Culinary community coalesces for Chef Cunningham

Chef Joe Cunningham, center, with fellow chefs Joseph Lenn, left, and Matt Gallaher at a party in 2015 at Public House to celebrate Lenn’s leaving Blackberry Farm to start his own restaurant. Lenn and Gallaher were among the organizers of Sunday’s soiree.

The Knoxville restaurant and hospitality community came together this past Sunday for an over-the-top fundraising dinner to assist the family of Chef Joe Cunningham. The popular 43-year-old executive chef at Northshore Brasserie died in July from complications after a car accident.

His industry friends organized a five-course dinner with wine pairings. They sold 200 tickets at $250 a piece and put together a silent and live auction at The Mill & Mine in downtown Knoxville. The result: they raised more than $88,000 which will go to Cunningham’s wife, Laura Petit, and two children, Noah, 19, and Willa, 10.

It truly was a community effort. “It hasn’t been any work,” said Stephanie Balest, co-owner of Northshore Brasserie, in brief remarks. “Every phone call has given us a yes. Every morsel of food, the chair you are sitting on, the plates, the wine. All have been donated.”

Cunningham’s mother, Nancy McCoy from Berkeley Springs, West Virginia, brought tears to the eyes of his friends when she briefly took the microphone. “I always knew he was special,” she said. “I am so glad he was in a place where he was loved and cared for as much as he was in Knoxville.” Continue reading

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Tomato Jam ’19: Not just a bunch of Bloody Marys!

Bartender Whitney Scott of Sapphire mixing a drink called “Atlantic Love Tonic.” Whitney and the Sapphire booth won the “flair” award.

Congrats to the talented mixologists and proprietors of J.C. Holdway and Libacious Cocktail Catering for winning the first place Judges’ Award and People’s Choice Award, respectively, at the Tomato Jam cocktail contest.

The festive event, held Aug. 4 at downtown’s The Mill & Mine, pitted 10 cocktail providers against each other in a competition to make the best tomato-based drink. The affair, in its third year, was a fundraiser for Nourish Knoxville, a nonprofit that organizes the Market Square Farmers’ Market and supports other relationships between local farmers and the public.

The top pick of the judges was called “Green with Envy” and looked a bit like a margarita. But, rather than tequila, the mixture of tomato water and cucumber flavors contained George Dickel white corn whiskey. It was interesting.

The top vote-getter in the People’s Choice category was concocted by Casey Fox of Libacious. Called “The Garden Party,” it was one of the most complex drinks offered. It contained a syrup made from roasted tomatoes combined with vodka, passion fruit, lime, celery bitters and a fresh dill garnish. Like many of the entries, it was sweet — something you don’t normally expect from a tomato drink.

But these were not your run-of-the-mill Bloody Marys. Continue reading

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Chef Gallaher’s ‘Summer Supper’ was scary good!

Chef Matt Gallaher of Emilia and Knox Mason shows off his very sharp knife prior to dinner service Saturday. (I would have been scared, if he weren’t such a nice guy.)

Chef Matt Gallaher took full advantage of the state-of-the-art kitchen in the newly renovated Kingston Pike home of former University of Tennessee Chancellor Beverly Davenport for the Knox Heritage “Summer Supper” he prepared on Saturday.

Davenport, who lived in the 1920-era home at 2733 Kingston Pike for about a year before leaving UT last year, poured hundreds of thousands of dollars of renovations into it, and created what Realtor Jon Brock described to the News Sentinel as “maybe the very best historic renovation I’ve ever seen in Knoxville.”

The Georgian Revival-style home is owned today by Christian and Katie Corts, who paid slightly over a million dollars for the 3,396-square-foot residence. Christian said they were happy to welcome the Knox Heritage guests into the space because “it forced us to get a lot of things done.”

The house truly is stunning. The real knock-out is a second-floor outdoor patio just off the master bedroom. This is where guests of the sold-out fundraiser were welcomed with classic cocktails called French 75s and scrumptious passed hors d’oeuvres. Continue reading

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‘Shoes for School’ succeeds — for 17th year!

Pamela Garcia enjoys the fire hat she received at Shoes for School this past Saturday. (Photo by Lydia Bailey.)

East Knoxville’s Caswell Park was filled with about 7,000 people Saturday morning as the Knoxville Area Urban League held its 17th annual “Shoes for School” event to distribute athletic shoes and school supplies to students on the last weekend of summer vacation.

The event, with Covenant Health as its largest underwriter, distributed more than 1,500 pairs of shoes to children who had been pre-qualified by area civic organizations. About 4,000 picked up all kinds of school supplies and enjoyed hot dogs, snow cones, games and other activities on a beautiful day.

“Sending kids back to school with new shoes and the supplies they need for the year is a morale boost for the kids and removes a financial hardship for parents,” said Phyllis Y. Nichols, president and CEO of the Knoxville Area Urban League. “We thank every partner, including Covenant Health – our presenting sponsor for the second year in a row – every volunteer and every person who made this possible. Smiles all around indicate that we’re doing the right thing.” Continue reading

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By the time you hear Rocky Top, it’s too late

This is a guest post by Maria Cornelius of Moxley Carmichael. Maria handles the popular planning calendar, EventCheckKnox, that is designed to help event planners avoid having their events conflict with similar functions. Even though EventCheck Knox is designed for planners, it can be accessed by anyone. Look before you book! -Cynthia

If you’re an event planner in East Tennessee, it’s imperative to know the football schedule for the Vols. Fortunately, the schedule is released well ahead of the season, so planners have advance notice to work around all things orange and white.

