Two sustainable food nonprofits will combine forces on Nov. 19 to create a pop-up dinner called ThanksGIVING Feast, with expert chefs leading the way to benefit a local urban garden.

Chef Cooperatives is a nonprofit group that raises funds through pop-up dinners that support the health and prosperity of food producers. In the past, its multi-course dinners featuring food made by participating chefs have benefited small rural farms like Mesquite Field Farms or South Texas Heritage Pork. But lately the organization has begun to branch out into urban nonprofits like San Antonio Film, Children’s Advocates of San Antonio, and the Boys and Girls Club.

November’s dinner will benefit the Gardopia Gardens, a nonprofit devoted to educating people of all backgrounds on sustainable and healthy living through gardening. The dinner will take place at Gardopia’s flagship garden plot, which is located next to the much-maligned and recently closed Handy Stop on the Eastside corner of New Braunfels Avenue and Nolan Street.

Gardopia Gardens is located at 619 N New Braunfels Ave. Photo by Kathryn Boyd-Batstone.
Gardopia Gardens is located at 619 N New Braunfels Ave. Credit: Kathryn Boyd-Batstone / San Antonio Report

This isn’t the Cooperatives’ first foray into urban gardens, as a benefit pop-up dinner that chefs put on in July raised funds for Green Spaces Alliance. What’s notable about the ThanksGIVING Feast is that the dinner will take place in a historically underprivileged neighborhood in solidarity with Gardopia’s mission to engage with people and spaces that aren’t used to gardening.

“We want to show that you can throw an amazing event outside in the middle of the Eastside,” Chef Cooperatives President Stephen Paprocki said. “If we want to take that block back, it’s going to be one seed at a time. Gardopia itself is a seed, but this event is another seed to help to make progress.”

Gardopia Founder Stephen Lucke said having this opportunity makes him “really feel blessed.

“We’ve been doing this work for a while now. It’s not easy starting an organization, but we’re glad the Chef Cooperatives recognized us. It shows we’re gaining traction to promote health and wellness.”

Kionna watches Gardopia founder Stephen Lucke prepare water for the chickens. Photo by Kathryn Boyd-Batstone.
Kionna watches Gardopia founder Stephen Lucke prepare water for the chickens. Credit: Kathryn Boyd-Batstone / San Antonio Report

All of the products used for the dinner will be purchased directly from local farms like Hudspeth River Ranch, which has provided the goat and lamb in past dinners. Even the San Antonio Food Bank has sold its vegetables to the Cooperative for its dinners before. The end goal is for both the farmers who contribute their products to the meal as well as those who receive the donation to be supported.

Dirty Genez will provide the musical accompaniment to the nine-course dinner and create a fun atmosphere as diners go from tent to tent and engage with the chefs throughout the meal.

Chef Cooperatives President Stephen Paprocki gets to know a cow at Mesquite Field Farms. Photo from Chefs Cooperatives
Chef Cooperatives President Stephen Paprocki gets to know a cow at Mesquite Field Farms. Credit: Courtesy of Chef Cooperatives

“We fell in love with Gardopia Gardens because they’re not just an urban farm, they’re doing things differently,” Paprocki said. “(They’re) educating people about gardening, teaching kids how to grow food and plant seedlings. They’re putting up small houses on the property that can be utilized by the neighborhood homeless, who can stay there while they’re transitioning. In turn, they help out with the garden and protect the neighborhood.”

Proceeds from the benefit dinner will be used to improve the garden and eventually build more small houses. If you can’t attend but still want to donate to Gardopia Gardens, click here.

The dinner is from 4-6 p.m. on Saturday, Nov. 19 at Gardopia Gardens, located at on 619 New Braunfels Ave. Tickets to the dinner are available here.

The reason for the dinner is simple, Paprocki said.

“This story touched us, and if it could touch busy chefs wrapped up in their own worlds, then I bet it will touch others. We just have to help connect Gardopia with everyone else.”

Below is a list of the local chefs and menu items featured in the ThanksGIVING Feast:

  • Chef Jeff White of Boiler House will serve up charred goat pozole rojo and mini corn tortillas alongside onions in escabeche, burnt pepper fermented jalapeño hot sauce, and queso anemone.
  • Chef Stephen Paprocki, who makes Texas Black Gold Garlic, will create coffee-blackened turkey tostadas with avocado cream and epazote.
  • Chef John O’Larnic of H-E-B will contribute smoked rabbit and power greens crostinis.
  • Chef Toby Soto of Humo will make kale-wrapped braised rabbit and huancaina beet purée crowned with escabeche.
  • Chef Ed Villarreal of Alberico Fine Wine will whip up braised goat leg spring rolls with green cabbage kimchi and pickled radish.
  • Chef Tyler Horstmann of Kitchen Mercenaries is cooking smoked rabbit quiche with fall greens and a honey vinaigrette.
  • Chef Mark Chapman, of the soon-to-come District 17 MicroBrewery Food Court and Coffee House, will serve chicken cordon bleu with pico de gallo yogurt.
  • Chef Adrian Davila of Davila’s BBQ will smoke his famous brisket “Ropa Vieja,” or Cuban-style, with arepas Colombianas. He will serve cattle from his own ranch.
  • For dessert, Jenn Stipp White of Brindles Awesome Ice Creams will serve caramel apple pie ice cream with pecan crumble.
  • Melissa Beverage of Cordillera Ranch will have roasted sweet potato and cinnamon cupcakes with cream cheese icing and black sea salt.
  • Wine from Serendipity Winery, Kuhlman Cellars, and Bending Branch will be available along with beer from New Braunfels Brewing Company, Karbach, and HighWheel Beerworks.

Mitch Hagney is a writer and hydroponic farmer in downtown San Antonio. Hagney is CEO of LocalSprout and president of the Food Policy Council of San Antonio.