In one place, for one night, top chefs serve signature dishes and drinks. But only one leaves with the Copper Kettle Award.
Wilmington’s Epicurean Evening may only recognize one overall culinary great, but it helps hundreds of youth and family through Methodist Home for Children from funds raised. Top chefs and restaurants, over 25 in all, will vie for the Copper Kettle Award by wooing 50-plus tables of 10 people each, with scintillatingly scrumptious appetizers, beverages, entrées and desserts. Its honorary chair and popular mistress of ceremonies, WECT’s very own Frances Weller, will auction off great packages, including fishing for four. In keeping with the 2013 theme, “Past, Present and Future,” speakers intimate with the success of Methodist Home for Children (MHC) will tell their stories.
Representing the past are Peggy and Billy Griffin who met as children at the Methodist Orphanage in Raleigh. They became one of the “cutest couples on campus,” married and raised a family of their own, and wrote a book. “An Exceptional Journey: And the Two Shall Become One” tells of the Griffins thriving in an orphanage experience, which supplemented their weaknesses and promoted their strengths.
Sisters Vnette and Denise Boney will speak of their present success after overcoming horrific abuse and neglect. The older sibling remembers at age 4 being left alone for three days with a bare refrigerator which contained only one beer. Hungry on the third day, she opened the beer and poured it into two glasses to share with her 2-year-old sister. She was beaten that night when her mother came home and saw the empty can. Now pursuing careers in nursing and pharmacy, with mentoring and financial assistance from MHC, the sisters say the happiest moments of their lives came the afternoon their grade-school principal called them into the office to see the signed adoption papers. It gave them the security of a new name and a loving family.
Representing the future, Reverend Bruce E. Stanley, president/CEO of MHC, will explain how the 114-year-old nonprofit evolved with the times, by moving out into the community, regardless of race, religion or economic status. Instead of rescuing the child, the focus now remains on teaching coping mechanisms to the family in order to keep them united with their children. MHC has established a network of youth homes and family-centered outreach programs across its service region.
Supporting MHC’s family efforts in Wilmington is its development officer, Regina Hawse, who calls the Epicurean Evening coordinator Missy Sumrell her “volunteer queen.” Seven years ago, Hawse asked Sumrell to start an event which would serve children in desperate need throughout MHC’s southeast region. Last year’s event raised $85,000 which served more than 1,400 people.
“My husband, Jeff, and I have 8-year-old twins, Parker and Peyton,” Sumrell says, “and it’s important that they see us not only working a 40 hour week to help our own family, but that they understand we’re both dedicated to helping the community at large.”
The Sumrells both will fancy up for the seventh annual Wilmington’s Epicurean Evening and join more than 500 other guests for the food, fun, festivities and auctions. “The chefs continue to amaze and delight with their creativity and their commitment,” Rev. Stanley says. “Our guests enjoy an unparalleled gourmet feast, and their hearts and souls are nourished by hearing how their financial support changes lives.”
Over 20 chefs will present their best dishes at the upcoming gala. Multiple categories exist for them to hang their toques on aside from the Copper Kettle, including appetizer, dessert, taste and entrée, decoration, beverage, presentation, and even a “People’s Choice.” Chef John Sedlak at Hilton Wilmington Riverside won the Copper Kettle in 2012 and will act as a judge upon a 12-person panel of “food fanciers,” including food writer Liz Biro and Chef Eric Gephart of The Chef’s Academy in Raleigh, among others.
In 2010 Pine Valley Market’s Christi Ferretti and her crew, including Chef Smokey Masters, won the coveted Copper Kettle for their paella. Ever since, Ferretti has participated in the cookoff.
“I love Epicurean Evening,” Ferretti says. “It is by far the best food you will have at a black-tie fund-raiser. The creators were genius to make it a culinary competition. Chefs are, by nature, competitive, so what might have been a simple food donation to a charity event is turned into a culinary battle of pride and the quest for the Copper Kettle. Since 2010, we have been on a mission to get it back.”
Ferretti, an adoptive parent herself, stands by the organization’s give-back approach in uniting children with caring homes. “The ‘1K for 1 Kid’ is one of the most powerful moments of the evening,” she tells, “Collectively, the guests bid to impact the lives of a child. For every $1,000 raised, one child is cared for over another year. This allows everyone to participate in the bidding process whether it be one person donating $10, or 20 people donating $5,000.”
Ferretti returns in 2013 along with a talented and varied class of epicureans: Chris Jewel (Ruth’s Chris), Pat Green (Elijah’s), Holley Oiler (Bruster’s Real Ice Cream), Jonathan Vickers and Donald Boltz (Fish Bites), Cindy Laverdiere (Imaginary Cakes), Ed Coulbourn III (Poor Piggy’s), Denise Gordon (TheatreNOW), Charlie Blake (Havana’s), Scott Frazzetta (Wilmington Convention Center), Matthew Gould (Canapé), Mark Lawson (East at the Blockade Runner), Brent Poteat (22 North), Leon Chisolm (Coastal Beverage), Bree Peterson-Resnick (Uprising), Kirsten Mitchell (1900), Tom Harvey (Longhorn Steakhouse), Michael “Ski” Kowalski (Ice Sensations), Michael Papoulias (AM Coffee), Pete Groudis and Shannon Warner (The Little Dipper), James McLaughlan (Coke Consolidated), Charles Rousey (Hilton Riverside), Rob Cooley (Apple Annie’s Bake Shop), Tabatha Pickett and Jonathan Fussell (The Bistro at Duplin Winery), Keith Rhodes (Catch), Vincent Drayton (Pilot House), Jim Branch (Rita’s Italian Ice).
Tickets are still available to Wilmington Epicurean Evening, with all proceeds benefitting the Methodist Home for Children.
Wilmington Epicurean Evening
August 22nd, 5:30 p.m.
Wilmington Convention Center
Tickets: $125/person; corporate table pricing available online.
Regina Hawse: 910-471-6088