Cafè Brulè ‘crazy-tastic’ event helps DVSOS

Jim Waters coined a new term to describe how the Hell's Kitchen Wine Dinner went at Cafè Brulè last month: "Crazy-tastic."

Cafè Brulè co-owners Monica Iverson and Jim Waters stand with Executive Chef Robert Hesse, who assisted them in a fundraiser last month for Domestic Violence Safe Option Services. Hesse appeared for the past two seasons on the FOX TV program, “Hell’s Kitchen.” (Courtesy photo)

The event was held Feb. 29 as a way to raise money for Domestic Violence Safe Option Services (DVSOS) in Vermillion, while offering area residents a chance to eat a meal they couldn't get anywhere else.

It all started when Executive Chef Robert Hesse – known for his appearances on the past two seasons of the FOX reality program, "Hell's Kitchen" – was doing some consulting work at the Sioux City Country Club.

"He was helping them with their business and putting together a wedding package for their club," said Monica Iverson, who co-owns Cafè Brulè with Waters, as well as Cakes By Monica. "He wanted to include a premier cake decorator, and all the staff told him, 'You should contact (Monica).'"

Dessert plates await completion at the Hell’s Kitchen Wine Dinner, held last month at Cafè Brulè. (Courtesy photo)

Hesse visited Cafè Brulè to discuss wedding cakes over the lunch hour, and tried some of the regular menu items.

"He was so impressed he offered to do a dinner event here," Iverson said. "We thought that was wonderful. He mentioned he would like to include charities, and we were super-excited because we were good friends with (DVSOS director) Sandie Sullivan and very supportive of her charity.

"It was kind of a no-brainer," she said. "We thought it would be a lot of fun, and it would be for a great cause. We all love food, so it was a win-win for everyone."

"It's a very worthwhile charity," Waters added.

Hesse and Waters set to work planning the meal, which turned into a six-course feast of Southern dishes.

The first course consisted of a BBQ short rib pizza, while the second was a spinach salad.

The third course was a she crab corn chowder.

The fourth course was a "two-chef, one-plate duel" that consisted of seared diver scallops and a beef tournedo.

The fifth and main course was "whiskey piggy" – a whole grain mustard grilled center cut pork loin, with bourbon-glazed pink lady apples, truffle-crusted mac 'n' cheese and pork belly greens.

"That was really popular," Waters said.

The final course was a dessert of "three southern belles" – a mini red velvet whoopee pie, a bourbon tartlet and a bananas foster shooter.

"It was different than we normally do on our menu, and it was something that Executive Chef Robert was excited about doing," Iverson said. "It wasn't fried chicken and cole slaw, it was a really elegant Southern meal. It was wonderful."

A total of about 140 people partook in the meal, which was served to them in two groups at 5:30 p.m. and 8 p.m.

"We flipped the restaurant in seven minutes," Waters said. "We got everybody out, and we got it re-set and ready to go in seven minutes. It was amazing. It went fantastic."

"It was better than we could have planned," Iverson added. "We tried to plan things and time things out, and actually we were able to. We were hoping to have more time to flip, but we didn't."

Waters agreed, saying, "People were enjoying themselves. They would probably like to have sat there another hour, but there was another hungry crowd."

Apart from the $75-per-ticket price that diners paid, a number of vendors also helped out with donations toward DVSOS, Waters said.

The total amount that was raised that evening is still being figured out, he added.

Iverson and Waters said they would be interested in doing another charity event in the future – after they've recovered from this one, that is.

"It was exciting working for the charity. We would love to do that again," Iverson said. "Finding the right chef to work with Jim and put a meal like that, we would have to be selective. I thought it was a lot of fun."

DVSOS provides free and confidential referral and crisis intervention services to victims and survivors of domestic violent, sexual assault, stalking and dating violence.

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