A handful of female chefs and restaurateurs are teaming up for a night of dinner, dancing and entertainment to benefit the Sunrise Project next month at Abe & Jake’s Landing, 8 E. Sixth St.
“Women in the Field,” slated for Feb. 18 from 6:30 to 10 p.m., will feature the culinary talents of Meg Heriford of Ladybird Diner, Melinda Roeder of Café Beautiful, Hilary Brown of the now-closed Local Burger, Raven Naramore of Raven’s Table Catering and Bubbly Love Ferments; caterer Kendra Marable; Layla McEniry of Layla’s Got Sweetcakes; and Cait Curtis of Terrebonne Café.
The women will prepare a six-course meal, including drinks, benefiting the Sunrise Project, a Lawrence nonprofit that provides community cooking and gardening programs.
Tickets are $100 and can be purchased at www.sunriseprojectks.org or by sending checks to Sunrise Project at P.O. Box 1454, Lawrence KS 66044 (write “Women in the Field” in the memo line).
Local caterer Dianna Keller third Lawrencian to appear on ‘Guy’s Grocery Games’ this fall; also, ICYMI, Lyle Lovett’s visit to Ladybird
If Dianna Keller had it her way, the Nov. 8 airing of “Guy’s Grocery Games” would be watched quietly, “in the comfort of my home,” perhaps with her husband keeping company.
But Keller can’t fault her family’s enthusiasm for this particular episode of the Food Network show.
“They’re my biggest fans,” the Lawrence-based caterer says of her grandkids.
On Sunday, Keller’s family will cheer on their beloved “Nana” as she competes on the yet-to-air episode of “Guy’s Grocery Games” named “Grandmas That Can Cook.” They’re hosting a watch party for the occasion (everyone’s welcome, Keller says) from 5:30 to 8:30 p.m. at the Lawrence Masonic Lodge, 1301 E. 25th St.
Of course, being the devoted grandma she is, Keller’s doing the cooking for her own party — “Isn’t that crazy?” she says with a laugh.
Keller, whose menu at Dianna’s Kitchen Catering consists of seasonal and regional dishes as well as “classic family favorites,” is the third Lawrencian to appear on “Guy’s Grocery Games” within the last month.
In late September, Ladybird Diner chef-owner Meg Heriford took home $14,000 in an episode aptly titled “Blue Plate Blues.” And just last Sunday, Mel Roeder, the chef-owner of Café Beautiful, emerged victorious from her segment entitled “When Guy (Fieri) Gives You Lemon Bars.”
Aside from constructing a dish made from the ingredients of a lemon bar, among other challenges, Roeder says the trickiest aspect was fusing traditional Spanish and German cuisines in the final round. Her winning dish — a Spanish paella with German sausage and pumpernickel bread — led to a mad-dash through the grocery-store set in which Roeder had two minutes to collect as many of the 20 items on her shopping list as possible.
The chef ended up netting $12,000 out of a potential $20,000 (hunting for Fuji apples stole a considerable chunk of time), and plans to use her prize money on a recent hand surgery and an improved heating system for Cafe Beautiful.
"It was a hell of an experience," Roeder says of her turn on the show, which filmed in January. "The best part was meeting all the chefs that I got to work with and compete against — the camaraderie was just amazing."
Keller flew to California in February to film her episode, which pits the 67-year-old against three other gastronomic grandmothers and airs at 7 p.m. Sunday, Nov. 8.
“That was just way out of my comfort zone, to do anything like that,” Keller recalls. “Because it was so darn unique, it was just one of those opportunities that doesn’t come around very often.”
Of course, she’d seen a few episodes before, but never expected a Food Network representative to call her out of the blue one evening last November. They’d seen her catering website, and asked Keller if she’d like to apply.
She wasn’t able to reveal much about the experience — Keller says she’s had to keep the results secret, even from her “hyped” family — but says it’s one she’ll likely never forget.
She’d even do it again, if Food Network asked her.
“The whole crew of people there were so kind and caring and thoughtful,” Keller says. “Even Guy himself.”
Despite the Food Network host’s signature spiked hair, skull-and-flame adorned attire and generally “extreme” (my words, not Keller’s) antics, “he seems like an everyday person,” she says.
Who knew, right? (For the record, Roeder also commended Fieri's "pleasant" personality and work ethic.)
As for her fellow grandma competitors, Keller says she’s contemplating a “Guy’s Grocery Games” reunion sometime after the episode airs.
“It would be so fun to see how their experience went,” she says.
Lyle Lovett at Ladybird
In other Ladybird/local-folks-having-a-brush-with-fame tidbits, it appears the downtown diner received a visit from country crooner Lyle Lovett last Friday afternoon.
If you don’t remember, Lovett and singer-songwriter John Hiatt were in town for a gig at the Lied Center that evening.
From the looks of Ladybird’s Twitter activity, Lovett (no sighting of Hiatt) stopped by the restaurant and even snapped a few pictures while there.
As for the meal itself, Lovett shared via Instagram that he and tour manager Mike Sponarski split the restaurant's chicken-fried steak and eggs, plus a slice of coconut cream pie. Ladybird chef-owner Meg Heriford also sent them home with a whole pie, also coconut cream.
"Next time you're in Lawrence, stop in," Lovett captioned his photo of Heriford. "You'll be glad you did."
I’ve reached out to Ladybird staffers to hear their own take on the experience, and will let you know if they decide to share any details with us.
Last weekend was something of a watershed in the way of Lawrence culinary news, it turns out.
Monday, we reported on Free State Brewing Co.’s gold medal at the Great American Beer Festival. Joining Free State in the winner’s circle is Ladybird Diner’s very own Meg Heriford, who beat out three other chefs to win $14,000 in an episode of “Guy’s Grocery Games” that aired Sunday on Food Network.
In case you missed it, the episode — aptly titled “Blue Plate Blues” — entailed three high-stakes rounds, the last of which asked competitors to create a pork dinner using an ingredient from each aisle of the titular grocery store.
Heriford’s episode airs again at 3 p.m. Saturday. Until then, I’ve reached out to the Ladybird owner-chef to hear her thoughts on the competition. (Given my complicated fascination with host Guy Fieri, this really can’t come soon enough.)