It's impossible not to think of the Survivor Oak in downtown Oklahoma City in days painted as deep, dark blue as these. A creature whose sheer tenacity for holding its life dear has rarely been matched in the history of a world made up almost wholly of life. The example it set in not only surviving one of civilization's most dire confrontations with chaos created by mankind at his worst but in marking the point where order was restored by mankind at its best.
That old American elm still stands tall and inspires us to embrace the joy of life no matter how cruel it can sometimes be. We've learned there is no medicine for heartbreak like getting the job done. So we work. Time and experience has taught us that together we work better. So we work together.
The local food-service community wasted no time responding, sending food trucks to the aid of rescue and recovery workers, donating food and drink and raising funds on behalf of local charities to fortify the cause for rebuilding.
This weekend top local chefs will open the OK Chefs Relief Pop-Up Restaurant at the Myriad Gardens restaurant space, 301 W Reno Ave., featuring “spontaneous cuisine” made out of donated ingredients from local producers from 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. Sunday Then on Monday, OK Chefs Relief will become a Mission Chinese pop-up under the direction of rock star chef Danny Bowien, who grew up in Oklahoma City. Bowien's good friend and superstar pastry chef Christina Tosi is helping the cause by providing Monday's dessert through her Momofuku Milk Bar in New York City.
Chef Bowien recently was awarded the James Beard Foundation's award for Top Rising Young Chef for 2013. Bowien grew up in Oklahoma City but found his fame as a chef in San Francisco and New York City with Mission Burger and Mission Chinese, which was listed on Bon Appetit's list of Best New Restaurants in America for 2011. Bowien has said in numerous publications that he longs to open a restaurant in his hometown, and this will have to count for his first — even it is only for a day or two.
Joining Bowien will be recent “Top Chef” contestant Joshua Valentine, who was born and raised in Del City. Josh finished one step from the finale in the season, which wrapped up in February. He's also on the verge of opening a restaurant in the penthouse of the Founders Tower. Coming up from Idabel will be chef Tabb Singleton, who took home $10,000 on Food Network's “Chopped” back in October. Tabb recently left his job at Emeril's NOLA in New Orleans to pursue interests in his home state. Overseeing operations will be The Big Kahuna, Kurt Fleischfresser of The Coach House and Western Concepts. Kurt is undoubtedly on the Mount Rushmore of Oklahoma City's all-time chefs. Chef coordinator is Jonathon Stranger, who partners with chef Russ Johnson to give us the ambitious and inspired concept of Ludivine. Chefs Marc Dunham and Chris Becker of the Francis Tuttle Culinary School also helped found the event, and will provide food and support from the school. Becker is planning to prepare lasagna using the artisan pasta he makes through his Della Terra Fine Pasta company. Dozens of other local chefs will be involved in the two-day event, donating time, skill and product.
Most importantly, all proceeds from the event will go to the Oklahoma Chapter of the American Red Cross. The goal for Sunday is to raise at least $35,000. As Bowien's reputation is across the country, Monday's event could potentially double that goal. I anticipate foodies from around the region will make the trip to Oklahoma City to support the effort.
To pull off a venture of this magnitude in such a short time might be considered impossible. But the generosity and empathy of Oklahoma has often been underestimated.
Stranger said an entire steer was donated for the event by local rancher Wendy Drummond.
“That gives us two sides of beef,” Stranger said. “That means everybody gets a steak. Who knows what cut of beef it'll come from, but everyone gets a steak.”
The outpouring of donations has been such that OK Chefs Relief might continue to exist beyond this one weekend and continue to support recovery efforts as long as is needed.
At Sunday's event, diners can expect a four-course meal, including cupcakes provided by Cuppies-N-Joe and a special commemorative cake from La Baguette.
Stranger said there is still an effort being made to secure live music at the Myriad Gardens stage adjacent to the restaurant. Local basketball star and artist Desmond Mason and a troupe of his artist friends will be in attendance for a live art demonstration. Art work created during the event will be a part of a live auction that will also benefit local Red Cross efforts.
The restaurant won't accept reservations; seatings will be first-come, first-served. The restaurant seats about 80 people. If no seats are available, leave your cell number at the host station and you'll be texted about 15 minutes before seats become available. Local beer vendors will serve their suds and local wine brokers will offer special wines with added donation. The recommended donation is $35, but don't let that stop you from showing up if you don't have it. Simply give as best you can as the chefs are. And if you have more than that to give, by all means do it.