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26 Mar

Knives Up, Wallets Out! How My Cooking Raises Money for Kids

My Cooking Raises Money for Kids! (For Real!)

If you had told me this time last year that I would be using my cooking skills to raise money for kids, I would have told you to put your crack pipe down. In all seriousness, I actually did raise a LOT of money for kids, had a great time, and scored a sweet auction deal that brought a celebrity chef to my home kitchen for an epic party. And in less than one week, this event will happen all over again!

It is called Cookin’ for Kids, and it’s a delicious dinner party wrapped around a high-energy, fast-paced Iron Chef-style cooking competition. It all goes down Sunday, March 31 from 6-9 pm at the Cendera Center in Fort Worth. Tickets are $150 each, and you can win a pair of them with a few other incredible goodies just by reading my full post and clicking the link at the end — how’s that for incentive!

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But first, I am sure Enquiring Minds want to know:
• What crazy nonprofit was willing to risk poisoning its supporters by asking me to cook at its benefit?
• How in the holy Texas hail balls did I cook something that raised gobs of cash?
• Who was the celebrity chef who came to mi casa, and
• What’s the deal this year?

Kids Who Care Musical Theater is Awesome!

The nonprofit behind Cookin’ for Kids is Kids Who Care. Its mission is to provide musical theater education and experiences to young people, which it’s been doing for more than 30 years. You may have seen one of the incredible original plays it puts on, or you’ve sent your child to its awesome summer camp.

But here’s something you may not know: Kids Who Care serves kids aged kindergarten through college, is inclusive of all kids regardless of their nationality, ethnicity, religion, orientation or ability, and it has never, ever turned away a student because of his or her ability or family’s financial hardship.

In addition to music, Kids Who Care also fosters cross-cultural connections through its international exchange programs and it develops leadership skills through programs to teach creative confidence, entrepreneurship and arts management on stage, at all developmental stages.

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How I Cooked for Cash and SMOKED the Competition!

Last year, Kids Who Care asked me to be a Fort Worth Notable, which is what they call the volunteer competitors who go spatula-to-spatula with an “arch nemesis” in the culinary deathmatch which makes up the main event at Cookin’ for Kids. My arch nemesis was none other than Hal Brown, publisher of Fort Worth Magazine. Hal is actually a dear friend, but that night it was ON like Donkey Kong: Magazine Publisher vs. Internet Blogger!

Of course, I knew I was going to DOM-inate, and here’s why. Every Notable gets paired up with a real, live chef for the competition, and my chef partner was the epicurean idol Blaine Staniford of GRACE restaurant.

Now take a breath cause I wasn’t the one preparing real food that people had to eat, but I did assist. And my hair looked really full and shiny thanks to those extensions I got at Novak Hair Studios before we attended the Academy Awards. I was the chic-est sous whoever did sous!

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Obvi we were the dream team and the CLEAR favorite to win, especially since Hapless Hal’s chef-partner was some no-name part-time burger flipper. (OK, it was really John Piccolino, the meat maestro of B&B Butchers & Restaurant, but this is my blog post, so I get to embellish the story.)

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On your mark, get set… we greased up the pans, cranked up the gas and said, “Wonder Twin Powers ACTIVATE!” For the next 45 minutes, I followed orders and micro-chopped the Buh-Jeez out of everything. Just like on the real Iron Chef TV show, every team had to include a specific “mystery ingredient” in their dish.

Cookin For Kids 2018

In the past, it’s been really rando stuff like boba bubble balls, Dr. Pepper, and pop tarts. Ours was gold leaf – so you know I felt totally at home, even though most of my interaction with gold involves wearing it, not eating it.

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We had a lot to deal with, y’all. Guests were coming right up to our table to check out the action. My arch nemesis was heckling us, and then there was the stress of the countdown clock! Then, it was over: Three, two, one… knives down! With the help of my sidekick, had concocted the most delicious masterpiece known to man.

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A team of people swooped in and whisked our plates off to a secret back room where James Beard winner and Head Judge Jon Bonnell and other local talented chefs critiqued the Holy Night out of our gold-infused gourmet grub.

