The Grape’s Brian Luscher has a very special place in his heart for The Stewpot Alliance. In fact he’s sort of in awe of the organization. He admits that his Greenville Avenue restaurant daily serves 200 guests, while The Stewpot feeds 1,700 a day.
Thanks to Brian’s understanding of the importance of feeding those in need, he has spearheaded the annual Soup’s On! fundraiser for eight years by having the area’s fav chefs serve up bowls of soup.
On Tuesday, January 19, the 2016 group of chefs (Melody Bishop and Dennis Kelley of Lark On the Park, Omar Flores of Casa Rubia, Danyelle McPherson of Remedy, Misti Norris of Small Brewpub, Suki Otsuki of Mudhen, Janice Provost of Parigi, Abraham Salum of Salum and Komali, Sarah Snow of The Grape, Drew Swanson of Wolfgang Puck Catering and Brian Zenner of On Premise) were cooking up hundreds of bowls of soup in the kitchen at Union Station. It was sorta like going home for the chefs like Brian, Omar, Danyelle, Janice and Abraham. Prior to holding the event at the Omni Dallas Hotel the past three years, the event had been at Union Station. And while the Omni had been fine and dandy, Union Station’s charm and history just seemed a fit for the event.
But the sold-out luncheon had added touches that only enchanted the soups served up. For instance, The Stewpot Alliance Board President Kristine Schwope and Luncheon Co-Chairs Charlotte Legg and Christi Nicholas were so very proud of the centerpieces that Terry McCullough and Billye Turner had assembled with produce from the Stewpot Community Gardens.
And then there was the recognition of husband/wife creative team Christy Coltrin and Brad Oldham. Each year Brad has created a unique spoon that is presented to the luncheon chefs. This year the spoon featured the Coltrin-Oldham pooch, Pete. To celebrate the moment Christy and Brad brought along daughter Annabelle Oldham.
Still another star in the crown of the event was having Micki and Mike Rawlings serve as honorary co-chairs. Was it really five years ago when then-Mayor Tom Leppert clasped hands with rumored mayoral candidate Mike at Soup’s On! leading many to think that rumors were more than suspicions?
In the crowd supporting The Stewpot and the co-chairs were Helen LaKelly Hunt and husband Harville Hendrix, who will be orchestrating citywide Safe Conversations on Saturday, February 13… Realtor David Nichols receiving congratulations for being part of the team that closed on the Hicks estate to Andy Beal… John Phifer Marrs and Lauren Thomasson checking the silent auction items… Former Soup’s On! Co-Chair Gail Davis reporting that former Soup’s On! speaker Liz Murray would be back in town at the National Council of Jewish Women luncheon.
As the crowd moved from the reception area to their tables in the ballroom, Brian and his chefs were making last minute checks on their soups.
Bigger-than-life Robert Wilonsky kicked off the program introducing Rev. Joe Clifford to provide the invocation, and Charlotte and Christi told how the soup bowl favors at each guest’s place had been created by a volunteer. This year Shelton student Cailey Ginn was recognized for having painted 100 bowls. At a table in the back of the room, Cailey looked a little surprised at the recognition.
Speaking of surprises, the co-chairs then announced that longtime Alliance supporter Susie Simon had provided $250,000 for an art program at The Stewpot Alliance.
Next up was Honorary Co-Chair Mike (Micki decided to stay at their table and let Mike do the speaking for both of them), who had spent five years working with The Alliance’s Rev. Bruce Buchanan in dealing with “this nemesis.” But despite all the work, he added, “We have a long way to go.” He went on to say that the power of The Alliance “is about not just numbers. It’s about transforming lives.”
Following Christy and Brad being presented on stage for their years of creating the unique spoons presented each year to the chefs and supporting The Stewpot, the chefs were called individually to the stage. Unlike years past, when they had emerged from the center of the back of the room via an open aisle, this year they entered from a side of the back of the room and made their way to the stage through the cluster of tables as servers were delivering the soups. It might have been wiser to have had them simply make a clean entrance of the front side, thereby avoiding the obstacle course of tables.
As the chefs’ names were called out, each was greeted with applause until the end, when Chef Drew was called to take care of a situation. When Drew’s name was called, there was a moment’s hesitation and next-in-line Chef Brian made his way to the stage. But not to worry. Drew returned moments later to take his walk with some guests a little confused as to which one was Drew and which one was Brian. Simple solution — their photos were in the program.
The chefs took their bows and then gathered for the annual group photo. However, this time Brian was a little ginger about his usual “laydown” pose. Perhaps it was that ankle that would soon be meeting up with a doctor’s instruments?
As the meal was winding down, Big Bob returned to the podium to introduce keynote speaker Collins Tuohy. Following a video briefly describing her part in “The Blind Side” life of her family, Collins arrived on stage complete with her southern accent and an impressive engagement ring (she’s getting hitched on April 22 to Cannon Smith, son of FedEx Founder/CEO Fred Smith).
Unlike speakers of the past who talked about the challenges of facing homelessness, Collins told about the other side. The side in which a family takes it upon itself to make a home for a homeless person. She told of little incidents in which big, hulking African-American Michael Oher became part of the white middle-class Tuohy family that provided laughter and understanding. The way she spoke of her “little brother” was no different than the way she talked about the rest of her family. There was humor; there was love; there was a relationship that was blind to his being 290 pounds, black, and coming from a neglected childhood. She was Michael’s big sister and she was dang proud of it.
Regarding the actuality of the movie in which Sandra Bullock won the Academy Award for her portrayal of Tuohy matriarch Leigh Anne Tuohy and Collins was portrayed in the movie by Lily Collins. Collins admitted that she not only didn’t know Lily was the daughter of Phil Collins, upon meeting him she asked, “What group do you play with?”
The movie, according to Collins, “was unbelievably accurate.” One of the few inaccuracies dealt with Collins playing volleyball in the movie. The problem? Collins didn’t play volleyball. She was a pole vaulter and cheerleader. It seems that one day after shooting, Collins spotted Lily with a bruised knee. When she asked how it had happened, Lily said she’d fallen shooting the volleyball scene. Collins reply, “Volleyball?” It was apparent to Lily that Collins was not a volleyball-kind-of gal.
And while the movie and book were dazzling, Collins’ true message of the years that the Tuohys and Michael grew together into a solid family was that, “Someone like Michael could have so easily been overlooked. He is a bashful, bashful person. He could have so easily slipped through the cracks.”
Little did Collins know that she would soon be headed to California to deliver her Whimsy Cookie Co. brother Michael’s Panthers as they play at Super Bowl 50 on Sunday, February 7.
BTW, Leigh Anne will be in town for the Rainbow Days’ Pot of Gold luncheon on Friday, April 15, at Omni Dallas Hotel.