Houston's close-knit service industry community is rallying once again to support one of its own: Gracie Nguyen, a pastry chef at Mark's American Cuisine.
Nguyen was one of dozens injured when an alleged drunk driver evading Austin police plowed into a crowd of people outside a club at South by Southwest on March 13. Four people were killed—including a Fort Worth teenager, Deandre Tatum, who passed away yesterday—and Nguyen, who has a 4-year-old daughter, was left hospitalized in intensive care.
According to the Houston Chronicle's Anita Hassan:
Nguyen suffered fractures to her skull, left leg and right knee and remains in an intensive care unit at the University Medical Center Brackenridge. All of her surgeries have gone well and doctors are optimistic, according to a website set up for donations to help with her medical bills.
"Everyone loves her," said Cathy Nguyen, a friend who works with her at Mark's American Cuisine, a Montrose-area restaurant. "People just gravitate toward her."
Proof positive that everyone loves Gracie: a fundraiser dinner planned in her honor, which is scheduled to take place on April 13 at Big Star Bar in the Heights. Nguyen has since been released from ICU and is now back in Houston receiving medical care, but her bills aren't going anywhere. A fundraising site set up by her friends and family is hoping to raise at least $150,000. Adam Dorris and Joshua Martinez of Goro & Gun—co-organizers of the fundraising dinner—hope to be able to contribute to that amount with the so-called "Ghetto Dinner" planned for April 13.
The "Ghetto Dinner" is a revival of a dinner series Dorris—previously of Revival Market and Stella Sola—used to put on at Grand Prize Bar. The crux of each Ghetto Dinner was the same: trendy, upmarket ingredients and dishes served in a decidedly downmarket, dive bar atmosphere. Expect more of the same at this upcoming Ghetto Dinner, but there's more to the fundraiser than fancy mushrooms served on Styrofoam plates.
In addition to dinner, Big Star Bar will be hosting a silent auction of one-off dinners, signed cookbooks, and other items, while fellow pastry chef Rebecca Masson of Fluff Bake Bar is wrangling her peers together for a bake sale. And if you prefer your charitable activities to come with a side of schadenfreude, you can indulge in the dunk tank that Dorris and Martinez are setting up in the backyard at Big Star. I will be one of the dunkees, along with Eric Sandler from CultureMap. If the dunk tank alone doesn't raise money for Nguyen, I don't know what will.