For almost 100 homeless county residents, The Westchester Rotary Club’s Night To Remember at Grace Church last week was exactly that—an unforgettable charity dining event featuring food and drink from none other than Chef Peter Kelly.
During the event, Kelly and his team of volunteers served a quality meal to 96 homeless people from around the area. And the team didn’t just stop there—in order to fully give the attendees a true 5-star dining experience, they transformed the soup kitchen into a formal restaurant. Elaborate flower arrangements and glowing candles were set out to warm the usually utilitarian space. Volunteer, waiters, and the maître d’ were dressed in tuxedos, and the tables were set with fine tablecloths and formal silverware. Everyone from Rotary Club members to the mayor to Kelly’s staff, wife, and sons lent a hand serving and cooking. Yet for Kelly, it was just a typical day in the kitchen. “I approached the dinner exactly the same way I would have approached a dinner in my restaurant—with the same quality, presentation, and service.”
Diners were given an appetizer, entrée, and dessert, and could choose between two of Kelly’s dishes for each course. Appetizer choices included a black truffle and green onion risotto with crabmeat sabayon and a salad made from vegetables donated from local farms with Goat yogurt “Ranch” dressing, smoked bacon, and Kumoto tomatos. For the entrée, the options were filet mignon with Yukon gold potatoes, haricot vert with shallots and Perigourdine sauce, or a wild sockeye salmon with honey and sake glaze. Dessert did not disappoint—a “Belgian chocolate dome” with a soft caramel center and crème anglaise or a classic red velvet cake with mascarpone frosting and candied pecans. Coffee, tea, and petit fours were also offered. “I wanted to give items they don’t normally see and serve dishes that were celebratory and special,” explained Kelly.
The event was well received by those who were both eating and serving. One resident who lives in the homeless shelter at Grace Church (the shelter is another program organized by Lifting Up Westchester) reflected on the evening, “When you’re going through your own trials and tribulations and you can just let that go for a night, it means the world. Peter Kelly is awesome and the food was sublime.”
“Oh, it was amazing, fabulous, beyond anything I could have dreamed,” said Rotary Club President Heather Miller. “Peter Kelly gave his time, wisdom, and talent…He was in the kitchen, right there, all the time.”
The dinner was a success, but Kelly saw his work at Grace’s Kitchen as more than just an evening of good food: “This was a group effort. The idea was to shine a light on the fact that, you know, Westchester is one of the wealthiest communities and we still have people who are hungry right in our neighborhoods. We have to work together to help solve this problem.”
Grace’s Kitchen is a soup kitchen program run through Lifting Up Westchester based at Grace’s Church. The nonprofit organization also: runs a summer day camp, which plans enrichment and recreational activities for up to 130 homeless five- to 13-year-old children for five weeks in July and August; supports the Open Arms Men’s Shelter and Samaritan House, which are homeless shelters for men and women, respectively; supports a four-days-a-week afterschool program complete with tutoring and SAT preparation for homeless children; and connects disadvantaged people with Neighbors Home Care Services, a state-licensed home healthcare agency. Find out more about the organization on their website.