Thursday, March 15, 2012

A surprise dance, a night to remember

The dance seemed to go on forever.
That was a good thing. How often do you get a belly dance with your meal, from the chef?

I shake my feathers as Chef Channon Mondoux shakes everything else.
(Photos by Mark Bugnaski)
About 20 local chefs and volunteers threw a retirement party for me on Feb. 19 at BraVo! Restaurant and Cafe in Kalamazoo. 
I was showered with hugs. It’s just amazing that people can have fond memories of me like that. There were more than 200 people there.
Beyond all of the great food, a belly dance by a local chef, culinary educator and historian, Channon Mondoux, provided the highlight of the evening. 
The chefs sat me in a chair, and I thought, “What’s going on?” as they dressed me in an Arabian hat and cape, and beckoned me to watch the dance. Wow, Chef Mondoux. 
The aromas were incredible as meats were grilled in the rear of the restaurant. Pickles were homemade by Billy Sutcliff, of Cafe 237 in Paw Paw, himself another stage-4 cancer survivor. His ham, in proscuitto form, had been curing for months at his restaurant, reserved for such a special occasion. Most chefs prepared more than 150 portions. I was overjoyed and impressed. 

 I had spent 23 years trying to share the lives of local chefs with the community. The party was a reminder of that. The chefs had made many of the foods I had highlighted in stories in the paper. I was the center of attention, so I didn’t get the chance to taste much of the food. My family got to see that I had become a success, and that I wasn’t just the weird one. I was always the weird cousin, talking about news and different foods. I saw that people really respected me. Their generosity was stunning.

What people didn’t know was that a life and death drama was going on at my home that night. The family cat, Bob, had a potentially fatal urinary blockage. Bob had to be taken to the pet emergency hospital that night. Half of the family was at the party with me and half was at the pet hospital. Bob survived. I call him “The Thousand Dollar Cat.” 

Here’s a link to John A. Lacko’s gallery of images from the party:

Here’s a link to Mark Bugnaski’s Facebook gallery of images from the party:

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