Chefs for Change

courtesy Bohio Fine Art Photography

Dinner series shares meals and stories

by Katherine Poole

To raise awareness about homelessness, one Durham nonprofit is turning to celebrity chefs. At a Chefs for Change dinner, diners can expect a three-plus-course meal and a candid conversation: The evening’s chef gives an informal presentation about the effect homelessness in the community has had on their life, both personally and professionally. All proceeds benefit Families Moving Forward, the largest housing and services provider for homeless families in Durham. The dinner series began last year, and this second installation begins with a meal from Charlie Deal of JuJu and Dos Perros March 12. Families Moving Forward was established in 2016 when Genesis Home and the Durham Interfaith Hospitality Network combined. The merger presented an opportunity for the nonprofit to rethink how it raised funds and awareness in the community. As FMF development director Shana Carignan put it, “the new agency needed to stand out.” And, she added, it needed to stand out to a younger audience. FMF inherited a long-standing core group of volunteers from GH and DIHM, but knew going forward as a bigger agency would require tapping into the hearts and minds of the next generation of givers.

What better way to reach young hearts than through their gastronomic proclivities in Durham’s booming restaurant scene? The intersection of community outreach and a hungry audience became Chefs for Change in February 2017. The series premiered to great success, and with no wonder as the chefs included Iron Chef Ricky Moore, Seth Gross (of Pompieri Pizza and Bull City Burger and Brewery), Billy Cotter (of Dashi and Toast), and Chef John May (of Piedmont). The fundraising goal set for last year was $40,000, but the overwhelming response from the Durham community raised the bar to $65,000. This year’s all-star dinner lineup is simply delicious. After the March 12 kickoff, dinners are in the works for Scott Howell (of Nana’s and Bar Virgile) May 14, Phoebe Lawless (of The Lakewood and Scratch) July 9, and Aaron Benjamin (of Gocciolina) Sept. 10. Dinners are limited to 125 people and are held at hip event space The Rickhouse in Durham. Diners can choose to attend one event, or make it a quarterly outing. This is fine dining with a purpose.