Local Chefs Raise Funds for Texas Neurofibromatosis Foundation

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by Ariel Graham

Some of the finest chefs in the Dallas area battled it out in a culinary showdown for a good cause at the 23rd annual Dining Out in Dallas: Battle of the Chefs hosted at the Frontiers of Flight Museum on Wednesday, April 11th.

More than 15 chefs from 30 different restaurants in and around Dallas put some of their finest culinary creations on display for the attendees to enjoy, everything from prime rib to chocolate pudding. Participating restaurants included Meso Maya, The Capital Grille Dallas, Nick and Sam’s Steakhouse, and Del Frisco’s. Guests voted for their favorite restaurants throughout the night, and were able to participate in both a silent and live auction with prizes ranging from tickets to The Ellen Show, to a private dinner prepared by chefs at the event.

But the night was about so much more than fine dining and fabulous prizes. The yearly event also benefits the Texas Neurofibromatosis Foundation. Neurofibromatosis, more commonly known as “NF,” is a neurological disorder that causes tumors to develop along the nerves of the body, often resulting in deformity and disfigurement. NF affects 1 in every 3,000 people worldwide and is more prevalent that Cystic Fibrosis and Muscular Dystrophy. There is currently no prevention, no long-term treatment, and no cure for NF.

John Coleman, the owner of Savor Gastropub, served as host chef for this year’s Battle of the Chefs. Coleman said this fundraiser is one of his favorites, because it allows him to meet some wonderful, and very brave young people.

“We do a lot of fundraisers as chefs, and I’ve been fortunate and blessed this year to get to know Rhyan, our little junior chef, and really kind of understand what she faces on a daily basis, what she needs and who she is as a person,” Coleman said. “I can’t tell you how amazing she is.”

Every year, Dining Out in Dallas features a Junior Chef, a young person who also has NF. This year’s Junior Chef was 9-year-old Rhyan Symonds. Rhyan was officially diagnosed with NF when she was 3 years old, since then she has undergone many surgeries, including soft palette reconstruction and several brain surgeries. However, Chef Coleman said in spite of all that, Rhyan is a bright and funny girl who knows what she wants.

“[Rhyan has] a big personality; she’s lots of fun,” Coleman said. “I remember the first time she came in the restaurant, we were kind of humble and asked her, ‘Hey Rhyan, what can we get you?’ thinking that she wanted a Sprite or a drink of water or something. But the first thing she asked for was, ‘Can I get a steak?’”

Rhyan’s mother, Courtney Symonds, said the Texas NF has been an invaluable source of comfort and support to her and her family. She expressed her gratitude to the organization, as well as everyone who attended to raise funds for Texas NF.

“The Texas Neurofibromatosis Foundation has been with our family from the moment Rhyan was diagnosed,” Symonds said. “It is an amazing feeling to have an entire foundation that will drop everything and do anything for your child. When you hear the words that your child has a disorder that you can’t pronounce, you can’t prevent, you can’t really treat, and you can’t cure, it is amazingly supportive to have somewhere to go for support, research, and connecting with other families who are going through the exact same thing.”

This year’s winner of Battle of the Chefs was Chef Coleman and the team at Savor Gastropub. But the real winners of the night were Rhyan and her family, and all those who will benefit from the funds raised at the night’s event.