Along with volunteering at nonprofits, one of our favorite ways to give back to the community is through our Chef Auction—Edible Austin’s annual celebration of local food, cooking talent and noteworthy nonprofits—held for the last six years at The Allan House.
The Chef Auction lets Austinites support local organizations Sustainable Food Center and Urban Roots by bidding on unique and private chef-curated dinner-party packages—all while enjoying tasty local bites and beverages. At last year’s auction, we raised more than $80,000 with proceeds going to the two nonprofits, thanks to sponsors and bidders in both the live and silent auctions.
Many of last year’s winning guests used their dinner award packages to host friends and family for a one-of-a-kind event, but one guest used hers to further give back to our community. Local real estate agent Olivia Barnard knew her winning dinner package with Chef Casey Wilcox would be a unique opportunity to support Austin Angels—a local nonprofit that mentors children and young adults in the Central Texas foster-care system. “We all have things that we splurge on and get so much joy from, and dining is mine,” says Barnard. “How cool would it be to have the kids in this welcoming setting, enjoying amazing food? I just wanted to share that experience with them, because that’s an experience I enjoy so much.”
At the dinner, held in Central Standard’s private dining room, Barnard—who is a frequent donor to Austin Angels—planned a special evening for eight young adults aging out of foster care. Ranging in age from 17 to 21, the attendees are part of Austin Angels’ Dare to Dream program, which works to pair the youth with community mentors as they enter adulthood. “These kids are coming out of struggle, and we want to give them a platform to move forward and find success, wherever that is, whatever their passions and dreams are,” says Barnard. “We went around the room and the kids talked about their aspirations, what they want to do when they grow up and their experiences. It was a bit painful because there were a lot of sad circumstances, but the kids loved it.”
Along with inviting these young adults, Barnard also brought in several community mentors to talk about their experiences entering into adulthood. “I wanted to put in front of them people that didn’t come from privilege or have advanced degrees,” she says. “I had people who came from very challenging situations tell their stories, and it was awesome. I brought in Michele Gary, who's a vice president at Endeavor Real Estate. She’s one of my closest friends, and she has adopted two boys from foster care. She herself has a story of struggling to success, which really fit the platform of the evening.”
Another attendee was CEO of Austin Angels, Susan Ramirez, who’s known Barnard for eight years and originally got her involved with the nonprofit. “The dinner last year was one of the greatest highlights for our young adults,” she says. “They felt special, seen, heard and validated. Most children who grow up in the foster-care system don’t have opportunities like this, so to be able to offer this to our children was such a gift.”
Though Barnard’s bidding was motivated by her love of food, her original incentive for attending the Chef Auction was based on its beneficiaries. “My reason for partaking in the Chef Auction at all, and being there to bid and not just eat, was 100 percent because of who the recipients are,” she says. “I love what's happening with Urban Roots and our local farming. I love what’s happening with sustainability and supporting small business. It was a wonderful event. I’m excited to go this year!”
By Darby Kendall • Photography By Dustin Meyer