Collaboration for common good was certainly on the menu Saturday night when the Jamie Kirk Hahn Foundation convened a group of celebrity chefs to prepare its summer fundraiser dinner.
The meal—served under a tent and amid distant thunder on the elegant grounds of the Sall family compound in Cary— attracted more than one hundred supporters. It seemed that nearly everyone had a direct connection to Nation Hahn, the gentle convener who draws strength and motivation from his late wife, the foundation’s namesake.
Attendees paid $100 each (or $150 per couple) to enjoy an extended happy hour and six-course supper. The fee helps to support the foundation, created to honor the legacy of the beloved community activist by developing leadership skills in a so-called “Army of Jamies”—that is, young people dedicated to improving the lives of others.
Clark Barlowe, the chef of Charlotte’s Heirloom and a high school classmate of Nathan Hahn in Lenoir, headlined the kitchen. Barlowe recruited other participants, too: Kyle McKnight, formerly of Highland Avenue in Hickory; Aaron Rivera of Tapas 51 and The Chrome Toaster in Fort Mills, South Carolina, who gained bragging rights for winning an episode of Food Network’s Beat Bobby Flay; Steven Goff, formerly of Raleigh’s Standard Foods and who will soon launch a food truck called Brinehaus Meat + Provisions; Top Chef competitor Keith Rhodes of Voyce, Wing Star, and Wilmington’s Catch, which was Jamie Kirk Hahn’s favorite coastal eatery; and Ann Marie Stefaney, Barlowe’s pastry chef at Heirloom.
The fare was impressive if uneven, perhaps due in part to the stifling heat and humidity in the tent. McKnight and Goff turned in the most successful dishes. McKnight inspired dreams of summer with a salad featuring vibrant heirloom tomatoes from Wilmington’s Black River Organic Farm, while Goff teased complex flavor from collards potlikker to create a pleasingly sour broth, in which he floated tender bites of fried catfish.
Several of the chefs credited partners for donating resources with which they made their meals, acts of generosity that minimized costs and directed more dollars to the foundation.
“Jamie believed that good food and bringing people together is a vehicle for social change,” Hahn said after dinner, pausing frequently to accept hugs and well wishes from departing guests. “We’ve found that the culinary community in North Carolina represents the best of our state, a willingness to give of their time and talent and to be truly engaged in improving their community.”
Hahn says this summer’s group of interns is tasked with staging a beer-and-barbecue event, details of which will be announced soon. The foundation’s signature fundraiser, Jamie’s Party for a Purpose, will be held in early October. Visit jamiekirkhahnfoundation.org for details or to support the organization.