For the second year in a row, Chef Todd Johnson, chef/partner of Rumrun-ners, The Joint and Run Agrounds at Cape Harbour, has offered his talent and kitchens to children suffering with illness for the Children's Hospital of Southwest Florida, organized by the Lee Memorial Health System Foundation.
Johnson has made this an annual event for the foundation as a precursor to the well-attended Celebrity Chef event at Rumrunners coming up Aug. 18, and his passion for children shows in the time that he takes from his busy schedule to set aside a Saturday morning before the restaurants open to devote to the children that are well enough to come.
Saturday, Johnson escorted the children into the restaurant kitchen and showed them how to make pizza, which they created themselves. They prepared the dough in the large commercial mixer, topped it with their favorite ingredients and stood on stools while they watched Johnson put it in the big pizza oven, explaining to them how yeast works, how to watch the pizza until it cooks to the perfect consistency and various other cooking topics while the obviously fascinated children listened.
Carol Orr Hartman
Chef Todd Johnson shows Chansen and Colton Saukinus of Cape Coral one of their finished pizzas ready for tasting.
And to add to the treat, the youngsters then got to enjoy their pizza in The Joint dining room with the chef.
Once they finished eating, they walked over to Run Agrounds Coffee and Gelato Shop and learned how to make the tasty gelato desserts that are offered there. Learning that gelato is made from milk instead of cream, which makes the flavor pop in your mouth when you eat it, they got to make an ice cream flavor of their choice, from mixing the ingredients together in the back kitchen and bringing it out to put in the gelato mixer.
While they waited for the gelato that they made to finish in the mixer, they got to serve themselves from the wide variety of gelatos offered in the shop and choose whatever combination of toppings they wanted.
When the gelato that they made was completed, they got to taste it right out of the mixer, which Johnson proclaims is the best time to eat it.
While the experience was a great one for the youngsters, who, for a couple hours, got the chance to experience something new and take a much needed break from their daily fight against their illnesses, their parents also enjoyed watching their children's faces light up as they got to go "behind the scenes" with a top local chef.
Johnson is well known for his dedication to helping out many causes in the community and his love of doing all he does for others is apparent in his face when he is with the kids. He said that he wanted to be a chef since he was a small boy when he watched Julia Child on television growing up in Naples and would have his mother take him over to his grandmother's house after a show so that they could concoct dishes together based on what he saw on television.
He said he remembers what fun it was to cook in the kitchen as a child adding that he loves to share that passion with young children the age he was when he realized his love of cooking.
Tickets are still available for the extremely popular Celebrity Chefs' event Wednesday, featuring tasting tables of local celebrity chefs including Todd Johnson & Ralph Centalonza from Rumrunners, Norman Love from Norman Love Confections, Blu Sushi, Sea Salt of Naples and The Flying Pig Catering with beverages.
A silent auction with a wide variety of items, including the opportunity to bid on tickets to see The Tampa Bay Rays battle The New York Yankees, enjoy a six-course wine dinner for eight prepared by Johnson, a Tiffany & Co. sterling silver anchor cuff, a one-of-a-kind hand-signed Jimmy Buffett guitar or Dave Matthews drumhead. Also up for bid will be fabulous works of art, handmade jewelry and private fishing and boating excursions.
This event kicks off the Cat Country "Helping Kids with Cancer" Radiothon, benefiting Barbara's Friends this year. Tickets are $125 per person.
For more information or to make reservations, call 239-985-3550.