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Here’s how my dish brought in the benjamins: Each plate of chef-prepared food transformed from a contest entry to an AUCTION ITEM! Guests could literally put their money where their mouth was and bid on whose dish they wanted to devour. Each plate of food also came with a spectacular collection of prizes.

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My sad competition was looking a little smug over there in the corner! They knew what was about to hit them. TOTAL DOMINATION!

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Our prize package consisted of a curated seven-course, wine-paired tasting dinner for four at GRACE, along with a killer collection of sports tickets and a VIP suite for your squad. I even threw in a bottle of DOM (remember, I told you we were going to DOM-inate!). Going once, going twice, and SOLD to Ronda & Walter Stucker!

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On top of auctioning off a dish to some poor unfortunate soul, Jon and his posse of judges were doling out awards to the best Micheline Masterpieces of the night. Oh yeah, you know it! Yours truly WON an award! To be honest, I was kinda expecting it! If you’ve dined at GRACE, you know what I’m talking about! Am I right?

Also taking home some cake that night:

  • Angelique De Luca (Hollywood Actress) & Laura Johnston of Bittersweet
  • Robin Greenhaw (The Balvenie) & Juan Rodriguez of Magdalena’s Hal
  • Hal Brown (Fort Worth Magazine) & John Piccolino of B&B Butchers
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It was a big win for us, for the Stuckers and of course, for Kids Who Care. Jason and I ended up bidding on a package offered by Keith Hicks of Buttons and Disc Jockey Erin Wilde another Notable/Chef team that night, and that’s how I ended up scoring a day on the air at 92.1 HANK FM and my FABULOUS DINNER PARTY …

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All About My Party and Being a DJ for a Day!

Bidding in a charity auction is a fun way to donate to a great cause. But let’s be real here. I do it because j’adore the VIP-ness of it all. I mean, most of what’s on the block are ultra-exclusive experiences that otherwise DO NOT EXIST – they are literally not available anywhere else at any price! Case in point, the Kinderfrogs auction item that allowed us to attend the Oscars.

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Cookin’ for Kids is no exception. When I won my prize package at Cookin’ for Kids, I felt a bandit who had made off with a real treasure. Not only did I get a unique and priceless experience, but the full amount of my purchase price went to Kids Who Care. Not only that, our involvement with the event last year helped raise the most money EVER in the history of Cookin’ For Kids.

Here’s my full winning prize package: Co-DJ-ing with Erin Wilde of 92.1 HANK FM for the day, including production planning and having the ONE, the ONLY, Mogul of Soul Food, Chef Keith “Buttons” Hicks host a turn-key experience in a private home for 12. Just thinking about it makes my mouth water for the specialty organic fried chicken and grass-fed tenderloins he cooked just for us. Check out the photos, y’all:

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This Sunday’s Celebrity Chef/FW Notable Line-up!

As amazing as last year was, I am confident this year will be bigger, better and even more delicious! Hal and I were asked to be Honorary co-chairs this year, and we’ve been working feverishly to line up the very best of everything.

Joining us as Notables, we’ve got famous country singer Pat Green and his lovely wife Kori, jewelry and handbag queen of America! (hoping he’ll bust out with a spontaneous serenade!) And get this, I made a quick call to my two girlfriends, Carter Martin and Hannah Davis, who just so happen to be heiresses to the Amon Carter and the Kimball Art Museums. It’s a full-on Clash of Cultures! Oh, and have you ever wanted to see the GMs of Autobahn and Park Place Mercedes go at it neck to neck? That will definitely drive up the price of their dishes, especially when paired with what can only be unbelievably unique LIVE auction packages. What’s a charity fundraiser without Julie Hayes and Kim Johnson, Fort Worth’s top two decorators to society elites. Don’t be shocked if there’s hair pulling by nights end! Bringing up the tail end are Kristi Mayfield and Tara Wilson, former Merrill Lynch Stockbrokers Gone Wild.

Ok, I bet your mouth is drooling to see who are the top 10 Cuisiniers from the very best restaurants our city has to offer – AKA the folks who will actually be doing the cooking. Did you know that almost no one turned me down when I asked them to participate? We have chefs from the top French, Mediterranean and Steak restaurants! We also have the very best in Southern, Soul, and Mexican.

