Cooking to Help Haiti
An exile gives back.
by Carol Dworkin
Guerda Harris fled Haiti as a teenager in 1960. Now Harris, who owns the Back Alley Gourmet in the South Main Market, is organizing a benefit dinner for the earthquake-devastated nation.
A native Creole speaker, last year Harris translated for a medical mission to Haiti sponsored by the First Presbyterian Church of Ann Arbor. She also serves on the board of the Ann Arbor-based Haiti Nursing Foundation (HNF), which supports the FSIL School of Nursing in Leogane, Haiti.
Though Leogane is located near the epicenter of the earthquake, FSIL's modern buildings survived the shocks that devastated so much of the country. The only school in Haiti to graduate nurses with a four-year degree, it is, says Harris, "one of the best organizations teaching Haitians to help Haitians, who are eager to help one another."
Harris credits her daughter Annie, twenty-two, with the idea of holding a benefit for HNF. A biology major at Eastern Michigan and banquet server at the Dahlmann Campus Inn, Annie is handling the myriad of details for the event. Their first recruit was Harris's culinary mentor and Annie's boss, Campus Inn executive chef Dan Tesin.
"It was a great idea," says Tesin. He and Harris put together a Caribbean-Haitian buffet menu that includes roasted Caribbean chicken, rice and beans, tilapia with a creole sauce, and fried plantains. "Frog Holler is donating the vegetables and Sysco Corporation the chicken and fish," says Harris. Inn vice president Ben Dahlmann contributed the use of the Terrace Ballroom and staff are volunteering their time, so all funds raised from the dinner and associated auction will go directly to the foundation.
The Haiti Disaster Relief Benefit dinner and auction is Thursday, February 4, 5:30-7 p.m., at the Dahlmann Campus Inn, 615 E. Huron. Tickets are $50, available in advance at the Back Alley Gourmet, 611 S. Main Street, or thebackalleygourmet.com.
Other local Haiti benefits:
February 5: Pilar's Tamales / First United Methodist Church
Pierre-Paul Gallery "Art for Haiti" sale
Group Four Entertainment "I Heart Haiti" concert
February 17: Melting Pot / American Red Cross "Fondue for Haiti"
March 12: Community Action Network / Bryant Community Youth "Help Haiti!" talent show
March 20: Zen Buddhist Temple "Zenefit Auction"
[Originally published in February, 2010.]