When former Carillon food and beverage director Daniel Curtis suffered a spinal cord injury in a diving accident over Memorial Day weekend two years ago, he probably didn't realize that his moment of tragedy would inspire Austin's culinary elite to take action.
But take action they did Thursday night at the third annual Pay it Forward with Daniel Curtis, a benefit for the Lone Star Paralysis Foundation. Held in a ballroom at the AT&T Conference Center, the event featured small plates from such superstar chefs as David Bull (Congress, Second Bar + Kitchen), Josh Watkins (The Carillon), Aaron Franklin (Franklin Barbeque), Rene Ortiz and Laura Sawicki (Sway, La Condesa), and Philip Speer (Uchi, Uchiko). The Tipsy Texan himself, David Alan, was shaking cocktails and stirring drinks for thirsty attendees.
Before kicking off a raucous live auction hosted by Bull and Watkins, Curtis spoke to guests — including Lone Star Paralysis Foundation board president Doug English and wife Claire, Mike Haynes, Susan and Roger Parthasarathy, Tom Lange, Victoria Enos, Heather Hampton, Leslee and Eric Massey, and Anne Kelley — about the realities of living with a spinal cord injury.
"This time last year, I was optimistic I would be walking right now," said Curtis. "But you can only go so far. I've come to embrace this chair. It's my new norm."
After an emotional tribute to two friends who passed away over the past year due to complications from spinal cord injuries, Curtis kicked off the fundraising portion of the evening with a "reverse auction" to benefit the Lone Star Paralysis Foundation. In less than three minutes, the crowd contributed more than $5,000, helped in part by a $1,000 donation from Richardson Farms.
In addition to the live auction — which included packages for private dinners with chefs from Uchi and the Carillon — foodie philanthropists bid on dozens of silent auctions items, including a dinner for four at hot new restaurant Qui.
Bellies full and wallets empty, guests danced the rest of the night away to songs courtesy of Rotel & the Hot Tomatoes.