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Tickets are $150 each or you can grab a bunch of friends and fill a table starting at $2500. (Sorry, $1500 tables have sold out.) And if any of my friends or friends of my parents are reading this, you best PURCHASE HERE to get yours asap, or you might end up on my poop list! $eriously, your $upport would mean the world to u$!

Photography by Laura McCarthy & Zuilma Gonzalez

SoFortWorthIt GIVEAWAY!!!

And, as promised, here’s my contest, and as usual, it’s a good one!

  • TWO tickets to Cookin For Kids, but wait; there’s more. $300 Value
  • Pair that with FOUR tickets to a Kids Who Care performance. $100 Value
  • Plus ONE week of Kids Who Care Summer Camp. $295 Value
  • And you’ll also get dinner with wine for FOUR, personally cooked for you by Keith Hicks’s at his restaurant, Buttons. $300 Value

Good luck everyone and I’ll see you this Sunday – bring your wallet and be sure to wear your eatin’ pants, because you will not want to miss out on one tasty bite!

*** Must read the Terms & Conditions in the Rafflecopter link below for the official rules and disclaimers for this giveaway. I would hate for you to miss follow all of the steps and your entries not qualify.***

14 Feb

SoFortWorthIt Takes on Hollywood

It’s not often a heavy-hitter Hollywood producer and his beautiful wife move to town and make Fort Worth the perfect city to raise their children. And it’s not often a Hollywood producer’s wife reaches out to you the second their plane hits the tarmac. Ok, let me back up a couple of decades and share the bigger picture.

Angelique & Mike De Luca

This wasn’t Angelique’s first rodeo to Texas. She was actually born in Fort Worth and attended Southwest High School with my cousins Clif and Cami, but for her junior year she hopped over to Arlington Heights High School, and that’s where the mutual friend thing comes into play.

Several years ago, Jason and I hosted an event at Del Frisco’s with Neiman Marcus in collaboration with Riedel Wine. We had a great turnout and everyone enjoyed the educational wine-tasting experience and gifts. Afterwards, Jason and I entertained our close friends in the basement wine cellar. That’s when Kristi Wilson introduced me to Angelique, and the rest was history!

Fast forward to the present, when Angelique and Mike De Luca made Fort Worth their new hometown, they both mentioned wanting to get involved with a few local non-profits and charities. Many institutions have been clambering for their attention, I mean who wouldn’t, but eventually, the De Luca’s hearts settled on founding member, Jean Roach’s beloved KinderFrogs, a family-focused, early intervention program that provides a developmentally appropriate educational environment for children with Down Syndrome and other developmental delays.

You know what that means! A very special party would soon be in the works. Last October the appropriately themed fundraiser, Hollywood Celebrates KinderFrogs, became the center of attention in the Who’s Who of Fort Worth’s upper echelon. Scoring an invite to this event would not be easy, and of course, it sold out almost immediately. If you weren’t quick to reply, then you weren’t going.

Months before, Angelique mentioned she and Mike were donating two tickets to the Academy Awards for the Leap Frog 2017 live auction. I told her attending the Oscars would be a dream come true, it was a bucket list item of mine and I was determined to check it off the list. She said it would be so fun if we went with them. The mission to win those tickets was on like Donkey Kong.

We laughed at the concoction of excuses I came up with on how to get away with winning this auction item. It was like a scene straight out of, “How To Get Away With Murder”. I was afraid to tell Jason for fear he would shut that fun down real quick, and I definitely didn’t want to tell my Dad because I knew he would knock some sense into my head. No time for that either! So, I called up our accountant to figure out what it would take to get me to the Oscars. After hanging up the phone, my mind was at ease. Now, all I needed was to let Jason know of my plan.

The night of Leap Frog 2017 finally came, and I was so excited I could hardly stand it. When we pulled up, the paparazzi were waiting at the red carpet flashing their camera lights to take everyone’s picture as they arrived. We checked-in and walked down the driveway to the De Luca’s backyard, which was transformed into a majestic scene of purple wonder.

