Vivian Howard Is My Hero

Months ago some members of the Food Bank board thought we needed to have a summer event to help kick off the kids summer feeding program. For so many kids summer is the best time of their year. Those are the kids who live in families that have plenty of food. For the children who get meals at school, summer can be a worst time of year. This year the Food Bank is serving 300,000 meals to kids in our 34 county area. That takes a lot of money, people and passion to do.
Tonight was the event those board members envisioned. It was called the Chef’s Feast. Three great local chef’s Eric Gephart of Kamado Grill where the event was held, Walter Royal of the Angus Barn and Vivian Howard of the Chef and the Farmer and star of the PBS series A Chef’s Life cooked for 250 people. Not only did they cook for us, but they gave cooking demonstrations of the food we were eating.
Vivian and her assistant Holly came up and spent the day at the Food Bank which was incredibly generous. I was lucky enough to have lunch with her with some of our key staff members. Her mother would have been proud of her perfect manners because unlike the rest of us at the table who ate our lunch while each person spoke, Vivian stopped eating and listened intently as each person at the table introduced themselves and told her what they did at the Food Bank. After lunch as we walked through the warehouse she asked if she could sit on one of the fork lifts. That’s when we took this photo of her “driving me” through the warehouse.
After spending all day doing things for the Food Bank, Vivian worked the event along with the other chefs. After the main course was served the auction portion of the evening began. Russ and I had brought our friends Chuck and Karen Lovelace who we had gone to the Chef and the Farmer with us last summer. The main auction items were different cooking/eating experiences with each of the Chefs. Vivian’s donation was a cooking class for 10 at her private test kitchen and lunch at the boiler room. The Lovelaces made bets with us what we thought the item would go for.

By the time the auction got to Vivian’s offering the room was buzzing from the amount already raised from the previous offerings. Our table had wanted to bid on Vivian’s item, but we bet that it would go for $10,000 which was too rich for us. We were almost right, but still half wrong.
As the two final bidders were at the $9,500-$9,750 bids Vivian stepped in and offered to give her item twice, once for each of them if they split the difference and both paid $9,600. WHAT? Not only had she spent her day at the Food Bank, done the dinner demonstration, and made a great auction donation, she did it twice.  
Wait, I forgot to mention the best thing I ate tonight was her squash casserole. She told us that at the last minute the planners wanted something else’s on the dinner plate and she offered to make 250 squash casseroles at The Chef and The Farmer and bring them to the dinner. This is not simple casserole. It was a four day cooking process and tasted every bit of it.
I can’t say enough good about Vivian. If you have not been to either of her Kinston restaurants, run, don’t walk. Her book is coming out in October and will certainly be worth whatever it costs, especially if it has the squash casserole recipe. Thank you to Vivian for your generosity. Many kids will have food this summer thanks to you, Chef Gephart and Chef Royal.  

The Kamado Grill gets an extra big thank you too!  They provided their fabulous space and servers for the event.  They are a cool restaurant in Raleigh that cooks everything on these special grills.  They were very cool about showing me, Chuck and Karen the whole kitchen when we asked.   Are going to have to go back and eat there to pay them back for their generosity too.

In the end lots of money was raised, lots of good food was eaten and many people supported the Food Bank.  Not bad for a Monday night.

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