“It’s the most elegant event in town.”
That’s how one of several hundred guests described Dining By Design, a benefit for the Cypress Springs Mercedarian Prayer Center and the ministry of Sister Dulce Maria, that took place Aug. 18 at the L’Auberge Event Center.
The event is the brainchild of chef John Folse, who has been at the helm for 11 years. He gathers culinary friends from around the country to wow guests who purchase gold, silver and bronze tables. The rest of us got a delish four-course dinner prepared by Folse.
“We started out in a tent and Sister wanted to serve hot dogs,” said Folse. “Well, God had other plans; now we have filet mignon.”
This year’s guest chefs included Brandon Boudet, Eat Heavy Restaurant Group in Los Angeles; Charles Carroll, River Oaks Country Club in Houston; retired chef Hartmut Handke, from Columbus, Ohio; Jeremy Langlois, Houmas House Plantation; Dondi McNulty, Wayne Stablier Restaurants; Barrett Meeks, Mansurs on the Boulevard; Peter Sclafani, Phil’s Oyster Bar; Chris Sherrill, of Gulf Shores, Alabama; Jared Tees, L’Auberge; Seth Shipley, Belle Meade Country Club in Nashville; and Frederick Terluin, Ruffino’s Restaurant.
Local florists and designers typically have a theme but this year the committee just let them run with whatever inspired them. The ballroom was a floral explosion thanks to the jaw-dropping creations by Designs by Milissa, Dennis Hargroder, Billy Heroman’s, Jake’s on the Avenue, Interior Design Associates, Spaces by Erin Debosier Tew, Trey Marino’s Central Florist & Gifts, Plantation Florist, A Cottage Path, The Flower Girls, Alexander’s Market, “The Original” Heroman’s and Bee’s Wedding and Event Designs, of New Orleans. Most everyone had their cellphones out taking photos.
The night wasn’t just about flowers and food, but rather the work of Sister Dulce, who last year had appointments with more than 2,500 people, more than half of whom had cancer.
“Every time I place my hands on a person, it’s God’s hand,” Sister Dulce said. “We are all backed by you. … We wouldn’t exist without you and the cooperation of the Lord.”
Sharing their emotional stories of how Sister Dulce helped them were Blasia and Brandt Rivet, whose son Paxton came close to death shortly after he was born; and Beth and Bob Gaston, of Ridgeland, Mississippi. Beth Gaston was diagnosed with cancer a year ago, canceling the couple’s plans to attend last year's Dining by Design for her birthday. Ruffin Rodrigue commandeered the microphone before they left the stage and led everyone in singing "Happy Birthday" to Beth, who was celebrating that night.
The weekend began at the annual Heritage Ranch Gala on Aug. 16 at the Crowne Plaza.
Proceeds from the night benefit the Christian children’s home. As Executive Director Vicki Ellis explained to attendees, Heritage Ranch allows young men and their families “in the midst of an intense crisis” to receive support, education and the skills needed to work toward family reunification.
Chaired by Teresa Whitaker, the night featured silent and live auctions, a dessert dash and dancing. Assisting her were committee members Nancy Benjamin, Jessica Brown, Heather Bush, Susan Charlet, Matt Deville, Laura DeWeese, Leah Edrington, Tiffany Ellis, Kathy Lagarde, Tara King, Laura Lindsey, Leah Marucci, Sarah Rath, Kay Whitaker and Ruth Whitaker.
From Heritage Ranch’s event, I headed downtown to the City Club where the Baton Rouge Bar Association was celebrating its 90th anniversary. Past presidents of the organization were easy to spot — they were all sporting white roses on their lapels. Welcoming everyone was BRBA President Amy Lambert. Mayor Sharon Weston Broome added her congratulations via a video.
By the time I got there, the formal portion of the night was over, and everyone in the legal profession (and I do mean everyone) was in full party mode, thanks in no small part to the fabulous band, Snapper and the Fishsticks. It was a great way to wrap up the night.
Thursday started off with a luncheon hosted by Of Moving Colors to benefit Byrde’s Dancers, which provides scholarships for its Kick it Out community outreach program.
“Susan’s (Lipsey's) mom (Byrde Haspel) loved to dance, and Richard (Lipsey) loves Susan,” said OMC artistic director Garland Goodwin Wilson. “He said he wanted to do something to honor the memory of Byrde, and that’s how Byrde’s Dancers began.”
Susan and Richard Lipsey were among those at the luncheon. They were joined by daughter Laurie Lipsey Aronson and good friend Diane Mayer.
Sharing stories of how important dance and the arts can be in anyone’s life were Madeline Ellis, founder of Mimosa Handcrafted, and Renita Williams Thomas, founder of In Loving Arms pediatric day care. Since Wilson “hates asking people for money,” she let Whitney Vann make the request for support for Byrde’s Dancers.
My second stop of the day was a reception at the new offices of the Baton Rouge Symphony. As guests sipped wines and sampled a tempting spread of hors d’oeuvres, they got the scoop from Executive Director Eric Marshall on the orchestra’s upcoming season, which opens Sept. 26 with Tchaikovsky’s Violin Concerto and Respighi’s “Pines of Rome.” This is going to be music director Timothy Muffitt’s final year and it’s going to be a bittersweet season, which also includes a celebration of Muffitt after the final concert April 24.
For more information, visit brso.org.
Stop No. 3 was the Mary Bird Perkins — Our Lady of the Lake Cancer Center where Karnival Krewe de Louisiane was hosting a reception and tour of the facility for its debutante coterie, who will be presented at the krewe’s Mardi Gras Ball on Feb. 7 at the Raising Cane’s River Center. Welcoming everyone were krewe President Katie Graves and center Development Director Ethan Bush.
“This is unlike any other organization I’ve ever seen,” said Linda Lee, center vice president, as she addressed the group. “It’s all about meeting the needs of someone you love. … It’s that pure, that direct and it’s very personal."