Kindness comes in varied forms. We read of it, we hope for it, we teach it. And sometimes we get to feel it. Recently I attended the “Chefs Who Care” event to benefit the Ashley Lauren Foundation founded by Monica Vermeulen in honor of her daughter Ashley Lauren, a pediatric cancer survivor. I met some extraordinary people at this event, none more than Laura and David Scalese, who recently lost their beautiful child Charlotte to pediatric cancer. The faith of them both and gratefulness that filled their hearts for the indescribable support they received from the Ashley Lauren Foundation will stay with me forever.
Kindness like that is rooted in faith and given in true love and goodness, and I was grateful to know they received such support during an unimaginably difficult time for their family. From late-night calls, to helping repair important things in their home they couldn’t spend time focusing on, the Ashley Lauren Foundation was there for them, and became a part of their family, their loyal friend, their unwavering support. This is the core goal and meaning of this foundation and it’s impactful, powerful, and a step in the direction this world should be walking in. Truly caring for others in a meaningful manner that changes their world and spreads healing and purpose is a common goal to share in.
The honoree for the evening was Sir Gary Kong, an immigrant turned self-made entrepreneur who came to America at the age of 16 without a dollar to his name. Sir Kong turned his ambition into success and now gives back to organizations like the Ashley Lauren Foundation, who made him their honoree for this event due to his dedication to charitable causes like their own.
The chef aspect of this fundraiser was a collaboration born from Monica’s son, a well-known photographer in the culinary world, Eric Vitale, and the event’s co-chair, culinary influencer Gennaro Pecchia. Eric and Gennaro connected talented chefs from their vast culinary network to the Ashley Lauren Foundation and created this exciting evening. It was a great way to bring awareness to the cause and to share with donors some very creative and delicious creations crafted by ambitious and confident chefs from all over the tri-state area, many from New York City itself.
My favorite bites at the event were the thinly sliced strip steak on crostini with chimichurri sauce and burrata created by Chef Angelo Competiello from Alta Irpinia in Suffern NY., and the homemade cavatelli and broccoli raab with pesto from Chef Ryan Depersio of Tillinghouse at Sun Eagles.
The flavors were delicious, as were all the selections offered by the talented chefs who were all present to serve their dishes. I was also impressed with the beautifully crafted desserts by young 27-year-old female chef Jessica Bucceri of JB Couture Cupcakes in Belmar NJ. The incredible delicate flavors of her bite-sized delights were a testament to this young and talented chef’s abilities.
The wines served were also good quality, not always the case at charity events, but quality was the culinary theme here and was found in selections like the Bordeaux blend brought by Howard Imber of New Frontier Wine.
The culinary aspect of this event was a smart and savvy way to increase awareness for an important cause by offering patrons a delicious evening filled with live music, quality crafted food and drink, while considerately weaving the meaning of the evening within it all.
Foundations are called that because they support important causes, and with that comes the need for others to continue to join in that support to strengthen and broaden the reach of the foundation. I was honored to attend the event and bring some of my family as well to support it. I would recommend anyone who is looking to give back to a cause that will reach the hearts of others to consider doing so with the Ashely Lauren Foundation.
Its heartfelt mission to help those families and children suffering from pediatric cancer is a journey that is deserving of the love faith and hope that only true kindness can provide.
Cover photo: The Ashley Lauren Foundation