The De Luca Family
The De Luca Family
Jean & John Roach
Jean & John Roach, Founding Members of KinderFrogs
Lauren & Mark Yamagata
Lauren & Mark Yamagata, Honorary Chairs of Leap Frog 2017

I immediately knew this event had its A-game on when I spotted Daylan Sharpe and his very sharp team of service staff. They always set the tone of sophistication and perfection for any event. This outdoor soiree was lit, and in purple too. The floral and place settings complimented the Hollywood and TCU theme of the evening.

After a cocktail and mingling with friends, the dinner bells chimed and we all headed to the table. We worked our way over to the Dunaway Associates/Foundation table with our guests and the guests of President/CEO of Dunaway Assco. Tom Galbreath. 

As we were enjoying a delicious catered meal from Jon Bonnell’s restaurant Bonnell’s, the presentation for the evening got underway.

Angelique & Mike De Luca
Angelique & Mike De Luca
Mary Martin Patton
Mary Martin Patton, Dean of TCU College of Education
Mary Martin Patton, Amy Yudiski & Diane Ayres
Mary Martin Patton with Co-Chairs Amy Yudiski & Diane Ayres

When dessert was brought to the table, I knew it was almost showtime. My hands began to shake in nervous anticipation for the bidding to begin. There were seven live auction items, and “Night at the Oscars” would be the last one on the list. Jason and I had actually instated a “no-bid on live Auctions” rule (several businesses over the years didn’t honor the donations we won at other charity events), but this time was different. The De Luca’s were our close friends, and we knew this was going to be legit!

As Scott Murray finished up the second to last auction item on the list, my heart started to race. The moment I had been waiting for all night was about to unfold. Scott starts in on the bidding. Several people raised their hands, I raised mine shortly after to let the auctioneer know I was in the game. My heart was pounding. I was hoping it wasn’t going to go very high, then one of our friends sitting with us raised his hand just to get a reaction out of me! I gave him the stink eye. He laughed. The bid kept going up. Many people had given up and dropped out. Even though I knew the money was going to a great cause, I still didn’t want to break the bank.

What felt like the longest live auction bid in history, finally came down to me and one other guy in the ring. It went back and forth between the two of us when another friend, sitting at our table, mentioned I was bidding against a billionaire. I mean really?!?! Can it get any worse? But, just as he said this, the bidding slowed. I thought, “I can’t give up now. What’ s an extra $500, just one more $500!”

And then it was over! Although the wallet felt pretty beaten up, in the end, it all went to an incredible cause. We won the Academy Award tickets and Leap Frog 2017 broke many records, raising $394,550, the most money for KinderFrogs in the event’s history.

Scott Murray
Scott Murray

What’s Happening Next

Now, let me share with you the exciting things that are unfolding as we speak. Since January 2nd, I have been on a journey to go from drab to fab by March 4th, 2018. I restarted my super clean diet from indulging over the holidays, and I’ve have lost over 10lbs so far. I’m actually at the lowest I’ve been since I broke my back four years ago. Yay me! Nothing like having something to motivate you, right?

I also tried a few things I’ve never done before, including Botox and fillers. I went to the very best doctor in Dallas/Fort Worth and even live filmed the procedure on Instagram (you are following me there, right?). Before and after photos have been taken and I can’t wait to share the results, plus the incredible giveaway from his practice that you don’t want to miss.

 This Week:

Get your sweet tooth ready, SoFortWorthIt followers! There’s a delicious giveaway hitting the blog this week that you do not want to miss!

 

Next Week:

Total hair makeover and Giveaway!

 

In Two Weeks:

Red-carpet makeover by the best in the industry and of course surprises for you!

 

And then:

Made-to-Measure Oscar dresses- you’ll see the entire process, start to finish, on how this designer for the stars has created a dress just for me.

 

Oscars Weekend:

Be sure to follow me on Facebook and Instagram for LIVE, behind the scenes moments throughout our weekend in LA. The excitement is brewing, and I can’t wait to share it all with you.

 

***All professional photography from Leap Frog 2017 courtesy of  Glen Ellman.***