For most, the loss of a loved one is a very difficult time. Now imagine the added stress of being a youth and learning to cope with such a loss. One local non-profit is there to help such youngsters. Last week Ted E. Bear Hollow held their biggest fundraising event of the year.

The fifth annual Comfort Food Classic featured gourmet lasagna as the comfort food category. The event featured eight local chefs in a competition to make the best gourmet lasagna, drawing 470 attendees and raising a record $57,000 for Ted E. Bear Hollow.

Ted E. Bear Hollow is a center for grieving children, teens and their families. Hundreds of youths are served every year through support groups, day camps and other services. Children from approximately 3 to 19 years of age participate in the grief services. Services are free thanks to donors and fundraisers such as the Comfort Food Classic.

When all the votes were tallied it was seafood lasagna with a squid ink emulsion that took top honors. It was created by the team of Paul Urban and Jessica Joyce of New York Chicken and Gyros. Both chefs have won previous Comfort Food Classics. Paul was the winner of the 2007 inaugural event. Jessica won in 2009.

“Basically we took a bunch of seafood that was affordable for us,” said Joyce. “We took some shrimp, some lobster and made a sauce. We also flavored our cream sauce with a little bit of crawfish stock. Using squid ink in one of the pasta layers, in the sauce at the base, and as part of a garnish, deep-fried spaghetti made from squid ink, parmesan cheese and truffle oil. We were trying to work in everything we could, have a neat presentation, offer good flavor and texture.”

“We eat at our competitors’ restaurants and we love their food, so we knew that everybody’s lasagna was going to be good,” Joyce said. “I don’t know why we won, it was just neat that we did, that people liked us and that we could be there, be part of the whole cause and raise some money.”

Looking to the future, the team plans to change the name of their restaurant to Block 16, a dual reference to a chef’s butcher block and the location near the corner of 16th and Farnam. The interior will change a bit, adding a bar for drink service, extended hours to allow dinner and even happy hour for local residents and service industry folks. Still offering what they like to call farm-to-city street food and sharing the responsibilities of the restaurant. “We are co-everything,” said Joyce.

The restaurant has been a journey for the two chefs who gain inspiration from a laundry list of culinary trends and their life style.  “We love walking our dogs, picking fresh food and eating outside,” said Joyce. “We have experienced upscale street foods, gastro pubs, we love it all and we found ourselves cooking what we love.”

Chef Urban said the two are applying for a liquor license. The the drink menu will offer limited wines and drinks that are representative of the menu and the season. “The change will be more for ambiance, bar drinks and the addition of dinner on select nights,” said Urban. “You can still expect the fun stuff like sweet bread tacos, and our lunches will not change much. Originally, our intention was to run the business as upscale, operating as the current model for a few months. But here we are a year later, and we love what we are doing. We found ourselves cooking … stuff we would want.”

Sometimes things do not go according to plan, but in this case, that is good. The community and their personal experiences have brought Jessica and Paul to this point, when you stop and look around, it is a great feeling to be part of something more than just food.

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