latter. “We thought cold hard cash would be the way to go.”
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I had such a great time working with some of the great Chefs of the area last night at our Florence Relief Dinner for @nc_field. So much talent in one kitchen. Thank you @andreagailreusing @thedurhamhotel @fordsie for inviting @alleytwentysix to be a part of it! @chefteddydiggs @mateotapas @davidalworth @phoebe_lawless @pizzeriatoro @thepigrestaurant @chulegre #florence #hurricanerelief #nc #durham #chapelhill
Reusing and ten fellow chefs on Monday night served a four-course meal benefitting the NC Field Farmworker Emergency Fund: The sold-out event raised more than $8,000 for people who lost their homes or work opportunities to flooding. Organizers say they could have sold tickets to another 120 diners if there was room for them in the restaurant.
According to Reusing, the dinner was arranged entirely through text messages traded over the weekend. Not a single chef turned down her request for help, she says.
That doesn’t surprise chef Bill Smith, of Crook’s Corner in Chapel Hill and a native of hard-hit New Bern, who’s a longtime supporter of humanitarian causes. Smith and cookbook author Nancie McDermott prepared Smith’s famous Atlantic Beach pies and country cassoulet, a take on beanie-weenies, for the family-style supper.
“Andrea said, ‘Come on over,’ and they did,” he says. “It was very typical of how chefs are. I’m proud to be among them.”
Smith’s relatives in New Bern are safe, but his Carolina Beach cousins are at least temporarily stranded at his Chapel Hill home. With waters still rising on Tuesday morning, the North Carolina Department of Transportation reports almost 1,200 roads are closed in the eastern end of the state, marooning some coastal communities. “We grew up learning how to fill the bathtub,” Smith says of his lifelong experience with hurricanes. “But this one came ashore at two miles-per-hour and just drowned everything.”
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The Durham event was one of the first chef-led drives for hurricane relief, but it’s far from the last. Below are details on more fundraisers scheduled at restaurants across the Carolinas in the coming weeks and other food-and-beverage related charitable efforts.
• Washington D.C.-based chef and philanthropist José Andrés’ World Central Kitchen started mobilizing days before the storm reached the Carolinas; Andrés on Monday tweeted that the relief group had already served 80,000 meals out of its Wilmington and Raleigh bases. For those outside the Carolinas who want to help his effort, visit worldcentralkitchen.org/donate.
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• While many restaurants dedicate a portion of proceeds from a single event to charity, Sean Degnan’s restaurant group in Raleigh has committed to donating 10 percent of revenue collected between Friday, September 14, and Sunday, September 23, to the Food Bank of Eastern North Carolina. The restaurant group consists of bu.ku in downtown Raleigh, so.ca in Cameron Village, and bu.ku in Wake Forest.
• Raleigh chefs Steven Greene, Ashley Christensen, Scott Crawford, and Vansana Nolintha have blocked out Wednesday, September 26, and Sunday, October 7, for collaborative relief events. Further details weren’t available yet, but interested diners can monitor Herons at The Umstead’s online calendar for more.
• The dinner at The Durham is done, but the hotel still has donated beer to sell. Proceeds from Ponysaurus Brewing Company and Steel String Brewery beer sold in buckets on the rooftop will be contributed to the NC Field Farmworker Emergency Fund.
• Alley Twenty Six, which provided both the cocktails and the chicken liver and foie gras mousseline for The Durham’s event, on Monday, September 24, is hosting guest bartender Sean Umstead of the forthcoming Kingfisher for a dinner benefitting World Central Kitchen. For ticket information, visit alleytwentysix.com/dinnerwithfriends.
• A number of Columbia, South Carolina-based restaurants have committed to supporting the ONE SC Fund, a relief-focused grant-making organization created by Governor Nikki Haley in the wake of October 2015’s historic floods. Cantina 76 has pledged 5 percent of sales at its five South Carolina locations on Monday, September 24; Motor Supply Co. Bistro is giving 10 percent of sales on Saturday, September 22, and Sunday, September 23; and Village Idiot is donating $1 for every specialty pie sold in the month of September.
• Lewis Barbecue in Charleston, South Carolina, plans to donate an unspecified portion of proceeds from its annual Hatch Chile Roast on Saturday, September 29, to World Central Kitchen.
• A few of North Carolina’s best-known chefs have banded together to throw “Raise the Bar: Bartenders and Chefs for Hurricane Relief” at Raleigh’s Fox Liquor Bar on Wednesday, September 26. The happy hour event, benefiting the NC Community Foundation’s disaster relief fund, will feature contributions from chefs including Ashley Christensen, Vivian Howard, Scott Crawford, and Matt Kelly.
• Chef Keith Rhodes of Wilmington has already collected $33,000 to support “Catch the Food Truck,” an effort to send local food trucks into coastal North Carolina counties with food to give away. To donate, visit Catch the Food Truck’s Facebook page.
• Mercy Chefs, a 12-year-old relief organization based in Virginia, and Operation BBQ Relief, founded in the wake of a 2011 Missouri tornado, have both established mobile kitchens in Wilmington and Fayetteville; the non-profits plan to serve tens of thousands of meals. Visit their websites for more on fundraising and volunteer opportunities.
• On Sunday, October 7, in Raleigh, chef Sean Fowler will donate ten percent of proceeds from his Farm Dinner at Mandolin Farm to the Food Bank of Central and Eastern North Carolina. Tickets available here.