Why Are The City's Finest Chefs Throwing A Peter Pan-Themed Dinner Together? For Fun, Is All.
Usually, when you get a group of the area's best chefs together and tell them to plan a dinner together, the resulting meal is a white tablecloth dinner service with a dress code — not a Peter Pan-themed affair with a name like the Bangarang Ball.
But the whole idea behind Sunday's dinner party at Garden Cafe, rather specifically, is to turn the Dallas dining scene on its head. And, promises curating chef Justin Box of Cafe Momentum and Bolsa, this Hook-inspired night of food, fun and Neverland-like whimsy is indeed going to be a night of “organized, classy chaos.” Why? Because, deep down, chefs are people just like us, dammit. And they too need a night off to let loose and maybe engage in some childlike wonder from time to time.
That's what will happen on Sunday night, as Box and collaborating chefs Mark Wooton (Garden Cafe), Graham Dodds (Hibiscus), Nicole Gossling (Nicole's Secret Supper Club) and Scott Tobey (Origin Restaurant) gather and ask diners to fork over $85 in exchange for a diverse meal in an intricately designed setting, complete with live musicians, visual artists, Ringling Bros. circus clown alums and more.
First off, can you tell me a little bit about how this event came to be? How'd you gt all of these chefs to come together?
I reached out to Graham [Dodds] because I had just done a dinner with him, so I was originally just asking if [he] would like to link up with me and do a dinner. Graham suggested that we call on some of our friends that are in the industry. Scott Tobey is my best friend, and I've worked with him before at Stephan Pyles as his sous chef. We work extremely well together; a lot of times he's the brain and I'm the execution. Nicole [Gossling] worked with us at Stephan Pyles, and Graham and Nicole worked together [at Bolsa]. Mark Wooten and Scott skateboard together. We're just kind of — I'm not gonna say we're the same, but we're all cut from the same cloth. We all have a similar vision.
How did you guys come up with the menu?
Mine was based on color, texture and a play on food. Graham just does what he does; he's the meat man. Nicole, I think more than anything, brings her experience. She traveled abroad, lived off of very little money and learned. Her favorite cuisine to date, I think, is Moroccan food, so she came up with the Moroccan flat bread. I think Scott Tobey is really, really creative. He's brilliant when it comes to the creation of food; he likes to go out on a limb. We have Mark Wooten with Garden Cafe, so his [stuff] is obviously gonna be organic-friendly, and played off of what he does.
What was the discussion process like in coming up with the menu?
It was just “You go your way, I’ll go mine and we'll come back and see what we come up with.” We're all on the same wave-length; we’re all a little bit nutty. I think we've all had our own case of struggle. Coming together as five chefs and really getting a grasp on how we wanted to do this was relatively easy. We were all pretty much on the same page in general.
How was goat chosen as the main dish?
It's different. Everybody's doing whole-roasted pigs. Goat tastes better. It's totally rustic and different. Not everybody's doing it. It's almost like a street food.
What are some of the dishes that you're most excited for people to try?
Me, personally? The goat neck stew — because I love goat neck. It sounds crazy, but it's a really tasty part of the goat. The Moroccan flat bread, too, because that will show me what Nicole learned when she was overseas. The panang milk steak, which is basically a Thai short rib that's got fried vermicelli noodles, I'm excited for those. And the paella that I'm making! I'm super excited: It's going to be black paella with creatures from the swamp in it. It's going to be different, but it's all going to be tasty and well worth it, I think.
Why do this event? Is it for charity?
No. It's crazy how it worked, because Robin Williams passed away right after we had come up with this idea. We had considered putting a suicide prevention charity fundraiser together for a suicide prevention organization, but every single one of us do a lot for different charities — like, I work for Cafe Momentum. But suicide is a very near and dear thing to me, so that kind of was a big idea that we thought about. But the fact that pretty much all of our proceeds are going toward turning the place into what it's going to look like meant there wouldn't be much to give, and we all kind of needed to put a little in our pockets. It's more of a party to bring all walks of artistry together in the DFW. Chefs just don't have to kick it with chefs. Painters just don't have to kick it with painters. Musicians just don’t have to kick it with musicians. Everybody should be supporting each other in this city; it should be camaraderie. That was kind of what the vision was, that everybody support each other and come out for a mixed-medium show of the best of the best.
It sounds like a well-deserved night off for the consumers and, for the chefs, just a chance to have a little bit of fun.
Absolutely — and to get food to boot. So it's like a classy night off where you can just be a kid again and enjoy it. And you can cuss if you want to. Nobody's expecting you to wear a suit and tie. There’s gonna be clowns there juggling fire!
How does it feel to get together with other chefs to do something out of the ordinary like this?
Honestly, it's kind of like a dream come true. I'm really honored to be working with some great-minded, great chefs, just very talented people. I'm always so honored to work with these people and the artists involved.
With all of the hard work, blood, sweat and tears and everything you put into the dinner, what is something that you hope that the people who attend this take away from the night?
That you don't have to take life so seriously. That's all. There's no need to be too serious. Life's too short to be serious all the time. Just relax, come down and have fun.
The Bangarang Ball kicks off at 6 p.m. on Sunday, September 28, at Garden Cafe. Tickets to the dinner party can be purchased here.