For de Cavels, annual SIDS brunch fundraiser was born of love and loss

Posted at 12:20 PM, Oct 12, 2016
and last updated 2016-10-12 18:08:26-04

CINCINNATI -- For any parent who has ever lost a child, time does not heal all wounds.

It has been 14 years since Jean-Robert de Cavel and his wife, Annette, lost their firstborn, Tatiana, to Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS). To this day, de Cavel chokes up when he reflects on how their lives changed.

“It can happen to any one of us,” he said, fighting back tears.

For the 13th year, Tri-State chefs and restaurateurs are coming together to support the de Cavels and their long-term quest to eradicate SIDS,the leading cause of death in infants up to a year old. The de Cavel Family SIDS Foundation’s annual Friends & Family SIDS Brunch will take place Sunday at the Midwest Culinary Institute at Cincinnati State, with roughly 30 participating restaurants, bakeries and specialty food and beverage companies.

According to Amy Hunter, vice president of the board and chair of the brunch, the de Cavels have raised nearly $1 million since 2004 for SIDS research, education and outreach through organizations such as Butler County Women, Infants and Children (WIC), Cradle Cincinnatiand Cribs for Kids. The foundation also has granted more than $80,000 in scholarships to 33 Midwest Culinary Institute students through the (fully endowed) Tatiana de Cavel Scholarship Fund.

This year, the foundation is adding a cookbook to its fundraising initiatives. Fifty chefs with ties to Cincinnati have shared their favorite brunch, cocktail and “mocktail” recipes in a cookbook aptly called “Love Brunch.”

"Love Brunch." (Photo courtesy of Amanda Bock.)

"It's a celebration of friends, chefs and families," de Cavel said, giving full credit for “Love Brunch” to cookbook project manager Amanda Bock. "The cookbook is beautiful."

Bock, whose son was born in the same year as Tatiana, became friends with the de Cavels when she and Annette became new mothers. A 12-year member of the foundation’s fundraising committee, Bock led a team including photographers, a design stylist and recipe testers to complete the cookbook in just six months. She even personally tested roughly 40 recipes in her home kitchen.

“I put on 15 pounds for this project,” she said, laughing.

Nathan Jolley, the executive chef at La Petite Pierre, knows well the frightening prospect of losing a child. His 6-year-old son is a cardiac patient and already has had three major heart surgeries in his young life.

“Participating in any project for children strikes close to home … my wife and I are all too familiar with the fear and heartache from the potential of losing a child,” he said.

For the cookbook, Jolley cooked up the “Jeremiah Johnson,” a hot brown of sorts with challah, cola onion, bacon, goetta, sausage gravy, smoked cheddar, egg, hollandaise, sriracha and chives. He will serve the same hot brown dish sans egg for the brunch.

Longtime brunch participant Stephen Williams, chef and owner of Bouquet Restaurant and Wine Bar and Son and Soil, will prepare butternut squash and potato hash tostada with a touch of crema at this year’s brunch.

Williams and his wife, Jessica, are parents of two children under age 2, and their participation this time around is more personal than ever. Their younger, infant son suffered febrile seizures recently, landing in Cincinnati Children's Hospital Medical Center for three days.

“It’s been scary being in the hospital and seeing a lot of other infants in the area being sick,” Stephen said.

“The idea that something so spontaneous and inexplicable could happen to this life you created is terrifying,” Jessica added.

De Cavel said he knows the pain of losing a child to SIDS can be dark and isolating, and he wants to reach out and support other parents who have suffered the same loss.

“It can happen to any parent,” he said. “It’s important to share in the fact you’re not alone.”

Eat Play Give: Friends and Family SIDS Brunch

When: 11 a.m.-2 p.m. Sunday, Oct. 16
Where: Midwest Culinary Institute at Cincinnati State Technical and Community College, 3520 Central Parkway.
Price: $65 for adults ($75 at the door), $40 for ages 12-20 ($50 at the door), $20 for kids ages 5-12 ($25 at the door).
Special pricing: Discounts for tickets of 10, or tickets and cookbook bundling. See ticket website for more information. The cookbook retails at $50 and can be purchased on the foundation’s website or at the Friends and Family Brunch. Proceeds go toward the foundation.

Grace Yek writes about food for WCPO Digital. She is a certified chef-de-cuisine with the American Culinary Federation, and a former chemical engineer. Questions or comments? Connect with her on Twitter: @Grace_Yek.