By Jessica Martinez, HEAL Staff Writer
Attendees shared a night to remember at the Savor the Flavor 2016 fundraiser benefitting HEAL & The Nest Domestic Violence Shelter. Guests experienced first class service at the Ruidoso Jockey Club, starting with red carpet treatment by photographer Bill Yorston who snapped shots of the attendees as they entered the Club. Local musician Tomas Vigil, a long term supporter of the shelter, serenaded the room throughout the evening with the dulcet sounds of his guitar. For dinner, guests embarked on a culinary adventure: eight courses prepared by eight local chefs from Lincoln County’s White Apron Society. In addition to the amazing dishes, each was paired with delightful wines provided by an anonymous donor as well as the Ruidoso Jockey Club, who generously donated their gorgeous space for the night’s festivities.
Brendan Gochenour, Executive Chef at Ruidoso Jockey Club, past HEAL board member and founding member of the White Apron Society, spearheaded the event. “The food was undoubtedly amazing, but with over 150 years of collective experience among the eight Chefs, who would have expected anything more than perfection?” Gochenour reflected. “Each dish was so beautifully presented and mouthwatering. All eight courses complemented one another so well, and the wine pairing was just the icing on the cake.”
“I thought the event was very lovely and the food was just superb,” said Lisa Mulrey, who attended the event with a friend. “I’ve been to many wine events and this was by far the best. The portions were perfect, and the pairing of the foods together was just beautiful. I left with a happy feeling in my heart to be part of such an amazing cause with such a wonderful group of people.”
Pulling off an innovative event like Savor the Flavor requires the efforts of an entire team. HEAL executive staff and board members and their families played the role of valet attendants and servers, with professional training from Thomas Douglas, Dining Room Captain of the Ruidoso Jockey Club. Event volunteers included Yorston and Vigil, jeweler/artist Janet Alexander, Harlan Vincent, Mike Rice, Brett Knight-Mark, Tracy Crawford, Marilyn Miller, Kalyn Sheffield, Parker Rice, Ryan Francis, Dan Francis, Hunter Vincent and Dylan Trapp.
Students from Ruidoso High School’s Tee Pee Lounge, Adrian Reyes, Jazmine Nava, Jacob Gochenour, Aidan Guill and Alan Jesus Rojas, donated their time and culinary skills. Many of the servers from the Ruidoso Jockey Club also helped pull off the event and even donated their tips to The Nest at the end of night. Shamrock Food Company generously provided various foods for the event.
The chefs with the White Apron Society donated their time, treasures, and talents to create this very special evening. The chefs are Mike James, Brendan Gochenour, Randy Narveson, JR Contway, Mashon Swenor, Shawn Seymour, Justin Besancon and Michael Aguilar.
The silent auction offered various luxury items, including fine art, a dining and wine package and gorgeous jewelry, including a one-of-a-kind piece created by award-winning designer Janet Alexander. Other generous donors included La Junta Guest Ranch, Erica Enjady, S. Roberts, Michael Fish, Josie’s Framery, Tracy Crawford, Ruidoso Jockey Club, Rio Grande Tap Room, Noisy Water Winery, Michael J’s, Sherry York and Inn of the Mountain Gods.
“My personal goal for this event was to raise money for the Nest by bringing together the top chefs in Lincoln County and putting on the event of the year,” Gochenour said. “I truly believe our team of coordinators, volunteers and chefs succeeded and surpassed this goal.”
In addition to this amazing team, the event would not have been a success without those who attended. “The attendance was such an amazing display of how supportive and generous our community members and business owners are, and how important The Nest is to the greater population of our area,” Gochenour said. “Every person present at the event made a huge impact in the lives of the women and children who seek help and solace in the walls and from the staff that works so hard to protect them.”
Mashon Swenor, also a chef at Ruidoso Jockey Club and member of the White Apron Society, added, “Every single guest, everyone who purchased a ticket and bid on items should be applauded. The community support was amazing to be a part of. You could definitely feel the love.”
At the end of the night, several folks asked about next year. Head of a corporate table, Ted Durham of Sierra Blanca Motors said, “Sign me up for a table of 10 again next year!”
Regarding the possibility of this event becoming an annual tradition, Swenor said, “I believe Savor the Flavor will be the preeminent gala event for Lincoln County and beyond. We have a collection of the most creative and innovative chefs that rival huge metropolitan areas. Having access to that here in our little mountain oasis is priceless. Using food as a common denominator to help our community only fuels our passion for the culinary arts that will be reflected in the food. Next year will be something to behold!”