By Donna Cornelius
Southern Soiree, an annual sunset dinner hosted by the Les Dames d’Escoffier International’s Birmingham chapter, packs a lot of food and fun into one night. But the effects of the event last long after it’s over.
LDEI uses proceeds from the Southern Soiree – set this year for 5 p.m. to 8 p.m. Oct. 13 – to extend a helping hand to culinary students and teachers, nonprofit organizations and budding businesses. Last year, the group of women, made up of leaders in the food and beverage industries, raised more than $25,000 for scholarships and grants for women in food-related fields.
Tanesha Sims-Summers, owner of Naughty But Nice Kettle Corn Co., won the LDEI’s 2018 Entrepreneur Award.
“We’re an artisan kettle corn company, and we pop everything fresh to order,” she said.
Sims-Summers started her business a few years ago, when she was on maternity leave from her job in the corporate world.
“I knew I had a passion for entrepreneurship,” she said. “I was attracted to the service part more than the be-your-own-boss part – about using that platform to empower the community, schools and our employees. Also, I’m a mom, and I needed something to have balance and that could involve my children. God really put this on my heart.”
She said several members of the Birmingham chapter of Les Dames d’Escoffier have influenced and encouraged her, including Leigh Sloss-Corra, executive director of The Market at Pepper Place. Naughty But Nice is a vendor there.
“The foundation of our business has been Pepper Place market,” Sims-Summers said. “Leigh has encouraged and supported our company. And Andrea Snyder of Urban Cookhouse has been somewhat of a mentor to me.”
She also got to know Ashley Tarver, another LDEI member, because the two often were at the same markets.
“Ashley mentioned this grant opportunity to me last year,” Sims-Summers said.
Naughty But Nice has a production space in Woodlawn and sells its salty-sweet confections at markets, service corporations, colleges and sales events. Customers can place orders at nbnkettlecornco.com and follow the business on social media.
Sims-Summers said she especially appreciated the LDEI grant because it’s enabling her to drive her business in a new direction – literally.
“The money we received went toward acquiring a food truck,” she said. “We’re going through the build-out phase of it now.”
On the Menu
Kathy Mezrano, Pardis Stitt and Kay Reed developed the menu for this year’s Southern Soiree, which will be held at The Barn at Shady Lane in Bessemer. The food is based on recipes from the organization’s namesake, iconic chef Auguste Escoffier, but each dish will be reinterpreted and prepared by an LDEI member.
Hors d’oeuvres will include goat cheese and an assortment of pickled vegetables from Deborah Stone of Stone Hollow Farm; fresh radishes with country butter and tapenade from Mezrano, who’s the owner of Kathy G & Co.; and sliced baguettes, crostini and water crackers with beurre pimento and carrots and celery prepared by Betsy McAtee of Dreamland. Mary Grace Viado of Village Tavern is making roasted fennel and sweet peppers à la Grecque, and Reed, who owns Iz Weddings & Events, will contribute homemade sweet potato chips.
Dinner dishes will be coq au vin with lardons, Grandview Farm mushrooms and onions prepared by Reed and Maureen Holt; root vegetable gratin with sweet potatoes, turnips and rutabagas from Angela Griffith of Pursell Farms; local field peas marinated with shallots, teardrop tomatoes and fresh herbs from Ashley McMakin of Ashley Mac’s; and Mezrano’s Southern organic lettuces and baby kale with grilled pears and dried cranberries with apple cider vinaigrette.
Guests can end the evening on a sweet note. Brittany Garrigus Cheatham of Satterfield’s is concocting fall apple cake with bourbon Chantilly creme and sautéed apples. Geri-Martha O’Hara of Big Spoon Creamery will serve mini ice cream sandwiches in fall flavors: a black forest brownie with amarena cherries and Valrhona dark chocolate bourbon pecan brittle with Bulleit bourbon ice cream.
Alexis Douglas, a certified sommelier, is choosing the wine pairings. A specialty cocktail featuring Cathead Vodka also will be served at the event.
A silent auction will feature exclusive, Dame-led experiences.
Susan Swagler is the president of the LDEI’s Birmingham chapter. Members are chefs, restaurateurs, sommeliers, caterers, farmers, food retailers, event planners, cookbook authors, food writers and editors, registered dietitians, food photographers, food and prop stylists, winemakers and wine-industry professionals, food publicists, food-service professionals, culinary educators and hospitality executives.
Tickets for Southern Soiree are $125. To buy them, or for more information about the event, visit ldeibirmingham.org. The Barn at Shady Lane is at 290 Sunbelt Parkway in Bessemer.