Houston chef's house burns down and the foodie community rises up to help
Local baker (and Tastemakers nominee for Best Pastry Chef) Jody Stevens lost her house in a fire Wednesday night. Thankfully, no one was hurt, and Stevens' two cats miraculously survived the blaze by hiding away from the smoke and flames.
The Houston Fire Department has yet to officially declare a cause of the blaze, but Stevens says investigators suspect an electrical fire began in her backyard and spread to the house.
Typically, Stevens is among the first members of Houston's food community to respond to calls for donations, as she did by both bringing items for the bake sell and jumping in the dunk tank at last month's fundraiser for pastry chef Gracie Ngyuen. Now, her friends, including popular foodie Liz Fenton, Houstonia dining editor Katharine Shilcutt and Goro & Gun co-owner Joshua Martinez, have rallied to her aid.
"It's so crazy how not only is everyone offering me kitchen space, clothes and furniture, but also stuff that will help my business. It makes me cry."
In little more than 24 hours, an online donation page has already collected more than $12,000, and a tip donation and match at The Pastry War raised more than $2,500 Thursday night. A series of events will be held throughout May to bring in additional funds.
"I’m completely overwhelmed by the love and support of our community," Stevens tells CultureMap. "I know what we're capable of. We always band together, but I never thought I’d be on the receiving end of it."
While the house had insurance to cover the physical structure, Stevens's possessions, including all of her baking pans and dry goods, aren't covered. Needless to say, between the fire, smoke and water damage, they're a total loss.
Stevens plans to use the funds to "get my life back in order," but the Air Force veteran isn't letting the fire slow down her popular vegan/gluten free-oriented bakery Jodycakes.
"The show must go on," Stevens says. "I’ve been offered several places to work. (Working) is the only thing that’s going to help me stay focused. I have weddings this weekend."
Stevens got a call from Amazing Cake Supplies yesterday. A customer had provided her with funds to purchase baking supplies and equipment. "It's so crazy how not only is everyone offering me kitchen space, clothes and furniture, but also stuff that will help my business. It makes me cry," she says.
The first event will be held this weekend as part of the Sunday Streets HTX initiative. Volunteers will collect donations in the form of cash or gift cards for Stevens at Paulie's and The Modular food truck will donate all profits from the day's sales. Later that evening, Tastemakers best bartender nominees Aaron Lara and Jeremy Olivier will host a milk punch workshop at Down House from 6 p.m. to midnight. Both men will donate their tips from the evening to Stevens.
Other events include a farm dinner May 11 hosted by chef Adam Dorris at Plant It Forward in Montrose, a crawfish boil at Goro & Gun (also May 11) and a Greek crawfish boil on May 18 hosted by sommelier Evan Turner at Culinaire. The final event will be a a Friends of Jodycakes Fundraising Bash with an all-American spread of Memorial Day foods at Big Star Bar with a bake sale and silent auction on May 24.
In addition to being grateful for the support she's received, Stevens is amused by the quirks of her situation.
"My CrossFit shoes and cookbooks were OK," she says. "Isn't that so bizarre?"