There is a BIG purpose in my life.
I’ve always known that.
When I was 5, I knew I was going to be an entertainer. I knew I was going to be a damn good lawyer, too. I have relentlessly been pursuing those things for the last 20-something years. I let the law thing go 5 years ago because I was stifled in my artistry. I was accepted to DePaul Law School and started at Georgetown Law, but decided to sit out and work. Something told me to just wait it out and see how things were going to turn out, artistically.
This past weekend, I clearly saw the building of my platform. The platform that is giving me a voice to talk about the things my parents have shared with me and taught me to be compassionate about: The things that define my character and make me passionate.
STIR IT 28: Atlanta
I had high expectations of myself, not to let down the chefs, food bloggers and home cooks, that so generously gave of their time by participating in STIR IT 28, a culinary benefit for Haiti relief efforts, last Sunday. I also wanted a packed house for the sake of not only raising money, but so that my chefs wouldn’t go home with a lot of food. After all, I had asked them to prepare 2-3 dishes to feed 20-25, in anticipation of having 100-200 guests.
But, Atlanta is a funny place. After 3.5, almost 4 weeks of administratively organizing a 4-city cocktail hour, and planning my own Atlanta event, I showed up, ready to serve, host and talk about what STIR IT 28 was about. You can read about the campaign here.
Short of 150, with no pre-event media coverage, we rocked the house! Chefs, food bloggers and a Haitian home cook (who people are still calling me about) all came out to SPACE in the West End and did their thing for our fund-raising effort. All showed up on time, excited and ready to throw down and serve the guests. My dear friend DJ Rev. Lee spun some hip shakin’, groovey and house-y tunes the diverse crowd could enjoy and the live band showed off! Nameless Band featuring Eva Kennedy, went well above and beyond what I had asked of them; singing Beyoncé’s “Halo” and Keri Hilson and Neyo’s “Knock You Down,” which caused some tears.
She had the crowd “crunk” as one guest put it and really helped maintain the spirit of our collective effort for Haiti awareness and mobility.
ABUNDANCE OF FOOD & SPIRITS!
22 chefs, food bloggers, home cooks and Montaluce Winery were the real hit of the event. All had amazing dishes ranging from international appetizers like guac and salmon cups to exotic sweets like lemon drop shots, decadent cupcakes, full-out meals, cajun and Créole cuisine, Tex-Mex and what some referred to as tasty orgasms.
I’m not showing any bias here, but I’m so thankful for one particular chef’s demeanor: Scott Serpas of True Food Restaurant. This guy. A James Beard winner, recently named top 10 Best New Restaurants in the U.S. by G.Q. magazine and a super talented food artist, showed up at 4p.m. on the dot, A.L.O.N.E.
Having just wrapped up a busy brunch at his own restaurant, Scott walked in by himself. I had an 8′ table waiting for him, confident he was bringing in a full staff. Yeah, not so much. Scott, and Scott alone, set up and went to work, serving smoked salmon on crispy potato chips with capers and a separate ceviche teaser. Clearly, he had to continue replenishing his tastings. “B, I was totally star struck by his presence, I couldn’t even say hello,” an anonymous participating food blogger later told me.
You hear that Scott?!
There were only three other participating chefs/bloggers I knew (one, a former student from my cooking class at Cook’s Warehouse, pictured below), so I wasn’t worried about their fare.
The rest impressed me with their detail in setting and designing their tables, not to mention their spread of dishes, leaving mouths watering well into the evening. Their commitment to making STIR IT a success was evident throughout the culinary féte. I have to thank the Cordon Bleu chefs that cooked my 3 dishes and manned my table. They worked it out, but no one cooks your food like you know how, right!?
The host venue passed hor’s d’euvres, which I was happy about since it gave new-comers a chance to taste their menu.
My favorite sushi restaurant, Maru Sushi, was set up next to me, making rolls and edamame hummus on cucumber slices, so you know I went to town on “free” sushi. Still getting calls about his place. Score!
One certain cupcake girl, Cecille, made 138 luscious cupcakes and left empty-handed! She went all out and truly put effort and passion into her cupcakes perfect sized rounds, like cardamon something rather filling.
The wines that Montaluce poured, were a perfect pairing for all the food. The weather was insanely perfecto, so I had them set up in the patio, which created a certain ambiance for the evening. I had the Risata and that set my mood just right.
Marley Coffee (founded my Bob Marley’s son, Rohan) provided espresso that made our signature espresso martini called “STIR IT UP.” I didn’t have 2 minutes to even order one, so I’ll have to recreate it here at home, since I hear it was the bomb!
Another dessert Queen, whom I’ve quickly become friends with, shocked everyone with her “Chocolate Decadence.” Chris, from Mele Cotte, is all about the intricate and sexy detail. Her set up included hand drawn name placards, where the the letter “O” was replaced with the STIR IT logo.
I was moved.
(For a full list of participating chefs and food bloggers, please go here and visit their sites.)
