In April of this year, Mr. Treadwell, the Executive Director of Central Union Mission, sent an email seeking volunteer help with planning a series of fundraising events. I saw the email and responded immediately. I showed up for the first meeting on May 7th ready to serve! Min. Chambers, the Sr. Director of Strategic Partnerships and Community Engagement for Central Union Mission had about 4 or 5 ideas for the remainder of the year, one of which was called a “chef event”. I knew I wanted to be a part of the ‘chef event’, so when we broke off into teams to start planning I made my way over to that section.

I’m just happy to be here…

Our ‘chef event’ team of five clicked immediately. We selected a leader (not me), assigned a few tasks, and I felt good about the direction we were heading in… I was eager to just help out and be a part of the team! I’m a natural leader but I appreciate being led as well so I was ready to knock out my tasks as a team member.  

“Really God, you know I’m not an event planner, right?”

Shortly after our second meeting, our leader sent an email informing us that she would be stepping down due to competing priorities. And I thought to myself “Really God, you know I’m not an event planner, right?” Assured, that He paid me no mind, I called for backup, sending emails to my personal ‘dream team’ explaining the situation and letting them know that I needed their assistance. They showed up for the next meeting, we opened in prayer, everyone got acquainted and we were back on track. Well kinda, we needed a Chef to Champion the event. I had someone in mind but I knew he was extremely busy. So I tried to think of other people, as did the rest of the team, and we made quite a few calls but ultimately I kept going back to the one person I knew would get the concept, rally the other chefs, and help drive the vision. Chef Rock Harper!

Tip toeing…

I reached out to Chef Rock but chickened out on asking him to champion the event because I knew he had so much on his plate. Instead, I asked for advice on how to plan the event. He connected me with a good friend of his that happens to plan the most notorious fundraiser/chef event in DC each year! She gave me tons of advice and contacts to get the ball rolling! It was literally everything I needed and she continued to support me as much as she could along the way.

Find the red shoes!

In July I was invited to attend DC Central Kitchen’s (DCCK) 100th Culinary Job Training Class Graduation. As a longstanding volunteer of DCCK it was so inspiring to see the chefs walk across the stage! After the graduation, I got word that Chef Nora Poullion was walking around the reception greeting people and she was wearing red shoes; so my friend I and I split up in hopes of finding Chef Nora and the red shoes. My friends can attest to the fact that this is not odd behavior for me at all!

Seize the moment

On my quest to find Chef Nora and the red shoes, I see Chef Rock walking toward me. I took my shot! As I mentioned, I knew he had a lot going on but I had a response ready for every question. And Chef Rock asks a lot of questions, so you have to be ready. I explained what we were trying to do, why I thought he would be best, what we would need from him, and after about 15-minutes, he was in!!!

Stop calling it the ‘chef event’

In our first meeting with Chef Rock, he asked “So what’s the name of the event? It’s time to stop calling it the ‘chef event’?”  We started playing with names and came up with Heart and Soul but that seemed boring and repetitive. We played with the letters for a few minutes on paper and came up with HeArt & Sole. He- Is for Jesus, Art- Represents the Art work to be displayed by the men of Central Union Mission, and Sole – A play on words, Sole/Soul as the chefs would create dishes inspired by their favorite ‘sole’ while cooking from the ‘soul’.

Ask and you shall receive

Chef Rock immediately went to work and pulled in 18 chefs in about two weeks. It was amazing! One by one, they kept rolling in, eager to support! As a team, we reached out to our networks to solidify celebrity guest to serve as the ‘sous chefs’ and to garner support for the silent auction. Everyone we reached out to loved the concept even if they couldn’t attend and almost everyone we asked to donate to our auction said yes.  

Keep calm, it’s working for your good.

Things were running really smoothly but some of our celebrity chefs/sous chefs started to get pulled. However, each time it happened, God showed up. Seriously, every time someone pulled out, within a day we had someone else. For example, one of our football players had to pull out, and we got Chef Daniel Thomas whom we’d hoped for but didn’t think in a million years we could get. And then one of the Food Network Chefs pulled out but within a few of hours we had Chef Huda, another Chef we had hoped for in the beginning. And literally, the day before, our basketball player pulled out because he had to travel but while attending a conference that same day, I met a football player and asked him to attend. He wasn’t sure if he could make it but I gave him all the details and prayed for the best.

Tonight is the nightTuesday, October 27, 2015

2:30pm - As I drove to the venue I most certainly prayed for a successful event but I also prayed that God would get the glory from it all.

3pm - When I walked into the venue, the set-up was impeccable. The leads for décor, catering, set-up, etc., Deb B. and Tamika,  had done an outstanding job and nothing major needed to be changed. It was perfect.

4pm – The volunteers started arriving and they were so excited and ready to serve. No complaints about assignments, just ready to serve and I couldn’t have asked for a better group of people!

4:30pm- As the chefs started to arrive to set up their stations, Dawn ushered them through the process and made sure that they were unaware of a few minor hiccups- we couldn’t find the items for the mystery baskets at first, Les had to run down stairs to buy the protein, and Tamika had to do a mad dash to the store for gift bags. But all of this was taken care of seamlessly and no one outside of the team was aware. Thank goodness!

5:30pm- The team and volunteers were working hard, everyone on their post, focused on their tasks, so I wasn’t at all worried about things slipping through the cracks- Ayanna, Danielle, Jenn, Shannel, Monica, and Richard were literally running around taking care of things as they came up; Tiyasha, Jide, and Dawn were ready to greet guests;  Star, Camille and Emma were providing support to the chefs, servers, etc.; Daughan was ensuring that Chef Thomas had everything needed; Phyllis was right by my side to make sure I didn’t lose my mind; Stephanie and Leslie were handling VIP logistics; Rochelle, Karen, and Ashley tackled registration, and Min. Chambers/Deb B./Tamika were Queens of all things.

5:45pm- The VIP guests were starting to arrive. My heart was beating a mile a minute as I walked around making sure that everything was in place. Ugh and I couldn’t find my production timeline.  I knew I sat it some place but couldn’t remember where. Just as I started to get a little annoyed with myself, Shannel walked over with it and all was right in the world– she actually had to do this a few times!

6:10pm – My heart was still beating, I was wondering if we forgot something, the VIP Chopped Demo was about to start but we’re short a sous chef because one of our football players is running a little late and now Jamie Foster Brown wants to be a judge instead of a sous chef, gotta love Jamie. Before I could panic, in walks the football player I met at the conference the day before, yep, the one I mentioned above. He walks in, ready to serve! We get him paired with one of the celebrity chefs and it’s on and popping!

From that point on, every time I got a little anxious, wondering if things were going well, I received the confirmation needed. At 6:46, I looked at my phone to check the time and had a text from my friend Arnita saying “Event’s not even over and it is absolutely awesome!!!!!  YOU ROCK!!!” About an hour after that my mom says “Good job!” as she stuffs her face. Min. Chambers was pleased, Mr. Treadwell was smiling. Lillian and Will were knocking out the interviews and Chef Huda, pulled me to the side and said “this is a great event, stop saying you’re not an event planner”. I was able to breathe and I saw that the guests were truly enjoying themselves. People were laughing, talking, eating, bidding on items and my serotonin was popping! Yep, serotonin popping goodness! :)


I am whatever you say I am-

I thought more about what Chef Huda said as I got home… You never know what God will call you to be but whatever HE says you are, even if seasonal or in the moment, that is what you are. And we have to be obedient in that moment, truly in every moment so that we can be used for His Glory. So I’ll accept whatever HE calls me to be.

HeArt & Sole

Tons of additional photos here