Asheville chefs join fish stew fundraiser for victims of Hurricane Matthew

CHARITABLE STEW: All across North Carolina, chefs, restaurants and food trucks are offering up fish stew to help raise funds for the state's victims of Hurricane Matthew. Photo by Vivian Howard

Asheville chefs and restaurants are being called upon to help raise money for Eastern North Carolina victims of Hurricane Matthew through a fish stew fundraiser. The weeklong event, which will run Sunday, Oct. 30, through Saturday, Nov. 5, was initiated by Vivian Howard, owner and chef of Chef & the Farmer, based in Kinston. Katie Button of Asheville’s Curate and Nightbell restaurants has helped facilitate and spread the information to local eateries.

In her call-to-action email, Button writes on the severe impact of the storm, highlighting the fact that many homes and businesses are still under water. She also shares Howard’s own words regarding the fundraiser. Howard notes the role fish stew has always played in fundraisers throughout Eastern North Carolina, writing: “From church fellowship halls, volunteer fire departments or community buildings, five times out of 10, the offering is something we call ‘fish stew.’”

ROADS INTO RIVERS: In the eastern part of the state, many homes, businesses and roadways are still underwater, following the hurricane. Photo by Ben Knight
TURNING ROADS INTO RIVERS: In the eastern part of the state, many homes, businesses and roadways are still underwater following the hurricane. Photo by Ben Knight

Howard goes on to explain the “deceptively simple” stew. It begins with rendered bacon and ends with whole eggs that are cracked over top, five minutes prior to serving. Other key ingredients include fish (usually rockfish, sheepshead or catfish), slices of potatoes, onions and a slice of white bread.

So far, local participating restaurants include Ambrozia, Chai Pani, Chupacabra Latin Cafe, Zambra, Buxton Hall Barbecue, Curate, Nightbell, Vinnie’s, Buffalo Nickel and White Duck Taco. “That is who has signed up so far, but the responses are still coming in,” says Button. “I’m sure the support will continue.

“Our hearts go out to all of the hurricane and flood victims who are still recovering from the brunt of the storm,” says Lynn Foster, owner of Buffalo Nickel. “We thought [the fundraiser] was a great idea, and we’re happy to do whatever we can to help.” She notes that Buffalo Nickel will make its own version of the fish stew, “showcasing our ‘kicked-up comfort food.’”

Eric Scheffer, executive chef and owner of Vinnie’s Neighborhood Italian, says, “If we give to give, never to get, we enrich the lives of others less fortunate. … We owe it to our friends in Eastern North Carolina to do what we can.” Vinnie’s will follow Howard’s original recipe.

In her email, Howard writes: “If you choose to participate, and I hope you do, please consider sharing this message with like-minded people in the industry and beyond. My hope is that we not only help Eastern Carolina recover, we help it thrive. Make donations at lenoirgreeneunitedway.org with the tag #fishstew.”

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About Thomas Calder
Thomas Calder received his MFA in Fiction from the University of Houston's Creative Writing Program. He has worked with several publications, including Gulf Coast and the Collagist. For his weekly #tuesdayhistory tidbits on Asheville, follow him on Instagram @tcalder.

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