Mothers, daughters, sisters, grandmothers, friends. A woman touched by cancer is a special kind of survivor. When it’s ovarian cancer, the sad fact is that oftentimes the signs and symptoms result in a late diagnosis. And those who have perished leave behind a legacy and urgent message. Please, not one more.
A group of lady chefs is working hard to keep that from happening through Turn Up the Heat, a women chef event that raises funds for ovarian cancer research in a show of faith that everyone can do something. The events in Washington, D.C., are so successful, organizers have added an evening in Boston taking place on May 8.
There is still plenty of time to get involved with two ways to participate – as a chef to provide tastings to the guests and be part of the community that way, or sharing a gift card for a Boston area restaurant to be featured in the onsite Restaurant Row. “Restaurant Row is our onsite giving area supplied with donated gift cards valued at fifty dollars or more that guests can purchase,” says organizer Catie Dugan Vargas. “They make a donation to the cause and, in exchange, receive a tasty excursion to your fine establishment and the gift is tax deductible.”
The hotbed of women chefs and women in the food industry in general inspired Turn Up the Heat. This past year marked the 13th year of the D.C. event. This is the first time the organizers are holding it in Boston, and they hope to expand to other cities. “We came about choosing Boston knowing it would be a successful fundraiser model elsewhere for women’s health, and, as we all know, food brings everyone together,” says Vargas. “Among women, ovarian cancer is one of the most deadly diseases, but this is an exciting time for women and so much has improved in ovarian cancer treatment options.”
The women in the community refer to it as a sisterhood and the conference the Alliance puts on every year is a powerful tool directing money raised to support our programs and research, helping women obtain advice on nutrition, dealing with the disease and sharing experiences. “We have a woman-to-woman peer program for those who have this cancer to empower survivors and train them to tell their story to pre-med students,” says Vargas. “There is no early detection test for this disease.”
What struck organizers at the Turn Up the Heat in D.C. was how much female chefs loved participating in the event and networking with other women. Female chefs are often juggling many hats and are locked down in their restaurants. This event gives them an opportunity to be part of women’s health on-site or remotely and make a difference in an important cause.
While many attendees and donors have lost someone, the focus of Turn Up the Heat is not on loss but on the story of survival and prevention.“We have a woman who bought thirty tickets and rented a party bus in celebration of life and survivorship,” says Vargas. “It’s an opportunity to be around good food made by women to commemorate women and women’s health. So despite the serious nature of its purpose, it is actually lots of fun to attend.”
Vargas says everyone on the Turn Up the Heat team is excited for the Boston event, especially the participating culinary and mixology heavyweights, including Christina Larson (Bar Mezzana), Hannah F. Lurier (City Winery Boston), Sara Markey (Field & Vine), Kristen Rummel (Honeycomb Creamery), Rachael Collins (Juliet), Katrina Jazayeri (Juliet), Kayla Quigley (Our Fathers), Andi Wolfgang (nuFudge), Raleigh Strott (Pammy’s Cambridge), Mareena McKenzie (Strip T’s), Lydia Reichert (Sycamore), Vicki Lee Boyajian (Vicki Lee’s), Kimberly Chappell (Vicki Lee’s), Melissa Motta (Vicki Lee’s), and Julie King (Villa Mexico Cafe).
Vargas asks chefs to please share the event with their peers to help get the word out to as many female chefs and supporters as possible. For more information, visit the Turn Up the Heat Boston website. To become a participating chef or donate a gift card, connect with Catie Dugan Vargas at firstname.lastname@example.org.