And so was our surprise guest. Not with her detail orientation, though. Enter Dwight Eubanks. We all know him as the outspoken and flamboyant stylist on “HouseWives of Atlanta.” He walked in with his entourage, clad in a gorgeous orange fur collar. We’re quickly introduced and I mention that I never get orange toe nail polish on my feet, but something inspired the choice last weekend. “Great minds think alike, honey,” he said as he applauded me for my efforts in organizing STIR IT 28 and acknowledged the importance of bringing the community together for Haiti relief. Thanks to chef Deborah Van Trece, his personal chef, Dwight came and lit up the crowd.
He later interviewed me for Rolling Out Magazine.
We talked about the cause, my Cuban food, my kick-ass L.A.M.B.’s and the faux metal silverware I used. He loved it.
And, I was eating up the mic. I was so in my element.
RAISING MONEY FOR HAITI
The collective purpose of STIR IT 28 IS to raise money for Haiti, with a 100% of monies raised in Atlanta, Chicago, L.A. and New York going to Share Our Strength and Yéle. Advance online tickets in all four cities didn’t yield the results we wanted, so we banked on door sales and raffles to collect more money. I had to hustle more cash, so I switched up the game and started selling 8 tickets for $5.
I’d dare say every soul in there bought tickets! My raffle table had a plethora of goodies including donations by celeb chefs Daisy Martinez and Alan Richardson with their books “Daisy: Morning, Noon & Night” and “Hello Cupcake,” respectively; a full set of Marley Coffee, a red coral necklace by C.B. Herrera, a new spice storage set by TableFare (whose creator found out about the event on Twitter and reached out to me the night before!), a delightful 10-scent soy candle sampler by my dear friend at Incidentals by 3 Piece, bottles of wine from Montaluce; and other last minute donations (like a 60 oz. bottle of home-made special sauce by Chef Jackson of Jackon’s Catering–whose collard green eggrolls were all that–pictured above).
At the end of 3 delicious, inspirational and sometimes emotional hours, which swept away as fast as Cinderella’s carriage turned into a pumpkin, I was overwhelmed. I made new friends by bringing a small portion of Atlanta’s exceptional culinary community together. The like-minded spirit shared by every one made the sleepless nights over the last month, worth every moment. Chef Jayda Cabbell of Divva Dishes (though not there) had her staff take her extra food to the homeless shelter on Peachtree. Her gesture underscored the point of it all.
I couldn’t have asked for a better crowd. I had given a presentation and shared a powerful video by SOS, addressing the severity of childhood hunger in the U.S. I used that to illustrate the vital need Haiti has, if we stand the number of homeless and starving families next to our numbers, which pale in comparison.
I come from Cuba as you all know, right next to Haiti. I am empathetic to their tragic loss and had to do something about it. Even if it meant throwing my hands up to Jamie Foxx’s “Blame it on the Alcohol,” as Eva finished out her set.
My platform continues to be built. Haiti will get back on her feet. I hope you consider donating to STIR IT 28. Our month-long campaign ends in just 3 days. There’s still a chance to give something.
SPECIAL THANK YOU’S:
Mark Tioxon from LeahandMark.com Photography for capturing and documenting the evening.
Dr. Jimmy Calloway, Director of G-PAN for his personal mentorship and sponsorship, in part.
Ryon Horne of the AJC and Horne Brothers for capturing the event in video
Tara Holland of Word of Mouth Atlanta Event Planners for working the floor and making sure everything ran smoothly the night of.
Aletha Cherry, my personal assistant and amazing organizer & coordinator.
GraphicMail for sponsoring the campaign’s mass email communication. Andra, I hope you soar, girlfriend.
Party City for all the pretty balloons.
Thako Rucker of FOX 5 news for covering the event.
Costco, for donating my tables’ plates, silverware, napkins, etc…
My publicist Kisha of the People Broker’s for help with the press release.
Village Green Flowers for providing beautiful flowers for the door table.
Floral Creations for providing flowers for my personal table.
Marley Coffee for providing all the espresso for our signature cocktail.
Diageo Liqueurs for sending me some great spirits for the bar.
DJ Rev. Lee for always hooking up the sound and tunes.
Eva Kennedy for getting the crowd “crunk” with your amazing vocals and rockin’ performances. (BTW, Scott Serpas wants your cd )
Volunteers, for telling Dr. Calloway I’m bossy after you took great direction and helped set up everything!
Wes Smith for lending your entire venue without charging me a single dime and even feeding our guests!
Taj for my designing my invitation and my personal graphic designer, Dave of RH Media for creating the campaign logo.
A, for just collecting, dropping off everything and being the talk of the party! Harlem always shows off! Smooches.
AND, all my Twitter followers that tweeted and retweeted the multi-city events while we worked!
My guests, thank you for believing in and supporting this movement. You STIRred it.
If you were unable to attend one of the 4 city events on Sunday, Feb. 21st, but would like to donate to STIR IT 28, please visit my home page and click on the General Donations Paypal button, right beneath the camp logo. You may enter any amount you wish. On behalf of Chrystal of the Duo Dishes and Courtney of Coco Cooks, we’d appreciate your help in getting us to our goal! 100% of proceeds going to Share Our Strength & Yéle. Visit our Facebook Fan Page to see updates on the other 3 cities’ events.