Support for Big Sister radiated from everyone at the annual Celebrity Chef Dinner at Radius on April 5. Guests put generosity at the top of the menu, the chefs cooked up a special surprise, and a former Big and Little Sister added a dash of inspiration. The result was nearly $120,000 to support Big Sister’s mentoring programs for Greater Boston’s girls.
In an economic climate when many restaurants are closing their doors, Esti Parsons, Christopher Myers and Michael Schlow generously opened Radius’s doors to Big Sister once again this year. Boston’s hottest chefs also gave up their one night off, on the heels of a busy Restaurant Week, to lend their gastronomic genius to the evening. Our 120 guests enjoyed a cocktail hour with amuse bouche, followed by a six-course meal that included halibut en croute with coconut rice, braised Asian greens, curry emulsion and wasabi oil; Yorkshire pig terrine with pickled green almonds, ramps, and Dijon purée; and a grand finale of peach melba panna cotta with roasted peaches, raspberry sorbet and thyme syrup. The dishes were prepared by Ting Yen of Oishii, Jamie Bissonette and David Hamilton of Toro, Marc Orfaly of Marco and Pigalle, Mike Pagliarini of Via Matta, and Matthew Audette and Janessa Tomshick of Radius.
Michael Schlow warmly welcomed guests, acknowledging how important their support of the event was this year and that it showed a true commitment to Big Sister and Greater Boston’s girls. He then handed over the evening to emcee, Mish Michaels, of WBZ TV. Like Esti, Christopher, and Michael, Mish has been a long-time supporter of Big Sister. A Big Sister herself for ten years, Mish now serves on our Advisory Board and hosts activities for our Big and Little Sisters such as a Wachusett Mountain ski trip and a visit to the Blue Hill Observatory.
As stomachs began to fill up, guests were treated to a taste of something not on the menu—the impact of the work we do. Former Little Sister Sandra Faioes, who now teaches at The Engineering School in Hyde Park, and her former Big Sister, Meg McMillen, who is a teacher at Quincy High School, have shared more than 20 years of friendship. Sandra explained that growing up in a working class immigrant family in Dorchester she did most things for herself at an early age, including signing up for a Big Sister. While at 12 years old she may not have completely understood what she signed up for, at 33 she knows that what she got was a friend for life. “I can’t imagine what my life would be like without Meg. That’s like trying to imagine life without an arm,” she told guests. “Meg to me is like family, but without the negatives,” Sandra joked.
The evening concluded with the Matchmaker Challenge…and a surprise challenge from the chefs! During the Matchmaker Challenge guests are asked to give $1,000—the average cost of making and supporting a Big and Little Sister match. With approximately 200 girls on our waiting list at any given time, the generosity of those who give through the Matchmaker Challenge allows us to place a caring, supportive woman in the life of many of those girls. During the Challenge guests read about Catarina, age 8, from Cambridge who said “When I grow up I want to be a business lady. That means I want to be a lawyer or help people out and I’d get to carry a briefcase. That’s kind of cool. I’ve always wanted to carry one of those. Also, I would make a lot of money so I can buy three cats.” Then there was the wise-beyond-her-years Kerry, age 15, from Dedham, who said “When I grow up I want to do something with funeral services or hospice care because I figure most of the Baby Boomer generation will be sick or dying by the time I’m old enough to have a career. I don’t want to do any embalming though!” And then there was Stacia, age 11, from Dorchester, who said, “I want a Big Sister because my sister and I don’t get along very well and my mom is sick a lot so she can’t take me out to do things. I want to have someone to do fun things with, like roller skating and dancing.” Michael Schlow and the other chefs were so inspired by these girls and their need for a Big Sister that they decided to sweeten the pot. They offered a meal for four at each of their restaurants to anyone who gave $10,000. Two guests immediately accepted the challenge.
Now that the dishes are washed and the wine glasses put away, we would like to extend a big thank you to all who contributed and made this a successful event. Additionally, we would like to thank the event chair, Board Member Lisa Scannell; hosts Esti Parsons, Christopher Myers, and Michael Schlow; all of the chefs who gave their time and talent; emcee, Mish Michaels; and speakers Sandra Faioes and Meg McMillen. We look forward to breaking bread with you again next year at the Celebrity Chef Dinner!