EventCheck Knox already is looking ahead with the Vols’ four non-conference games in 2020 on the calendar with three in September and one in November. As soon as the SEC releases the 2020 conference schedule, we’ll add those, too.

Neyland Stadium at dusk. (Photo by UT Athletics)

If you’re not yet looking that far ahead – though you probably should be – the 2019 season offers planners a rare opportunity. Read to the end to find out what that is this year.

Continue reading

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Rest in peace, Sid Blalock, a fun Blue Streak fixture

We were traveling in Scotland last week when we got the sad news of the passing of East Tennessee businessman Sid Blalock. Sid and Jo, his wife of 58 years, have been frequent attendees at events covered on the Blue Streak since it was started in 2009. I thought you might want to see some of the photos in which he appeared.

Jo and Sid Blalock attending Zoofari, a fundraiser at Zoo Knoxville in the summer of 2014.

Sid always appeared to be having a good time and, obviously, he shared the philosophy of many other Blue Streak regulars: do good and have fun! I hope you enjoy this brief walk down memory lane. Our condolences to Jo and the rest of Sid’s family.

Here is a link to a story about his passing as it ran in the News Sentinel last week: Continue reading

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Something peachy and piggy at Cottonwood

In North Knoxville is a beautiful historic home called Cottonwood. Built between 1894 and 1897 by botanist Nathan Wesley Hale and his wife, Laura Adelaide Sebastian, it sat at the time on 300 acres that the Hales dedicated to the cultivation of peaches. According to Knox Heritage, Nathan Hale’s orchards were such a success that there even is a peach, the Hale Peach, named in his honor.

Historic Cottonwood is located at 3212 Washington Pike. It was the scene last month of a fantastic Knox Heritage Summer Supper.

Later in its history, in 1930, Louis M. Lay of the well-known Knoxville meat packing company Lay’s Meats, purchased the property. The company, in its heyday, was recognized by many by its advertising logo featuring “the three little pigs.” The Lay’s Meats founder owned the home and land until 1959.

Unfortunately, after the Lay family sold the estate, it fell into disrepair to the point that many felt it would be demolished. But in 2006, it was purchased again. This time by Stewart Lusk and Greg Merritt who have worked tirelessly over the past 13 years to restore it to its original grandeur. Continue reading

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Symphony League delivers a little taste of Austria

Chef Simon Hall holds the tiny cookbook for the evening: “Austrian Specialties.”

Sometimes, when you purchase one of the “Elegant Dining” events from the Knoxville Symphony League, you can be transported to another country — without passing the Knox County line! These ladies are well-traveled. And they love sharing their international experiences with the folks back home.

This was the case recently when Elizabeth and Rudy Koester offered a dinner for 10 in their lovely West Knoxville home. “Dinner at Cafe Mozart” was their title for the evening. Chef Simon Hall prepared Viennese dishes paired with European wines. “Guten appetit!” said the description of the evening. (That’s Austrian German for “good appetite!”) Come along and see how the Viennese might be dining tonight! Continue reading

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Kellie Harper receives rousing welcome at reception

Lady Vols Head Basketball Coach Kellie Harper and UT Director of Athletics Phillip Fulmer.

Even though it’s not football or basketball time in Tennessee, local stores may have noticed a run on orange clothing and accessories recently. That’s because five area companies banded together to host a community welcome reception for new Lady Vols head basketball coach, Kellie Harper.

The fun evening, held at The Mill & Mine in downtown Knoxville, was sponsored by Pilot Flying J, Cherokee Distributing Company, Prestige Cleaners, Hickory Construction and the University of Tennessee Medical Center.

Harper, who arrived with Director of Athletics Phillip Fulmer and members of her coaching staff, was a big hit. She immediately connected with the attendees with her poise, wit and warmth. During an on-stage interview with longtime sportswriter Maria Cornelius (who also works at Moxley Carmichael), the coach talked about her new staff, expectations at Tennessee and her love of Lady Vols basketball. Continue reading

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Dr. Waters remembered in a way he would have loved

Dr. Bedford Waters in 2012 at the birthday party of his friend Ted Smith.

Four hundred folks spent this past Saturday night at the Knoxville Museum of Art honoring the memory of Dr. W. Bedford Waters, a medical pioneer in the field of urology, a supporter of the local arts scene, a world traveler and a master entertainer. He passed away May 25 at the age of 71.

“Bedford is smiling tonight,” said his first cousin and close friend Cecelia Waters, speaking for the family. “We are so overwhelmed,” she said of the turnout. “He was my best friend. He loved his job, his patients, his colleagues. He will be missed, but never forgotten.”

Fittingly, the event was a party, featuring a lavish spread of delicacies prepared by one of Knoxville’s best caterers, Holly Hambright. Tiny cones of ahi tuna tartare were passed by servers in black. Guests were greeted with flutes of champagne. Wine and beer flowed freely from the bars. I do think Dr. Waters would have loved it.

Bill Rukeyser, chairman of the University of Tennessee Medical Center board, described Dr. Waters, who helped create the urology residency there, as “smart, elegant, sociable and incisive.” At UT Medical Center, Dr. Waters served as chairman and director of the program. Continue reading

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