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National Restaurant Association - NRA hosts dinner for nonprofit aiding homeless

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NRA hosts dinner for nonprofit aiding homeless

The National Restaurant Association recently opened its state-of-the-art test kitchen to host a dinner on behalf of Miriam’s Kitchen, a Washington, D.C.-based nonprofit that seeks to end homelessness throughout the city.

The event, held Feb. 20, was an invitation-only dinner that featured the menu items to be offered at the charity’s gala fundraiser in the spring. That dinner is the organization’s biggest annual event and raises the majority of funds needed to run Miriam’s Kitchen’s daily operations. Last year’s gala earned approximately $613,000.

Alyssa Prince, the NRA Educational Foundation’s senior manager of community relations, said the Association volunteered to host the tasting event as a way to help those in need, much like restaurateurs do in their communities.

“More than nine in 10 restaurateurs are involved in their communities,” Prince said. She said the NRA works to mirror the industry’s efforts. The partnership with Miriam’s Kitchen goes back several years, and each month NRA staff volunteer to serve meals there. The nonprofit “needed a place to do a test run so that their volunteers and their chefs could prepare for the gala in May, so we offered to host the tasting for them.”

She added that Miriam’s Kitchen, which serves between 200 and 250 people per meal cafeteria-style, offers the men and women who frequent the facility an opportunity to make choices for themselves ‑ something they may not get to do on a frequent basis. “Choosing their meal may be one of the only choices they get to make during the day.”

Guests at the tasting dinner got an advance peak at the menu for the May gala. Dishes were based on childhood memories of some of Miriam’s Kitchen’s guests and created by its chefs and kitchen staff.

Menu items included sweet potato-lemongrass gnocchi; Friday fish fry, a take on the traditional Southern dish featuring citrus-brined Corvina on a hushpuppy cracker; beets with orange, tome and fancy greens; butter-poached Wahoo with sautéed kale and roasted grapes; and seared venison with rice pilaf, black cherry marmalade and micro Tatsoi salad.

The nonprofit’s partners and sponsors donated the food. The event was completely self-catered and composed of seasonal, locally produced and sustainable ingredients, said Emily Hagel, assistant director of kitchen operations.

“As an organization, we are green,” she said. “It’s how we do business, how we cook our food. But the really beautiful thing about this dinner is that our supporters were able to see the caliber of food we serve every day. We often forget that a lot of homeless people were not always homeless and that they often talk about what food was like during their childhoods. They have vivid memories of that food. To honor that, every course prepared for the dinner is based on our people’s histories with food.”

Hagel added that none of the food used to prepare the dinner was wasted or thrown away.

“Anything purchased for this event and the gala will be used in our dining room,” she said. “We’re pretty amazing stewards. Everything will go into someone’s mouth, stomach, or back into the ground.”

The NRAEF’s Prince said hosting the tasting is just one way of giving something back.

“Restaurateurs give approximately $3 billion a year to charity and the NRA is pleased to give back like our members do.”

Photos, top right and above left: Staff from Miriam's Kitchen prepare food for the tasting event

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