As a proud partner of Dine Out for No Kid Hungry, OpenTable will be donating $1 per reservation booked at any participating restaurant throughout the month of September. This week, we were excited to join the team at Betony as they kicked off the campaign with Produce Playoff 2015, a celebration of New York’s finest summer produce.
Chef Bryce Shuman and General Manager Eamon Rockey invited an all-star roster of chefs and beverage professionals — including Daniel Humm of Eleven Madison Park, James Kent of The NoMad, and Eli Kaimeh of Per Se — to create a multi-course meal that highlights the best of the season’s bounty. A portion of ticket sales were donated to the No Kid Hungry Campaign.
We were so inspired by the team’s creativity and enthusiasm around giving that we asked Bryce and Eamon for their take on philanthropic events. Here, they tell us what works and what doesn’t, plus why they’re passionate about this cause.
I know restaurateurs are approached all the time to donate resources and host events. How do you decide which to take on?
Eamon: We are certainly approached all the time and it is really hard to say no to a noble cause. That said, overcommitting to these charitable organizations can be difficult to sustain. In order to ensure that we are able to make the biggest impact we can while still acting in the best interest of the restaurant, we have worked to develop a very strong relationship with one primary charitable partner that we feel strongly represents a cause that resonates with our core values. In our case, Share Our Strength’s No Kid Hungry agenda — headed up by Billy & Debbie Shore with an incredibly strong team, Moira Sedgwick, Jenny Dirksen and Alison Zayas, to name a few — is one of the most impressively impactful and structured organizations in the country; we are very proud to work with them.
Bryce: You cannot do them all, that is for sure. No Kid Hungry seriously strikes a chord with me, having a daughter, and they maintain goals that are small enough to achieve and big enough to matter. They have great people as well, I really enjoy working with them.
How did you come up with the Produce Playoff event?
Eamon: The original Produce Playoff (2014) was cooked up by Bryce to find a way to playfully integrate a competition between himself and our fellow Eleven Madison Park alum, David Nayfeld, centered around the year’s best warm-weather produce.
Bryce: And Eamon helped to really develop it into the collaborative and totally fun evening for charity that it is, incorporating not only chefs but bartenders, sommeliers, brewers, florists and designers.
What did you do last year and how does it compare to what you’re doing this year? Any changes or evolution, and if so, what were the reasons behind them?
Eamon: Last year, the event revolved entirely around a “playoff” between east- and west-coast produce. Chef David Nayfeld flew in as the west coast competitor and we offered seats to 40 guests, mostly restaurant professionals.
This year we’ve upped the ante by involving several collaborators, all from NYC, with expertise in the dining room as well as the kitchen. It is our goal to illustrate how great the summer is for dining in New York and to benefit the great efforts of the No Kid Hungry campaign from Share Our Strength.
Do you think interactive, creative concepts like this make for more successful events? What kinds of interactions and results have you seen in the past?
Eamon: The more talented people there are rallying together behind the same cause, the greater the impact and the more powerful the momentum. We hope that diners and drinkers who are fans of Jeremiah and Fabian from Contra, and the beers of Garrett Oliver, will get excited about this dinner and ideally help to support the charitable work of the event with more awareness in future. One of the greatest points of inspiration for this event was the first Autumn Harvest dinner that we were a part of at Eleven Madison Park. Chefs and sommeliers from around the world flew in to support the same great cause centered around the same menu and theme. It was collaboration at its best, with Daniel Humm and John Ragan being joined by Bobby Stuckey, Daniel Johnnes, Yannick Alleno, and more!
Bryce: I think that any time you get the opportunity to tell a story and enrich people’s lives with human interaction and fresh dynamic ideas, you are going to have a more successful event. We wanted this to be a great fundraiser for Share Our Strength, but most of all, we want it to be FUN!
Why are you excited to partner with No Kid Hungry? Why is the cause important to you/your business?
Eamon: No Kid Hungry is made up of “do-ers.” They bring together people from virtually every walk of life and give them an opportunity to make an impact. They invest in their team and their collaborators to ensure that the relationships they build serve as a foundation for the future of their efforts. At the end of the day, as a collection of people who work daily to feed and serve other people, it feels very natural to want to contribute to the efforts of an organization that works solely to feed and care for our country’s young people.
Bryce: One in five children in this country are food insecure. As a chef I work with food every day and I have an abundance. I have a responsibility to do something about this. It is so important.
Can you share any tips for hosting successful charity events? What works and what doesn’t?
Eamon: Especially if these types of events are a new venture, it is essential to work with a charity that is able to bring experience and organization to the table. It cannot be overemphasized how effective, expedient and thorough the Share Our Strength team is; anyone that has ever sat in a meeting planned by Moira Sedgwick knows the true definition of planning and preparation!
Bryce: I echo what Eamon had to say 100%. I would also like say to find a way to make it cool. Make it unique and your own. You want to raise a lot of money for your charity, but first and foremost make it awesome, so that people will want to return year after year.
Photo Credit: Simon Lewis