Mental health is an enormous elephant in the room in general, but especially in the food and wine industry. Pausing for the Cause was born in the spring of 2018. I was caught off guard by how much the death of Anthony Bourdain affected me. It was right on the tail of another friend’s death by suicide in Washington DC, and I felt compelled to DO something to change what felt like a not uncommon phenomenon in the food and wine world. Long hours, menial wages in many instances, lots of alcohol and drugs – it was the perfect mental health storm for folks in the industry. So I reached out to a few friends and floated the idea of an event to raise awareness of suicide and to “pause for the cause.” Noah Sandoval, the two Michelin star Executive Chef and owner of Oriole, Aaron McManus, award-winning sommelier at Oriole, and Chef Stephen Gillanders the chef and owner of the Jean Banchet award-winning S.K.Y. restaurant were immediately on board, and we hosted our first fundraising dinner in September of 2018 to support suicide prevention. It was an incredible evening, with wonderful food and wine, but also filled with important stories of hope and healing. We were able to donate all of the proceeds to Vibrant Emotional Health, the administrators of the Lifeline.
The event was so overwhelmingly successful, we knew we had to do it again the following year. In September 2019, Oriole and S.K.Y. partnered again to create an exclusive tasting menu to share on the magical evening. As with year one, we invited our guests to bring rare or unique wines to pair with the meal and to share with each other, creating a joyous and heartfelt evening of personal stories and care for the restaurant community.
Vibrant President & CEO, Kim Williams, joined us for the event and, during her remarks, said, “…to have two of Chicago’s celebrated restaurant teams come together to raise awareness and promote emotional wellness is particularly gratifying. The teams at S.K.Y. and Oriole are showing true leadership in bringing the industry together to offer support and help save lives.”
The 2019 event raised over $30,000 to support Vibrant’s suicide prevention and emotional wellness efforts. Our goal for 2020, of course, was to exceed the previous two years in every way, especially to again double our donations to Vibrant. We have had to shelve that night this year for obvious safety concerns but we are determined to join together in 2021 to recreate our dinner evening, and to blow the roof off again.
- Rebecca Friedlander
Center for Disaster Philanthropy
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