Chefs serve tasty fundraiser

by Audrey Thomasson

A group of chefs from area restaurants recently showcased a few of their signature flavors—all in one room and all for a worthy cause, the Northern Neck-Middlesex Free Health Clinic.

Indian Creek Yacht & County Club (ICYCC) hosted the Northern Neck Chef’s Table Reception, which was the delicious conception of club members Frank Maguire and Jerry Hughes with the help of club executive chef David McMillan.

Diners interacted with executive chefs Peter Woods of Merroir, Gabe Gillette of Tommy’s Restaurant, Susan Hill of Car Wash Cafe, T.V. Flynn of The Tide’s Inn and McMillan of ICYCC. Topping off the evening were the sweet delight’s of pastry chef Carrie Stevens of ICYCC. Dr. Cheryl Brown-Davis flavored the event with dinner music.

The five chefs donated their talents and prepared dishes using ingredients donated in part by Performance Food Group. ICYCC also donated the services of their waitstaff so that the 130 lucky diners always had a free hand and clean plate for the next sampling.

The function was so well received, Maguire promised to make it an annual event. “We limited the event to 130 tickets so that there was plenty of room for people to move around and socialize without feeling crowded,” he said.

Contributions to the clinic of $1,000 and more will go into a special drawing held at the end of April with the winner receiving a meal for six prepared in their home by McMillan, he added.

While the intent was to bring excitement to the clinic’s annual fundraising efforts and present great food to contributors, the most important ingredient was the knowledge that they were helping a good cause, said Maguire.

In the nearly 24 years since Dr. Richard Baylor started the clinic out of the trunk of a car in October 1993, the clinic has grown to four locations offering care to the uninsured and underinsured, including medical, dental, mental health and pharmaceutical, according to executive director Jean Nelson.

Some 1,000 volunteers have donated 320,000 hours treating 14,000 people-in-need during 114,000 visits, said board chairman John O’Shaughnessy. “That amounts to $93 million in health care to people in Middlesex and the Northern Neck,” he added. “We are entirely funded by the generosity of this community.”

“This clinic is a homogenous part of the community. It’s not like that in a lot of places,” said McMillan. Also, he thanked the chefs for their generous support and sharing their talents.

Merroir, Topping

Chef Peter Woods grew up in his mother’s restaurant in Sea Isle City, N.J. He is a 1980 graduate of the culinary school, Walnut Hill Academy in Philadelphia. Woods married his childhood sweetheart—the girl across the street—and while he does most of the cooking at home, he says, “My wife is the expert in one-dish cooking. She makes the best casseroles.”

Woods sets up his professional kitchen like a diner, with the cooking in one room and the dishes being set up and garnished in the next room before they are presented to diners. The method pays off for diners on Saturday evenings during the summer when they have between 600-800 diners. “The highest number we served in one evening is 1,034.”

For his Chef’s Table, Woods’ offering featured oyster stuffin’ muffin with bacon, scallion and topped with cream sauce and rockfish cakes made with a little crab meat and lemon thyme dressing. “It’s all gluten free,” he added.

Car Wash Cafe, Kilmarnock

“I’m from a southern cooking family,” said Susan Hill, owner of Car Wash Cafe. “I’m not a chef. I’m a southern cook.” Her family’s love of cooking served as her formal culinary training. Previously, she owned and ran a restaurant with her sister for eight years.

Hill moved to the area 30 years ago from Monterey, “…to play golf. I’ve been the club champion at Indian Creek nine times,” she said. Car Wash Cafe came about in an unusual way. It started out with her buying two local car wash locations, including a gas station and convenience store. One year in the gas business was enough to make her bail—at great expense—and turn it into the popular breakfast and lunch cafe on Main Street.

The perfect southern hostess, Hill’s presentation of her popular crab cakes with traditional toppings and chicken salad in phyllo cups was surrounded with a beautiful array of fresh fruit and chocolates.

Tommy’s Restaurant, Reedville

The ongoing popularity of Tommy’s Restaurant continues today under the culinary expertise of executive chef Gabe Gillette. “Six customers invested in the restaurant to keep it going,” after the passing of founder Tommy Crowther, said Gillette, who has been with Tommy’s for 13 years.

Gillette grew up in Northumberland County, within walking distance of Indian Creek. “I worked as a kid at Indian Creek cleaning golf carts during the summer,” he said. Because both his parents worked, he started his cooking career as chef to his two sisters, later graduating from the College of Culinary Arts at Johnson & Wales University in Norfolk.

Diners enjoyed Gillette’s blackened shrimp over mango chutney. Antipasto skewers featured fresh mozzarella, tortellini, olives, cherry tomatoes, fresh basil and pepperoni.

The Tides Inn, Irvington

Executive chef T.V. Flynn has been with The Tides Inn for over 15 years. While he claims he graduated from the school of “hard knocks,” he has experience from top hotels and resorts in Maui, Colorado Springs, Hilton Head and the French Quarter in New Orleans.

Flynn’s cooking career was ignited when he took jobs in restaurants during his college days. “I was terrible at college…I was a creative person,” he said. He moved to the area to be near his wife’s family in Charlottesville. His culinary talents have passed to the next generation, with two children working with him. “They both went to University of Virginia,” he added.

Folks who stopped by his table sampled delicately blended flavors of mango and ginger in Shanghai shooters and “shiitake happens” salad of roasted shiitake shrimp salad with sesame-ginger vinaigrette.

Indian Creek Yacht & Country Club, Kilmarnock

Executive chef David McMillan has been cooking since he was a 5-year-old boy growing up in Berkeley, Calif. “My mother was a women’s libber. While one of us cooked, another cleaned and one had the night off,” said McMillan.

He studied art and sculpture at Boston University, but soon discovered his penchant for cooking on a trip to Europe and learned culinary arts through formal apprenticeships around the world. As a chef, he has worked in St. Augustine, Atlanta, Beverly Hills, Los Angeles, Boston and the California and French wine regions. With the exception of one child, all the members of his family enjoy cooking, including his pastry chef wife, Carrie Stevens.

McMillan, who has been at Indian Creek for eight months, cooked entries at his table, searing day boat sea fried scallops over vodka pickled beets with dill cream and fried wild mushrooms with lemon truffle soy.