On Monday night the Chez Sophie reunion dinner took place in honor of Chef Paul Parker who’s undergoing treatment for cancer. The turnout was great, the spirits were high, and the sense of community was inspiring.
I learned of Paul’s illness when I was sent a link to a GoFundMe page set up by a family friend with a goal of $10,000. My first thought was that I wished I could just put the whole amount in. Then I thought about what my wife and I would contribute, and we discussed and settled on a figure. As I was at work later that day prepping for dinner service, I had an idea that would allow me to contribute the whole 10k and more. What we did on Monday night was spawned from that thought and with the help of a lot of community-minded individuals we exceeded the monetary goal and more importantly we showed a family that they are not alone in their fight, but have an entire team in their corner. As someone who has witnessed the fight against cancer too many times, I know what an emotional boost can mean to someone who’s ill. Paul, we’re on your side and will battle with you.
In the Spring of 2004, I had just started working at Chez Sophie in Malta. One night after service my car wouldn’t start, and it needed to be jump started by Paul and Cheryl’s SUV. Before I left for home Paul had me take his cell phone with me in the event I had further car issues. It was a small gesture, but It was the first time I learned that Paul cared about people other than himself. It was the first in a series of kind acts I saw over the years and now it’s time for him to be able to draw from the good acts he’s committed over time to help himself.
My wife commented that whenever someone needed a job, all they need to do was go to the kitchen door and ask if there was anything available. There were so many times that the restaurant couldn’t afford another employee, but he’d say, “come in Friday at 2, we’ll find something for you to do.” I think people often forget or are unaware that Chez Sophie was not just a great restaurant, but a place where people came first. We we’re fed well, we were always paid, and we had the opportunity to accumulate great memories and cultivate friendships. Thank you, Paul and Cheryl.
The list of people who contributed was lengthy, but I’d be remiss if I did not mention in some way those responsible for making the evening a success.
For use of the site of the Chez Sophie so many people were a part of, the Fodero Diner in Malta, Dunning Street Station I thank owners Chef Scott Ringwood and Bob McKenna, General Manager Diana Murphy, and Chef Bruce Jacobson. Diana took care of many details along the way and was on hand for the evening to assure things were as they needed to be. Scott and Bruce were indispensable in the kitchen.
The kitchen crew was rounded out by Dominique Brialy, Mark Graham, Ali Benamati, and Nick Yusavage. Thank you all who made the work light with your help ideas, and most of all your spirited camaraderie and focus on the goal.
To our service team who came together and reminded me what a professional service team looks like, I am grateful for your efforts. It was a difficult job that was performed well. Jennifer Derby Colose, Jay Christiansen, Micki Lee, and Patrick Gilgallon. Also, on the Bar, Mitch Rowen. All these professionals are Chez Sophie alumni, and it shows. They stepped into the roles without missing a beat and more importantly, they turned 100% of their gratuities ($1500.00) over to the fund-raising effort.
A proper Chez Sophie experience would not be complete without great wine and great wine service, which was made possible by our event sommeliers, two of the best in the business who not only gave their time, but also contributed and/or facilitated the donation of all the wine consumed (some of it in the kitchen). Dominick Purnomo (Yono’s) and Joseph Armstrong Winebow), thank you from the bottom of my heart. It was one aspect I didn’t need to worry about as I knew it was handled by two gentleman who are on their game time and time again.
I also need to acknowledge business owners Matt Funiciello of Rock Hill Bakery, Gary Warrington of Edelweiss Veal Co., and Eric Guenther of Adventure in Food Trading Co. for generous donations of great product, and Mark McNary of PFG Foods, Dale Miller of Maple Leaf Farms, Douglas Bernthal of Skurnic Wines, and Ryan Moore of Lauber Imports for facilitation of product donations
Finally, T.R Laz for his work in providing photographic memories of the event, and Jonathan Anthime Miller for providing wonderful music.
To all those who provided items, services, and artwork for the silent auction, a genuine thank you, as the bids were plentiful, and the result beneficial.
Living a life in a specific way can cause you to have people come to your aid without a thought. It’s not charity, it’s drawing on assets that you have earned and banked.
To all the people who donated, cooked, organized, served, and attended, thank you.