Chicken, chipotle and pottery

Seventh Empty Bowls benefit is Thursday
Mar. 05, 2013 @ 06:00 PM

The head chef at The Mad Hatter Bakeshop & Café will be serving a lime chicken and fresh roasted corn soup at this year’s Empty Bowls benefit.  “It is delicious --  I guarantee it,” said Tammy Allison, general manager of Mad Hatter.

Bull City Burger and Brewery will be preparing a white chipotle vegetarian chili, said Bull City owner Seth Gross. “We make the vegetable stock from scratch… it’s a big process,” he said.

Mad Hatter and Bull City Burger are two of 16 local restaurants donating soup for the 7th Annual Empty Bowls benefit for Urban Ministries of Durham, to be held Thursday. Artists from five studios have donated wooden and pottery bowls for the benefit. Patrons to the event may purchase a soup-only ticket for $15, a soup-and-bowl ticket for $35, or a “Hot Ticket” that allows the ticketholder first choice on the bowls for $50.  Patrons can vote for their favorite soup during the evening.

The bowls and the soup symbolize both the mission of Urban Ministries, and the need in the community for the organization’s services. “The fact that people dine on soup for the evening reminds them that other people in the community may not have enough for their family,” said Bryan Gilmer, director of marketing and development for Urban Ministries.

Urban Ministries provides emergency food, shelter and other services for the homeless and those in need. All proceeds from Empty Bowls will benefit the organization’s Community Café, which serves three meals a day to shelter residents and anyone in need of food.

That need for the Community Café’s services has grown, even with a national economy that some say is slowly recovering, Gilmer said. “Of the 6,000 or so distinct people we have served in the course of the last year, only about one fifth of those were homeless,” he said. “We serve quite a few folks who just don’t have enough resources to meet their families’ needs.”

He credits Durham’s generosity with helping the event to grow each year. Last year the event was at the Durham Armory, which could hold about 800 people. Urban Ministries had to turn some people away, Gilmer said. This year’s event is at the Durham Convention Center, which can seat about 1,200.

Urban Ministries is seeking to raise $50,000 from this year’s Empty Bowls benefit, enough for about 100,000 meals, Gilmer said.

Five studios have contributed hundreds of bowls of different sizes and styles to the benefit – the Durham Arts Council’s Clay Studio, Claymakers, Clayworks Guild, Carrboro Clay and Haven Hill. This is the second year Haven Hill, a woodworking studio, has participated. Last year, their wooden bowls were highly sought after, Gilmer said.

The need for Urban Minstries’ programs is likely to increase, given state and federal budget cuts, Gilmer said. “I think our work will be growing, unfortunately, for quite awhile.”

But Durham has always stepped forward. “People in this town view others as their neighbors,” Gilmer said, “and they’re willing to help.”